Jodi Rave: Native language programs struggle
"It has been difficult for tribes to start their own immersion schools independent of the state because they can't afford it. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes were able to create an immersion school because the tribe pays for the majority of the private school's operating budget. But other tribes in the state don't have the same economic options to start their own.

In the past, federal grants typically precluded funding to go to immersion schools. But in 2006 Congress passed the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, which promises to revive language preservation efforts and the act makes immersion school funding a high priority. Fort Belknap is one of the first reservations in Montana to apply for the grant, which could infuse the community with $300,000 over a three-year period.

Meanwhile, tribal-language teachers typically are left using myriad and unsystematic methods in language instruction since they don't have a standardized curriculum.

The Office of Public Instruction doesn't have a budget for language preservation.

"We're doing very little because we don't have any money dedicated to language programs," said Lynn Hinch, the bilingual specialist for the state Office of Public Instruction. "We need a K-12 program. Teachers here talked about teaching three times a week for 15 minutes. You can't teach a language in 15 minutes. Spanish teachers wouldn't put up with that. English teachers wouldn't put up with that. Math teachers wouldn't put up with that."

Tribal languages have "little support at the state level," said Hinch."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Tribal-language teaching struggles (The Missoulian 5/8)

Congressional Native American Caucus Letters:
Esther Martinez Native American Languages Act | Johnson O'Malley

Native Languages Bill:
Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act (H.R.4766)

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