July 29, 2012

Native American Languages Act: Twenty Years Later, Has It Made a Difference?

From http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/native-american-languages-act-twenty-years-later-has-it-made-difference

Native American Languages Act: Twenty Years Later, Has It Made a Difference?
By Kelsey Klug
July 19, 2012

Native Americans lost control of the education of their children when the United States government forcibly enrolled them in residential schools designed for assimilation into an “American” mold. … In these institutions, children were severely punished, both physically and psychologically, for using their own languages instead of English. These experiences convinced entire generations of Native people that their children would be better off learning to speak only English. Hoping to spare their children the pain they once went through, parents stopped passing their languages on to their children, and thereby stopped creating fluent speakers of those languages. As a result, numerous languages indigenous to America are now severely in danger of losing their last native speakers.

…Yet, United States government policy has officially changed quite significantly: in 1990, Congress passed the Native American Languages Act (NALA), recognizing that “the status of the cultures and languages of Native Americans is unique and the United States has the responsibility to act together with Native Americans to ensure [their] survival.” This legislation promised a lot to Native communities, stating that it was now the policy of the United States to “preserve, protect, and promote” Native Americans’ rights to use their Indigenous languages anywhere, including “as a medium of instruction” in schools.

Read the full article at http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/native-american-languages-act-twenty-years-later-has-it-made-difference

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