November 30, 2007

English only vs. Native languages

Two languages

Diné schools look to modify Arizona's English teaching programFor years it seemed that Arizona's English Only law lived in quiet conflict with the federal Native American Languages Act, with neither technically addressing the existence of the other.

Nonetheless, the state's 1988 amendment to its constitution, which requires government offices and schools to conduct business only in English, was a direct contradiction to the 1990 federal law that encourages and supports the use of Native languages in tribal governments and schools.

While the detente is unlikely to change, new state requirements implementing English-immersion policies in the classroom could come uncomfortably close to bringing the conflict to a head.
How a program for immigrant children fails Native students:Jackson believes the state's English language learners model should be amended to include an alternative plan for Native American students.

These students, he said, are not English language learners. Rather, they are dual language learners--striving to master English and their own language.

According to the state's model, ELL students should be clustered together in a single classroom for four hours a day in which only English would be spoken. It does not address the goals of the federal law aimed at preserving Native languages.
Comment:  This article explains why an "English only" policy is racist: because it discriminates on the basis of race. Hispanics and Native Americans are forced to conform to the white model whether it helps them or not.

Ironically, the new Pew study makes it clear that immigrants want to learn English quickly. The claim that English is under siege and needs protection is a flat-out joke.

November 29, 2007

Speaking in circles

Engaged in culture:  Native youth answer a call

Through the help of community and classes, some young adults embrace a once endangered heritageToday, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian and other Native people are dancing, weaving, carving, canoeing, preparing Native foods and speaking Native languages. They are getting together in beading and drumming circles and meeting to chat in their Native tongue. They are gathering foods from the land and taking long walks with elders.

Tlingit immersion teacher Kitty Eddy helped start the first immersion class in 2000, through the Juneau School District. Still in operation, the class offers academics, language and culture within a Tlingit cultural context. When other kids are carving pumpkins, her students are designing totems or building traditional longhouses.

November 28, 2007

Phraselator revitalizes Oneida

Military device holds key to saving Oneida language Some of the 2,000-strong community's eldest--only 90 still speak fluent Oneida--spent yesterday recording phrases in their native language onto machines called Phraselators.

"This is going to revitalize our language before it dies," said Mary Elijah, director of Oneida Language and Cultural Centre, gesturing to one of eight hand-held devices recently bought by the settlement. "This (Phraselator) is going to outlive everybody."

And not a moment too soon, she said, adding the youngest Oneida speaker is 50 years old, and most are over 70.

November 26, 2007

The last Wichita speaker

Tribal language fading away

Doris Jean Lamar is the last fluent speaker of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.Oklahoma had been a state for only two decades when Doris Jean Lamar was born in 1927. Her first spoken words were not English, but an American Indian language taught to her by grandparents.

Today, Lamar is the last fluent speaker in the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, a tribe of 2,300. Sitting in a tribal canteen that she supervises, the 80-year-old Lamar carries a language that once was spoken by thousands, then hundreds of Wichita language speakers.

"I never thought I would be in this position as a girl, to be our last fluent speaker," she said.

November 12, 2007

Pechanga Phraselators

In an impressive move to bolster a Native language, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians has given every member a Phraselator. This handheld gizmo can translate hundreds of words and phrases from English to Luiseño. A voice speaks the translation aloud, giving it the proper intonation.

Think about the cost of this move. Say the Pechanga band has 1,200 members and the Phraselator costs $2,000. That's $2.4 million spent on this project. Has there ever been a bigger one-time expense to preserve a Native language? If so, I don't know about it.

Also interesting is that Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechangas has recorded the Luiseño translations. Apparently he's one of the most fluent speakers of the language--and he's a busy politician, not a retired elder. Some of the disenrolled Pechangas have criticized Macarro for not being an authentic Indian, but how many tribal leaders are this committed to keeping their language alive?

November 01, 2007

Gaming buys $10 million school

Seminole school mixes technology, tradition

As the Seminole Tribe parlays its gambling wealth into investment in the next generation, a new elementary school blends technological savvy with traditional ways."Educating our people is very important to us, but equally important is keeping our language and culture," said Louise Gopher, educational director of the tribe and driving force behind the school. 'They're not getting it at home, and they certainly weren't getting it at school. We're teaching the parents, too. When the kids bring home worksheets, a lot of the grandmas are getting calls at night, `How do you spell that? How do I say this?' So everyone's learning."

Gopher, who in 1970 became the first Seminole woman to graduate from college with a four-year degree, says keeping the Creek language alive is essential to tribal survival. "Without the language, we have no tribe," she said.