ACF Forms Native American Languages Work Group
If we are going to turn the tide on the declining rates of Native American language usage and fluency, there must be a sense of urgency and willingness to come together and support one another. At the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) we are constantly asking ourselves, how can we do more? What other support and outreach can we offer? We also wonder, how can ACF, and the federal government overall, better support Native Americans in their efforts to sustain and revitalize Native American languages in these times of fiscal uncertainty? We are pleased to announce that Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon, and the other Senior Leaders at ACF are lending their support to this effort through the creation of a new ACF-wide work group on Native American Languages (NAL).
ANA has been supporting economic and social self-sufficiency for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native American Pacific Islanders (including American Samoan Natives) as its own agency since passage of the Native American Programs Act (NAPA) in 1974. NAPA has been amended several times since then, most noticeably in 1992 and 2006 with passage of the Native American Language Act of 1992 and the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006. Both of these pieces of legislation build upon the Native American Languages Act of 1990, an important policy directive, that in and of itself, did not authorize new programs or grants, but called upon the federal government, as well as state and local governments to preserve, protect, and promote the rights of Native Americans to use their languages.
Here is an excerpt from the Declaration of Policy section of the 1990 Act:
SEC. 104. It is the policy of the United States to— (1) preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages; (2) allow exceptions to teacher certification requirements for Federal programs, and programs funded in whole or in part by the Federal Government, for instruction in Native American languages when such teacher certification requirements hinder the employment of qualified teachers who teach in Native American languages, and to encourage State and territorial governments to make similar exceptions; (3) encourage and support the use of Native American languages as a medium of instruction in order to encourage and support— (A) Native American language survival, (B) educational opportunity, (C) increased student success and performance, (D) increased student awareness and knowledge of their culture and history, and (E) increased student and community pride; (4) encourage State and local education programs to work with Native American parents, educator, Indian tribes, and other Native American governing bodies in the implementation of programs to put this policy into effect; (5) recognize the right of Indian tribes and other Native American governing bodies to use the Native American languages as a medium of instruction in all schools funded by the Secretary of the Interior; (6) fully recognize the inherent right of Indian tribes and other Native American governing bodies, States, territories, and possessions of the United States to take action on, and give official status to, their Native American languages for the purpose of conducting their own business; (7) support the granting of comparable proficiency achieved through course work in a Native American language the same academic credit as comparable proficiency achieved through course work in a foreign language, with recognition of such Native American language proficiency by institutions of higher education as fulfilling foreign language entrance or degree requirements; and (8) encourage all institutions of elementary, secondary and higher education, where appropriate, to include Native American languages in the curriculum in the same manner as foreign languages and to grant proficiency in Native American languages the same full academic credit as proficiency in foreign languages.
— Section 104, Native American Languages Act
When you consider the broad scope of the Native American Languages Act of 1990, it is only fitting that ANA should partner with other federal agencies to ensure that the directives of the 1990 NALA continue to be implemented to the fullest extent possible. To that end ANA is leading an internal Native American Languages work group within the Administration for Children and Families with the goals of supporting ACF programs in their efforts to provide education and services using Native American languages and culture. ACF offices such as Head Start and Child Care have already begun assessing the types of support their programs need to implement high quality programs that incorporate language and culture, and they are responding with tools and resources to assist them in their efforts. Our workgroup will continue to promote these available resources, in addition we will identify best practices and successful efforts by ACF grantees to encourage others to implement similar initiatives or practices, identify ways we can work together to encourage ACF programs to share resources, and foster networks that create opportunities for collaboration to share what is working and the creation of new ideas or approaches.
Mia Strickland, Richard Glass, Amy Sagalkin, and Michelle Sauve are the ANA staff supporting this effort. We are joined by Carrie Peake and Brian Richmond from the Office of Child Care, Bridget Shea Westfall from the Tribal Maternal and Child Home Visiting Program, and Captain Robert Bialas and Sharon Yandian from the Office of Head Start. The NAL Work Group will meet regularly in order to identify areas for coordination and collaboration that will benefit the communities we serve. Be on the lookout for more resources and opportunities to connect across the ACF family, and if you have ideas, please feel free to reach out to us!
Lillian A. Sparks