The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education leads the President’s Executive Order 13592, signed December 2, 2011, Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities.
The Initiative, located within the Department of Education, seeks to support activities that will strengthen the Nation by expanding education opportunities and improving education outcomes for all American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students. It is committed to furthering tribal self-determination and ensuring AI/AN students, at all levels of education, have an opportunity to learn their Native languages and histories, receive complete and competitive educations, preparing them for college, careers, and productive and satisfying lives.
Department of Education Native Language Activities for 2013
Interagency MOA on Native Languages
The Department of Education (ED) continues to work with the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (ANA) and the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) on promoting Native American languages in education settings. The Native American Languages Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), signed in November of 2012, provides a framework for our coordination across federal agencies including establishing the Native Language Workgroup. The Workgroup met three times in 2013 and has developed a course of action to accomplish the seven goals outlined in the MOA and will continue to work closely with tribal governments to help preserve and revitalize Native languages. In addition, the agencies are exploring possibilities for a Native Languages Summit in 2014.
The Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) is including an Invitational Priority to support activities that strengthen Native language preservation and revitalization at our institutions of higher education” in the Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions grant competition in FY 2014.
Office of Indian Education (OIE) is making several changes to the application for Title VII formula grants for FY 2014, in order to emphasize the statutory requirement that grant funds be used as part of a comprehensive program for meeting the culturally-related academic needs of Indian students, including the language and cultural needs of the children. The revised application will provide grantees an opportunity to describe the specific activities including Native language activities planned to meet students’ culturally-related academic needs.
Tribal Consultations: To receive input from Tribal leaders regarding critical education issues affecting tribal communities, the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (WHIAIANE) and the Department of Education conducted regional tribal consultations in Smith River, CA, Niagara Falls, NY and Scottsdale AZ from May through September, 2013. During each consultation tribal leaders expressed the need for preserving, protecting, and promoting the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native languages.
Several tribal colleges have implemented Native language activities as part of their curricula. Below is a brief summary of some programs and accomplishments listed by school:
Chief Dull Knife College is located on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana. Cheyenne language courses are currently being offered at the college in a four course series: Cheyenne Language I, Cheyenne Language II, Cheyenne Language III, and Cheyenne Language IV, with each level advancing the level of speaking ability and fluency. Cheyenne Language IV introduces students to reading and writing of the language. Chief Dull Knife had 45 students enrolled in Cheyenne Language courses for the summer and 42 students enrolled for the fall.
The College also provides summer Cheyenne language immersion experiences for youth in the surrounding communities. The Day Camp experience is limited to children ages 5-10 and enrollment during this past summer was 30 students. The other week long camp for youth ages 11-17 was attended by 27 students. The programs are facilitated using Cheyenne language exclusively as well as students learning about culture and native arts.
In addition, the College hosts a “Cheyenne Language Bowl” language competition which invites teams from all local schools and the college itself to participate in a day long competition judged by elders and other community members. The very popular competition, which is held in the spring each year, hosted 14 teams last year and was attended by nearly 100 community members and school staff.
The College of the Muscogee Nation (CMN) is a two-year private American Indian tribal college, located in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. This past April, the College participated in a language forum as part of the 41st annual Symposium on the American Indian at Northeastern State University (NSU) in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Presentations featured speakers with varying degrees of proficiency in the Muscogee language. CMN instructors coordinated with students and NSU staff to prepare the presentation. This was the first year for the Muscogee forum.
Blackfeet Community College is located on the Blackfeet reservation in Browning, Montana on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. The Blackfeet Language Studies curriculum is designed to promote language fluency in accordance with Blackfeet Language standards, which are equivalent to national standards for language acquisition. Students will have an opportunity to learn the basic fundamentals of the Blackfeet communication process by taking beginning, intermediate, and advanced Blackfeet Language courses. Knowledge gained from the classes in this program will enable the student to converse in the Blackfeet Language and understand the philosophy that controls its usage. Students that complete this program of study will be encouraged to apply for the Montana Office of Public Instruction Class 7 License or transfer to a Baccalaureate plan of study in Native American Studies.
Fort Berthold Community College, a tribal college of the Three Affiliated Tribes, has started a project that will provide linguistic training to tribal members in technologically advanced methods of linguistic data collection and analysis aimed at preventing the loss of the highly endangered Mandan language. It will allow the Mandan Language Project to continue documenting conversational Mandan, and to produce a Mandan Dictionary. Data collected through the project will be used to construct a web-based Mandan Language database, which can be used for language acquisition by members of the Three Affiliated Tribes and other interested individuals. All data will be archived via the Fort Berthold Community College website. The project will provide a model for other tribal colleges in developing their language programs.
Tohono O'odham Community College’s (TOCC) Native Language activities include copying O'odham language cd's created with a collaboration from the University of Arizona. These CD's are handed out to the students so they can hear the language. The O'odham language roots are based on a Uto-Aztecan structure and this structure is unlike common Romance languages so a language CD is very beneficial for students and the community. The school currently offers O'odham language and culture classes in the high schools as dual enrollment courses, giving credit both in high school and the college. A new project TOCC is working on is using iPads for the language class to record the language and conversations. They will then create an iPad app for iTunes University that students and community members will be able to access.
The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), Title III State Consolidated Grant Group Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs (SASA) is working to obtain information from States, LEAs, schools, tribes, and other public parties pertaining to the accurate identification of Native American students who are English learners so that these students can receive services through language instruction educational programs. A Federal Register Request For Information (RFI) on Native American English learners. Responses will be posted online, synthesized, and shared with the public.
In 2013 the South Central Comprehensive Center (SC3) supported the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) in the development of the Native Language Certification and is continuing to provide technical assistance during statewide implementation of an alternate pathway in Native language certification. The goal of the South Central Comprehensive Center (SC3) Native Language Revitalization is to improve the pathway for Native Language Certification to address the critical need for fluent Native language instructors in efforts to enhance Native language revitalization among 39 Oklahoma tribes. SC3 supported modification of the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s (OSDE’s) World Language Certification to provide access to classroom instruction by fluent tribal language speakers in districts and schools.
National Advisory Council on Indian Education
The National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE) serves as the Initiative’s advisory council. NACIE was authorized by Section 1714 of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA). The Council consists of fifteen members who are American Indian and Alaska Native and are appointed by the President. The fifteen members represent different geographic areas of the United States. Council members are asked to provide their best judgment that is free from any conflict of interest, provide advice, and recommendations based on their previous experiences and expertise.
NACIE published an annual report to Congress submitted in June of 2013. The report specifically calls on Congress to “Stimulate the Vitality of Native Languages, Histories, and Cultures” through several recommendations, such as expanding funding for native languages using Title III funds and ensuring that the No Child Left Behind Act requirement for highly qualified teachers not be used in a manner detrimental to native language teachers.