Our Mother Tongues Blog

Saving Native American Languages

October 31, 2014 - 7:00 AM | by Our Mother Tongues

by Colleen M. Fitzgerald
Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Native American Languages Lab at The University of Texas at Arlington
Originally in the Huffington Post

Language and Native Americans are in the news as media outlets around the nation announce that they will no longer use the "R" word in conjunction with Washington's NFL franchise.

They join a groundswell of public opinion against the current mascot, ranging from #NotYourMascot activism on Twitter to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceling the team's trademarks for being "disparaging to Native Americans."

But this isn't the only fight out there with Native American languages at the forefront. Two bipartisan bills are under consideration in Congress: the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act (H.R.4214/S.1948) and the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014 (H.R.726/S.2299). If passed, the bills will profoundly impact on the revitalization of Native American languages and the education of Native American youth.

Urgent action is needed. These two bills provide key financial and legislative support for Native American language revitalization. Not a single Native American language is deemed "safe" for survival according to UNESCO's Atlas of World Languages in Danger.

President Obama has joined the chorus supporting Native American languages. On his recent trip to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Lakota Language Nest immersion students sang the Lakota Flag Song to him. Lakota is one of 11 Native American languages in the best possible category for continuance -- UNESCO puts it in the "vulnerable" category. The remaining 180 languages are in even greater states of endangerment.

Read the complete article in the Huffington Post

Add comment


This website was produced by Makepeace Productions in partnership with Cultural Survival and Interactive Knowledge
with funding from the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
©2011 Makepeace LLC