December 9, 2012

Oklahoma Schools Push to Keep Native Languages Alive


Oklahoma Schools Push to Keep Native Languages Alive
by Lynn Armitage
December 6, 2012

On September 13, the U.S. House and Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to continue funding that will help keep Native American languages alive and spoken throughout our country’s tribal communities. The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, first funded in 2008 and set to expire at the end of this year, has funneled more than $50 million into tribal language programs.

According to the Tulsa World, six Native languages once spoken in Oklahoma have disappeared and 14 are endangered. In this state with numerous tribes and languages, there is a strong effort in public schools and some universities to keep Native languages thriving.

One survey says nine different Native languages are taught in up to 34 public schools, K-12, all over Oklahoma: Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Kiowa, Osage, Pawnee and Ponca. Desa Dawson, director of World Language Education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, says 1,355 elementary and high school students in Oklahoma are taking Native American language classes this year as their world language requirement.

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