Selected NABE News Columns 1991-2000
© National Association for Bilingual Education
1. William H. Wilson. Hawaiian Parallels, 15(3), 9-10,
2. Richard (Dick) Littlebear. TPR Works, 15(6), 13, 5/15/1992.
3. John M. Dodd & J. Ron Nelson. Making Prereferral Activities Culturally Relevant, 16(3), 6-7 & 25, 1/1/1993.
4. John M. Dodd, J. Ron Nelson, & Robin Richter. Culturally Appropriate "Full Inclusion," 16(5), 15-24, 4/1/1993.
5. William H. Wilson. Polynesians and Indians Meet in Hilo, 17(4), 2/1/1994.
6. Edward Tennant. "Transition" from Another Point of View, 18(2), pp. 11-12, 11/1/1994.
7. Gary D. Mclean. Challenges in Rescuing American Indian Languages, 18(3), 12/15/1994.
8. Ann Kaupp. Resources for Educators and Students, 18(4), 2/1/1995
9. Gina Cantoni. Stabilizing Indigenous Languages, 19(2), 11/1/1995
10. Gloria Delany-Barmann. Australian Indigenous Language Efforts, 20(3), 27-28, 12/15/1996.
11. Cindy May. Replacing Thing-a-ma-jig, 20(2), 5, 11/1/1996.
12. Brian A. Bell. A Review of Native Americans in Children's Literature, 20(4), 25, 2/1/1997.
13. Louise Lockard. Language Revitalization in Navajo/English Dual Language Classrooms, 23(4), 8-9, 2/1/2000.
14. Marion Bluearm. Revitalizing Lakota, 23(7), 13-14 & 16, 6/15/2000.
15. Michael Fillerup. The Leupp Navajo Immersion Program, 25(6), 17 & 44, July/August 2002
(Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the May, 1991, issue of the Hawaiian Studies newsletter Ke Kuamo'o. Dr. Wilson has been active in helping restore the place of Hawaiian language and culture to Hawaiian schools.)
This year Hawai'i's public school system is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Hawai'i is proud that we have one of the oldest public school systems in the United States. Our public Lahainaluna high school is the oldest high school west of the Rocky Mountains. Not often considered today is the fact that Hawai'i's public school classes, including such courses as trigonometry and anatomy at Lahainaluna, were originally taught and administered entirely in Hawaiian.
Hawai'i is the only state whose public school system was originally taught entirely in a Native American language. Today, based on the precedent of those early Hawaiian language schools, the State of Hawai'i has reestablished education through the Hawaiian language in public elementary schools on the four largest islands of the State. Through these Papa Kaiapuni Hawai'i and Punana Leo Hawaiian language preschools, Hawai'i is providing a unique educational model for the United States. Indeed, data from Hawaiian medium programs were used by Senator Inouye in convincing Congress to pass his landmark Native American Languages Act (P.L. 101-477) in 1990 recognizing the right of Native Americans to be educated through their own languages. Passage of this Act took three years of vigorous grassroots support from a coalition of Hawaiian, American Indian, and Alaskan Native families that represented the largest amount of support for a Native American issue in Congress in recent years.
Hawai'i's public school system began in the 1840-41 school year. The government school system created by Kamehameha III in that year was based primarily on community schools developed to teach reading and writing in Hawaiian. These schools taught an alphabet developed in 1822 by New England missionaries based on similar alphabets used in Tahiti and New Zealand. Within a short time literacy spread to tens of thousands of Hawaiians through hundreds of informal schools.
The "pre-public" schools were run primarily by Hawaiians, rather than by the missionaries as is popularly believed today. Four years after the first official printing of the Hawaiian alphabet there were over 500 Hawaiian teachers conducting schools throughout the islands. The missionaries were severely hampered in teaching, not only due to the sheer number of people studying reading and writing, but also by the difficulty they had in speaking Hawaiian. Indeed, reading and writing had already begun to spread among the people before the first sermon given by a missionary in Hawaiian was ever preached! The person who gave that first sermon in Hawaiian was not one of the local New England missionaries, but the Reverend William Ellis who was visiting from Tahiti. Rev. Ellis had already learned Tahitian and was thus able to acquire Hawaiian in few weeks when the resident missionaries who had been studying Hawaiian for years were still teaching and giving sermons through English.
Missionary teaching was concentrated in boarding schools and in English language schools such as the Chiefs Children's School and Punahou School. The division between the Hawaiian-taught and missionary-taught schools is still evident in the public-private school division found in Hawai'i today. Hawai'i's public schools conducted in the local language by local born teachers were extremely successful in educating the citizens of the kingdom. Indeed, it is often claimed that Hawai'i had the distinction of having the most literate citizenry of any nation in the world in the 1800s. Over 100 different newspapers were printed in Hawaiian during the 1900s with writers, editors, and readers products of Hawai'i's Hawaiian-medium public schools. While the English often boast of the fact that they are among the few European peoples whose ancestors recorded a full pre-Christian epic poem--Beowulf--, Hawaiian writers such as Malo, Kepelino, Kamakau, and others educated in Hawaiian schools preserved an ancient literature much larger than that of the English including such works as La'ieikawai, Mo'ikeha, the Romance of Pele, and Lohi'au, Kawelo, and many others.
The respect of nineteenth century Hawaiians for their own culture and writers is evident in the fact that Malo was appointed the head of Hawai'i's Department of Education (DOE). In the mid eighteen hundreds, however, a former missionary, Richard Armstrong, replaced David Malo in that position. Mr. Armstrong advocated replacing public schools taught through Hawaiian with public schools taught through English and replacing local born school teachers with teachers imported from the United States and England. Armstrong instituted a policy restricting the budgets of the Hawaiian schools in favor of the English schools.
There was resistance to the move to transform the public school system to an exclusively English system. Governor Kekuanao'a, head of the Board of Education, issued a report pointing out that Hawaiian was a fully capable vehicle for teaching any subject, that teaching Hawaiian children in English rather than Hawaiian would make such children look down on their own people, and that replacing Hawaiian with English would destroy the individuality of Hawai'i. Similar arguments were being heard elsewhere in the Pacific from New Zealand to Japan where Englishmen and Americans were trying to convince local governments that to use any language other than English in any Pacific Nation's schools was primitive and backward.
Armstrong and other advocates of changing Hawai'i's school language were successful in establishing a number of public English schools in cities and towns using imported teachers. The Hawaiian public schools struggled with book shortages, salary inequities, and European centered prejudices during a colonial period when Hawai'i was one of a handful of places in the world that had escaped outright foreign control. In spite of the language battles in the DOE, Hawaiian still remained the language of all Hawaiians and of interethnic communication in the streets. Even children who attended English schools learned to read and write their native language because many Hawaiian children their age still attended Hawaiian schools and adults conducted government, religious, and cultural business in Hawaiian.
Public schools taught through the local language by local teachers were struck a mortal blow, however, in 1893 when the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown. It now became government policy to eliminate the Hawaiian language, and the Hawaiian public schools were abolished under the school language law of 1896. Many Hawaiians today blame this law for the extermination of the Hawaiian language. In the six main inhabited Hawaiian islands, children who spoke Hawaiian even on the playground were physically punished. Teachers feared that speaking Hawaiian even to explain something to a child on his or her first day of school could result in being fired. Parents were visited by teachers and told that to continue speaking Hawaiian at home would have negative repercussions on their children in school.
The school-directed campaign against Hawaiian resulted in Hawaiian being replaced with Pidgin English as the preferred language of most non-Caucasian children born in Hawai'i between 1900 and 1920. Pidgin has since come to be viewed by some as the primary language of identification for Hawaiians. Previous to 1900, most children born in Hawai'i grew up speaking Hawaiian regardless of the ethnic language spoken in the home and many learned English as a foreign language. Ironically, the forced use of English in the schools did not result in Hawaiian children learning English better than their parents, if that were the goal of the English-only policy, and there is reason to think that it was not. Linguistic studies have shown that the English of children born before 1900 is closer to standard English than the Pidgin spoken by later generations of local children who never spoke Hawaiian.
The loss of the Hawaiian language also resulted in a decreased in literacy among Hawai'i's public school system. Efforts by Hawaiian legislators in the 1920s to include Hawaiian as a "foreign" language in Hawai'i schools had no real effect in providing for a future for Hawaiian as a living first language, and even these laws were often left unenforced by the territorial government that was controlled from Washington.
In the 1970s, new ideas regarding the equality of peoples and cultures reached Hawai'i, and a new interest developed in righting the wrongs of the previous century. Efforts to provide opportunities for children to learn Hawaiian as a foreign language again emerged. The University of Hawai'i established Hawaiian language and Hawaiian Studies degrees taught primarily through English. Hawaiian was even made an official language of Hawai'i again. Learning about Hawaiians was now encouraged, but in the euphoria of strengthening the study about Hawaiians few realized that it was still illegal to use the Hawaiian language in the schools--to actually be Hawaiian in a linguistic sense.
In 1984, preschools taught entirely in Hawaiian called Punana Leo opened and immediately ran into problems because antiquated laws and policies blocking the use of Hawaiian were still in effect. Families involved in the Punana Leo lobbied extensively to change state laws denying private Hawaiian schools the same rights accorded to Japanese and Chinese foreign language schools as well as the law forbidding the use of Hawaiian as the medium of instruction in the public schools. The effect of the old school language law on Niihaw school and the last thirty native Hawaiian speaking children in the world also became an issue in the legislature.
In 1987, the 1896 instituted restriction on use of the Hawaiian language in Hawai'i public schools was removed by the State Legislature, and that same year, the DOE implemented Papa Kaiapuni Hawai'i, Hawai'i's first Hawaiian-medium elementary programs in nearly a century. The nucleus of the children in the program as well as the teaching materials came from the Punana Leo. In 1989, the legislature instituted special funding for a center at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo to train Hawaiian speaking teachers and develop instructional materials in Hawaiian. Additional funding was provided by the legislature for evaluation and supplementary reading materials. The evaluations of the children in Papa Kaiapuni Hawai'i show that these children are performing at or above grade level academically, that they have the same level of fluency in English as their peers in public schools taught through English, and that their ability in Hawaiian exceeds that of students studying Hawaiian at the university level.
As in the public Hawaiian medium schools of the 1800s, today's Hawaiian-medium schools include children from non-Hawaiian as well as Hawaiian ancestry. These children are carrying on a public educational heritage unique in the United States and revitalizing the Hawaiian language--the one feature believed by many as indispensable for the future survival of Hawai'i's world famous indigenous culture. Although the scars of nearly a century of repressing the Hawaiian language has frightened some Hawaiians away from education in Hawaiian as if it were the inferior institution that the language suppressers claimed, more and more Hawaiians are enrolling their children in modern Hawaiian medium schools that promise a future for Hawaiian culture as proud as its glorious past.
"He understood me! It works!" exclaimed a once-skeptical student. The Cheyenne language instructor had just obeyed correctly her commands during a role reversal exercise even though her Cheyenne was garbled. This exercise occurred after about thirty hours of Cheyenne language instruction using the Total Physical Response (TPR) method.
The student had asked her instructor to walk to an object, to pick up the object, then to walk toward another student, to touch that student, and finally to go back and sit down. This was a complex series of commands for the skeptical student to utter and for the instructor to understand. Yet they were successfully accomplished.
A teachable moment had occurred for both student and instructor, and the student was a skeptic no more. These kinds of breakthroughs are common with TPR and are the reasons why it is attracting wide usage among American Indian and Alaska Natives. The use of TPR is occurring at a fortuitous time because of the renewed interest in maintaining or reviving Native American languages by Native groups and because of the passage of federal and state acts designed to encourage the perpetuation of these languages. TPR is a methodology that can help to perpetuate Native American languages as it teaches through the affective domain and encourages a low-anxiety learning environment.
Native Americans are discovering the joys of learning or relearning their own languages through TPR at the Southwest Region School District and Lower Kuskokwim School District in Alaska and on the Flathead and Blackfeet Reservations in Montana. James Asher (1977) devised TPR, and it closely replicates how people learn their first languages. TPR has gained a foothold as a language teaching method and has produced spectacular results for both teachers and students.
Teaching commands produces impressive results quickly so they are often the first thing introduced and the most recognizable feature of TPR. However, because so many teachers do not go past commands, they mistakenly conclude that TPR is good only for teaching commands. It is easy to see why they come to this conclusion. Commands produce almost instantaneous results; everybody learns them within a euphorically short time.
Also, what usually is happening is teachers are trying out something they recently learned in a TPR inservice or workshop, but no matter how long the inservice may be, they seldom get past the command stage. Thus the presumption is reinforced that commands are all that TPR is good for. When teachers reach the end of the command stage, they often realize that there must be more to the method, but where is that "more"?
The method itself has to be expanded to include the teaching of abstract concepts (such as love, peace, and learning), numbers, nouns, names, parts of speech, verb tenses, prepositions, case, person--in other words, all the basic building blocks of any language. When all this is done, then reading and writing can also be accomplished just like in a regular classroom.
This expansion can and must be done in a series of TPR inservice and workshops that are designed to go beyond teaching commands and the other basics of TPR. One shot infusions of TPR do not work and are counterproductive in the long run because they only give spectacular short-term results. When the teacher has to move on to other concepts, reality often strikes heavy handedly, and short-term elation is quickly replaced by uncertainty.
So when TPR trainings are scheduled in your schools or villages, make sure that you ask for continuous follow-up training, refreshers, and continued expansion of this successful language-education approach.
Asher, James. (1977). Learning another language through actions: The complete teacher's guide. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks Publications
Higher proportions (5.28%) of American Indian children are identified as learning disabled (LD) than other ethnic groups (Blacks, 4.36%; Hispanics, 4.14%; Asians, 1.66%; Whites, 4.14%) (O'Connell, 1987). Latham (1984) alleged overidentification of Indian students with learning disabilities, but there are also reasons why there might be a greater incidence of learning disabilities. For example, there have been reports of higher incidence of otitis media (an ear infection that can lead to hearing loss) among some American Indian tribes groups than among other ethnic groups (e.g., Goinz, 1984), which has also been implicated among the causes of learning disabilities (e.g., Bennett, Ruuska, & Sherman, 1980). Studies of American Indian children have also related early otitis media with later educational problems (e.g., Thielke & Shribeg, 1990). Substance abuse among pregnant women can lead also to children being born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Affect (FAA) and a consequent greater incidence of learning disabilities.
The issue is made even more difficult because special education professionals have been unable to agree on an appropriate definition of learning disabilities. The term was established in 1963, but there have been disagreements about the definition used by the U. S. Office of Education. The definition employed in Public Law 94-142 is:
"Specific learning disability" means a disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding or using language spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. The term does not include children who have problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage (USOE, 1977, p. 65083).
With such disagreements and the present state of psychometric tools and technology, debating the comparative incidence issue further is like arguing about the number of angels who can sit on the head of a pin.
Standardized norm referenced tests are typically employed to identify the existence of learning disabilities. However, Dana (1984) pointed out that the intellectual assessment of American Indian children is done using tests that are generally inadequate for describing their intellectual functioning or for predicting their educational outcome. Recommendations have been made regarding overidentification and inappropriate testing procedures for linguistic minority children, which may be generalizable to American Indian children (e.g., Figueroa, 1989). Little has been written specifically about American Indian children and psychometric testing in comparison to other minority groups. However, Hynd and Garcia (1979) pointed out that performance scales might provide an estimate of American Indian children's potential to perform, but verbal scales predict levels of functioning within English language settings.
McShane and Plas (1984) pointed out that a comprehensive theoretical model of American Indian functioning would need to incorporate otitis media history and hearing acuity, oral-linguistic and nonoral-visual normative behavior patterns, differential neurological functioning, variation in learning styles, acculturation factors, tribal membership and reservation location, age and sex, as well as achievement-intelligence relationships.
After reviewing literature on bilingualism and psychometrics Figueroa (1991) recommended that tests should either be developed and normed on bilingual groups or we should stop using tests on bilingual groups. When the numbers of tests and extensive research that would be required for the many American Indian tribal groups are considered in addition to the fact that selling tests is a commercial proposition, it becomes apparent that there will not be suitable psychometric tests available for American Indian groups in the near future.
Can we eliminate tests? Observation techniques might be considered, but while attempts to describe a single syndrome for learning disabilities have been abandoned, there are reports that indicate similarities between persons who have been described with learning disabilities and findings in regard American Indian children presumably resulting from cultural and linguistic differences. For example, many youngsters with learning disabilities are reported to have difficulty with time concepts (e.g., Dodd, et al., 1985). However, many American Indian children also have been reported to have difficulty with time concepts, but because of cultural differences related to time (e.g., Anderson, et al., 1980). Similarly, many youngsters with learning disabilities have difficulty with language, but so do bilingual American Indian youngsters and other American Indian youngsters who speak non-standard English (Indian or "Rez" English). By definition youngsters with learning disabilities do not achieve well in school, but many American Indian youngsters do not achieve well either. These are but a few of the reported similarities, but space prevents further elaboration here.
The crucial element in indentifying learning disabled children is the special education referral process. However, teacher assistance teams made up of teachers with expertise in various areas are frequently recommended, although not as frequently implemented, to suggest prereferral teaching activities for teachers to try before a youngster is referred for special education placement. Evidence is mounting to support prereferral intervention as an effective educational practice and means to reduce overidentification of children for special services (e.g., Nelson, et al., 1991). Additionally, it has been suggested that placement committees frequently interpret cultural and linguistic differences as deviant, and the way to reduce the number of placements is through reduction in referrals (Ortiz & Maldonado-Colon, 1986).
It follows that when there are prereferral and referral teams considering American Indian children for placement in special education there should be a member of the team assigned specifically to be sure cultural and linguistic differences are considered. That person would recommend teaching practices and procedures that work well with American Indian youngsters [Such practices can be found in books such as Teaching the Native American (Gilliland, 1992) and Teaching American Indian Students (Reyhner, 1992)]. Because many persons fail to understand the cultural and linguistic differences among tribal groupings, it may be necessary to point out the importance that the person should be representative of or, at least, knowledgeable about the cultural and linguistic background of the youngster being considered. Because of scarcity of American Indian teachers, it may be necessary to seek the assistance of non-school personnel. The pragmatic practices of these prereferral teams are preferable to sole reliance on inappropriate tests and testing procedures and will lead to more appropriate placement of American Indian students.
Anderson, B., Burd, L., Dodd, J. & Kelker, K. (1980). A comparative study in estimating time. Journal of American Indian Education, 19(3), 1-4.
Bennett, F. C., Ruuska, S. H , & Sherman, R. (1980). Middle ear function in learning-disabled children. Pediatrics, 66 (2), 254-259.
Dana, R. H. (1984). Intelligence testing of American Indian children: Sidesteps in quest of ethical practice. White Cloud Journal, 3 (3), 35-43.
Dodd, J. M., Griswold, P. E., Smith, G. H., & Burd, L. (1985). A comparison of learning disabled and other children on the ability to make time estimates. Child Study Journal, 15 (3), 189-197.
Figueroa, R. A. (1991). Bilingualism and psychometrics. Diagnostique, 17(1) 70-85.
Figueroa, R. A. (1989). Psychological testing of linguistic-minority students: Knowledge gaps and regulations. Exceptional Children, 56(2), 145-152.
Gilliland, H. (1992). Teaching the Native American (2nd ed.). Dubuque, IO: Kendall/Hunt.
Goinz, J. B. (1984). Otitis media among pre-school and school-age Indian children in MI, MN and WI: A case for the inclusion of tympanometry in the hearing screening program. Hearing Instruments, 35(6), 16-18.
Hynd, G. W., & Garcia, W. I. (1979). Intellectual assessment of the Native American student. School Psychology Digest, 8(4), 446-454.
Latham, G. I. (1984). Fifteen most common needs of Indian education. Paper presented at the national Indian child conference, Albuquerque, NM. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service Ed 264 073)
McShane, D.A., & Plas, J. M. (1984). Response to a critique of the McShane and Plas review of American Indian performance on the Wechsler intelligence scales. School Psychology Review, 13 (1), 83-88.
Nelson, J. R., Smith, D. J., Taylor, L., Dodd, J. M., & Reavis, K. (1991). Prereferral intervention: A review of research. Education and Treatment of Children, 14(3), 243-253
O' Connell, J. C. (1987). A study of the special problems and needs of American Indians with handicaps on and off the reservation (Vol. 1). Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University Native American Research and Training Center; Tucson: University of Arizona University Native American Research and Training Center.
Ortiz, A. A., & Maldonado-Colon, E. (1986). Recognizing learning disabilities in bilingual children: How to lessen inappropriate referrals of language minority students to special education. Journal of Reading, Writing, and Learning Disabilities International, 2 (1), 43-55.
Reyhner, J. (Ed.). (1992). Teaching American Indian students. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Thielke, H. M. & Shriberg, L. D. (1990). Effects of recurrent otitis media on language, speech, and educational achievement in Menominee Indian children. Journal of American Indian Education, 29(2), 25-35.
U. S. Office of Education. (1977). Procedures for evaluating specific learning disabilities. Federal Register, 42, 65082-65085.
Recently special educators have been deeply involved in discussions of what has become to be known as the Regular Education Initiative (REI), although persons in "regular education" have rarely been involved. Much of the discussion began with a publication by Will (1986) entitled "Educating children with problems: A shared responsibility." She described services in special education resource rooms as "pullout programs" that inadvertently created barriers to the successful education of the children they were designed to serve, and she found the terminology of special education full of words of separation, fragmentation, and removal.
While the REI has been controversial among special educators, changes have started to occur. Educational personnel are beginning to use the language of "full inclusion," which typically means that all youngsters are to remain in a regular classroom. However, some children may still require specialized services, or general education teachers may require help from specially trained teachers. Indeed, the National Association for State Boards of Education has endorsed full inclusion (Viadero, 1992).
In addition to talking and writing about full inclusion, some schools are demonstrating how full inclusion can be carried out. One such demonstration is at Garfield School in Billings, Montana, where American Indians are the state's largest minority group. A system of full inclusion is culturally relevant for American Indian people who traditionally have not excluded family members or community members from groups because of differences. Rather, youngsters were encouraged to work cooperatively, and there were no sharp demarcations between people or other living beings. Respect for all things in nature was practiced and demonstrated to children.
Learning was based on a system of readiness, with elders watching for signs of interest and readiness (Voget, 1984). When a child seemed ready, the materials were supplied along with a loose system of supervision. If one child took longer or needed more time or assistance it was provided without the necessity of competition among children.
Similarly, in a classroom at Garfield School that practices full inclusion of all youngsters regardless of level of intellectual functioning or other differences, youngsters participate at their own levels of functioning as they are interested and engaged in culturally relevant activities. For example, beading, which is usually of interest and cultural relevance to Plains Indian children, is employed to make mathematics utilitarian.
Colored cubes are employed to create designs. Next, the design is transferred to graph paper by shading in squares to indicate the space for each bead, and then colors are selected for the design. Math is learned and employed to count the required number of beads of each color. They are added to find the total number of beads needed to complete the design. Rows can be counted and then multiplied to determine the number of certain colors of beads.
The designs, and consequently the mathematics required, can range from very simple to very complex. Nevertheless, all youngsters participate in the same activity, beading and mathematics, at their own level. Everybody is included without necessity for excluding any students. The activity is cooperative, and youngsters who are not American Indian have the additional opportunity to respect and learn about other cultures. These same beading projects became story problems written by the children. Students were taught in cooperative groups to develop writing skills and problem solving ability.
Similarly, in this multicultural third grade classroom with full inclusion, American Indian trickster stories are employed to teach oral and written language skills. First, because receptive language typically precedes expressive language, the teacher read trickster stories from many different tribes. Each time a new story was read the story was discussed including the characters, setting, and plot, while it was pointed out that the trickster was himself tricked.
Then within cooperative small groups, the youngsters talked about (in the language of their choice) the characters who would be in the story they were going to create. Each youngster's ideas were accepted and included or altered to create a story cooperatively. Each child could participate and contribute at his/her level of language functioning. Later the children drew pictures and wrote sentences about the story they had cooperatively created. The children who could not write dictated their sentences while youngsters with greater language facility expressed themselves ranging from simple sentences to complex paragraphs. When children did not know how to spell words, they wrote the beginning letter and waited for a teacher or better speller to come along and supply the missing letters.
In time, the rough drafts became final drafts and the illustrations and sentences were arranged around the walls of the room where the stories could be both read and displayed. Then literature groups within the class read and discussed each story. They also kept personal journals in which they made entries. The children were also encouraged to extend selections individually, in pairs, or in groups if they wish to do so.
Finally each group presented their story and fielded questions as the panel of experts about their story. Later the youngsters read and reread the stories learning all the words. Children previously in fulltime special education classes participated along with all of the other youngsters, contributing and being respected for their contributions just like all the other children.
These children are learning cooperatively, without excluding youngsters because of ability or other differences. Both the Old Man Coyote stories of the Crows and Wohio stories of the Northern Cheyennes were used with awe and respect as children who were not tribal members learned about those local tribal cultures. Both the stories and beading provided opportunities to participate on multiple levels from the very concrete through the very abstract. Students are not singled out and made uncomfortable as might be done in more competitive classrooms while cultural diversity is respected and shared.
Viadero, D. (1992, November 4). NASBE endorses "full inclusion" of disabled students: Standards must include all pupils, group says. Education Week, 1 & 30.
Voget, F. W. (1984). The Shoshoni-Crow Sun Dance. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
Will, M. C. (1986). Educating children with learning problems: A shared responsibility. Exceptional Children, 52 (5), 411-415.
Two indigenous language conferences were held at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo in May as a joint effort of the University of Hawai'i at Hilo Hawaiian Studies Program, the 'Aha Punana Leo, Inc., the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate, and the Native Hawaiian Culture and the Arts Program.
The Third Annual Polynesian Languages Forum brought together representatives from thirteen Polynesian governments to discuss the status and use of their languages in their countries. Official working languages of the conference were Hawaiian, French, English, and Spanish with this apparently being the first conference ever in which there was simultaneous interpretation in Hawaiian.
Delegates reported that most languages had experienced a history of being forbidden in schools and not being allowed in government offices. The trend now in Polynesia is to conduct education through the indigenous languages and use the local Polynesian language in all aspects of public and private life. One of the purposes of the Forum is to provide a means to exchange information on policies relating to language use and how to implement them. Another is to participate in a Polynesia-wide data base of new terms for modern technology and international life to facilitate the use of Polynesian languages in a rapidly changing world.
Much is happening in Polynesia regarding languages. In New Zealand, for example, there were almost no children speaking Maori ten years ago. Today, tens of thousands of children attend school totally in Maori in over 500 preschools similar to the Punana Leo [a Hawaiian language immersion preschool program] and over 50 elementary and high schools similar to the Kaiapuni Hawai'i immersion programs. In Tahiti, it was once illegal to use Tahitian in the legislature. Now the language is not only used in government, but Tahitian as well as French is required for many jobs. Small countries such as Tokelau and Niue, where the local Polynesian languages have never become minority languages, report that renewed emphasis on education through the local language has provided academic as well as social benefits.
The Native American Languages Institute (NALI) Conference followed the Polynesian Forum and illustrated what can happen if languages are not supported. Although several Indian tribes in the United States and Canada have more members than most Polynesian language groups, all have experienced severe language loss. Several tribes only have a handful of elderly speakers left and one participant came from a tribe whose language is now extinct.
Until recently, it has been both American and Canadian policy to "transition" Indian children from their traditional languages into English. Even now there is little funding available to actually use the Indian languages in schools. Although they have much further to go than Polynesian countries, Indian tribes are beginning to put more emphasis on their languages and lobby for funding to run programs.
Hawai'i is in a central position between typical Polynesian and typical Native American languages. Hawaiian is more threatened than all other Polynesian languages and more threatened than many Indian languages. There are now only 800 Kupuna and Ni'ihau people left who grew up speaking Hawaiian as a first language. The greatest strengths of Hawaiian are in the revitalization among those who come from homes where the language was lost.
Most Polynesian and Indian languages are not taught in high schools or universities. The 3,000 plus enrollment in Hawaiian at the high school and university level exceeds that of all other Native American languages combined. Hawaiian is also making major strides in revitalization among children at the Punana Leo and Kaiapuni Hawai'i levels. As a result of thse schools there have been rapid advances in the development of modern technical vocabulary. Hawai'i already has an advantage in this area because many technical terms were developed for Hawaiian in education and government during the Hawaiian Monarchy when other Polynesian peoples were subject to colonial governments.
Both the Polynesian Languages Forum and NALI provided those in Hawaiian language programs an opportunity to expand their knowledge of what is being done outside Hawai'i and to recommit to the effort at hand. It was exciting to meet with so many people from other parts of the world who were focused on the same goal and to exchange ides with them. The constant use of the Hawaiian language during both conferences confirmed the progress that we are making and touched many who remember when Hawaiian was hardly heard. It was also a matter of considerable pride for Hawai'i to have our leaders, including Governor Waihe'e, Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees, legislators, and Kamehameha Schools officials express their support for the Hawaiian language at these conferences.
Note: Reprinted by permission from Ke Kuamo'o, 3(4), 1-2, 1993, A bilingual Hawaiian/English newsletter of the Department of Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai'i at Hilo.
"We want our children to feel good in school, to feel good about themselves," was the way Anders Apassingok summed up the goal of the St. Lawrence Island Eskimo Bilingual Program during a workshop about the project.
Anders, who is Director of the Title VII Project that is providing assistance to their program, was expressing the consensus of the Yupik staff when he noted that "our students today are caught between two worlds. For our children to feel good about themselves they must feel comfortable in both of these worlds. An important part of our job as bilingual teachers is to teach them how to be comfortable in both worlds."
All of us have become accustomed to the now standard distinction between maintenance (also called developmental) and transitional bilingual programs. In transitional programs the use of a child's native language and culture stops at some stage in the child's schooling. For example, Title VII programs that are transitional require "exit criteria," some kind of objective guidelines that indicate when a child is able to continue instruction entirely in English. The criteria are based solely on language skills. Maintenance programs, on the other hand, are those which, to some degree or other, continue the use of a child's language throughout the years of schooling.
What Anders was saying was that the maintenance of some of a child's language and culture -- at least in communities where that language is spoken by the majority of children--is necessary to provide cultural transition. He was speaking of a transition between ways of life, between sets of values. This kind of transition does not happen at some discrete point in time, and it does not move in one direction only. There is never a time when it is totally complete. There are no tests that can tell you where a child stands on the continuum.
The more diverse the cultures a child struggles to harmonize, the longer it takes that child to become comfortable with the diversity. Turning culture shock into culture comfort is for many people a lifelong undertaking. As long as both cultures are mingling in a person's conscious or even subconscious mind, transitioning is taking place.
The stress generated by transitioning can become critical particularly during adolescence when students are testing their wings. "Our students question the value of our way of life," says Anders, "They think that because something is new, it is better. In some cases that is true. But it is not necessary to look down on what is old just to accept something that is new."
The high school students of whom he speaks have long since made the transition into English-speaking classrooms, but they are still grappling with the transition between cultures. To what extent is teaching this type of transitioning the task of the school? It would seem to the extent that schools have the responsibility to teach students to live wise and well-adjusted lives, particularly if those lives are lived across two cultures.
Teaching "culture comfort" is not usually included in the scope and sequence of school programs. The subject is seemingly nebulous; the objectives too slippery to pin down; and there is the important question of emotional sensitivity. Consequently, in most educational settings the subject of "values," is simply avoided.
Much of the controversy associated with values, however, can be avoided if the subject is treated in a limited way by using a hierarchy of values. Just as educational objectives at large can be formulated according to unique logical perspectives--Benjamin Bloom's for example--so, too, hierarchies of values can be categorized from different points of view. Francis Bacon in his Novum Organum of 1620 aptly called values "idols" and then structured them according to their origin: idols of the tribe, den, market, and theater.
Although some of the finer distinctions regarding categories of values are open to discussion, most observers will agree that values can be categorized according to their breadth or extension. There are, for example, human values that are common across cultures. There are also cultural values that are common within and across ethnic groups. Commonalties, for example, can be found not only between Chinese and French cultures, but also, as Kipling reminded us, between Eastern and Western values. Religious values may be contained totally within a culture or, where acculturation has taken place, cut across them. In either case, religious values can be isolated from other cultural values. Within cultures one can also identify family values. These may at times be in sharp contrast to the surrounding cultural values. On the level of narrowest extension, personal values, one can often observe values that are completely out of the loop of family, cultural, or, at times, even human values.
By limiting classroom discussion of values to the cultural category, many of the problems associated with teaching about values can be avoided. If the instructional focus is limited to cross-cultural values related to mind set, general cultural forces, and the cultural expectations associated with interpersonal communication and transactions, the objections that often arise about "teaching values in the classroom" can be bypassed.
Because values across cultures are often conflicting and controversial, the verbalizing of these values must be done with the same sensitivity that is accorded to values in political or religious arenas. Unless we enter this sensitive arena, students may never learn to recognize the cultural forces that pilot their lives. Without that knowledge they will not be able to understand, much less resolve, the discomfort they often suffer when caught between contrasting cultural forces.
Unlike most academic subjects, the world of values does not provide us with a standard answer sheet. To a question such as, "What does it mean to become successful in life?" there is no simple, immediate, or predefined answer. The question, nonetheless, remains a critical one for students maturing in a world of rapid change, change that is intensified for students grappling with two cultures.
Values, which by definition are beliefs that we cherish, do not stand alone. Each value that influences our thinking and behavior is just one focal point in a network of light and shadow. Given the multiple choice of values in any particular situation, more than one value may be valid. What can serve to help students caught up in an incidence of culture clash is knowing what the choices are and the probable consequences of those choices. This is why it is such a challenge to teach, or better, moderate, critical thinking about values, a far tougher challenge than just teaching factual information.
A test for values, then, cannot be written because an answer key cannot be drawn up in advance. The only test for which cultural value might best apply in a particular situation is the consequence of applying that value. The consequence can be good or bad depending on the circumstances. It can also be comfortable or uncomfortable depending on the emotional reactions that take place. Consequently, teaching students to think critically about values is an important dimension of the "transitioning" process .
The standard distinction between transitional and maintenance bilingual programs is a useful one. It is a simple, clear, and broad distinction that readily applies to most urban United States school settings. In the majority of these settings, non-English-speaking students are usually a minority, usually come from several different ethnic groups, and are immersed in mainstream U.S. culture.
Such, however, is not the case in most American Indian and Alaska Native school settings where the non-English-speaking students are often the majority, speak the same language, and are immersed in their own culture. This is the case, for example, with the students on St. Lawrence Island. This is also the reason their K-12 bilingual program cannot be called either a "maintenance" or "transitional" program in the commonly accepted meaning of these terms.
The Yupik parents and teachers in these island communities view their program not in a linear, time-line fashion, but rather in a multidimensional way. These dimensions, as they see them, require the integration of two very different cultures as they merge and often feud in the minds and hearts of their children. This is the kind of cultural integration that parents and many educators are convinced must be taught throughout a student's entire formal schooling, because there are no "exit criteria" from the school of life.
Note: Edward Tennant is president of Educational Research Associates, Inc., 518 Camino de la Sierra NE, Albuquerque, NM 87123, Phone (505) 294 1582.
Tuba City, Arizona, is located in the heart of Indian country on the western part of the Navajo Nation adjacent to the Hopi tribal lands. Nevertheless, only some fifteen percent of the Navajo children who enter kindergarten each year at Tuba City comprehend and speak their ancestral language. The situation is far more precarious for the Hopi language.
The challenges faced by residents of Tuba City mirror those faced by many American Indian communities throughout the U.S. and other indigenous peoples around the world. By the year 2050, whole clusters of endangered languages will likely be stabilized or beyond hope of recovery.
Despite ongoing challenges and setbacks, the struggle of American Indian communities for the legal right to maintain their languages and cultures has been won for the most part. An extensive body of legislation and litigation continues to fortify tribal rights. National efforts in the United States are being strengthened by actions of the United Nations aimed at protecting the lands, rights, languages, and cultures of indigenous peoples.
Most American Indian tribes, however, like many other indigenous peoples of the world, lack what may be termed the effective right to save their languages and cultures. The effective right as it is used here means access to the knowledge, strategies, and resources necessary to resist destruction of languages and cultures. Stated more simply, the effective right means access to the tools for getting the job done. The legal right without the effective right is of limited value. Effective solutions for reversing the loss of American Indian languages must be found and implemented soon. Both indecision and ineffective action will result in the destruction of existing Indian languages.
Fortunately, enough research and experience exist to enable Indian communities to avoid major pitfalls in saving their languages, if existing knowledge can be used quickly and effectively. The research of Joshua A. Fishman is particularly relevant to the issues faced by American Indian communities.
Fishman on Language Preservation
In September 1993, workshops were held across the Navajo Reservation aimed at the maintenance of the Navajo language. Joshua Fishman served as the key facilitator. He cited findings from a study he is currently finishing up that compares successful and unsuccessful actions of threatened speech communities, involving seventy-five endangered languages. During presentations and informal discussions, Fishman continually returned to a key point--when over-relied upon, or relied upon exclusively, schools fail to save languages.
Examples reinforced this message. Innovative schools have been founded to save languages. Some have been well funded, employed dedicated teachers, used excellent materials, and focused an enormous amount of time on the endangered language. Nevertheless, despite all the expertise, funding, and hard work, most children failed to learn their endangered language. Why? Fishman noted that schools are generally successful in preparing students for a reality outside of school, but not very good at teaching what is beyond the out-of-school reality for children, regardless of whether the subject is an endangered language, social studies, or algebra. While pinpointing the most common failure in saving endangered languages, he also identified a primary reason why many poor, underprivileged, or linguistically different children fail to thrive in schools.
Efforts to save languages must ultimately deal with the intergenerational transmission of mother-tongues. This is, to a large extent, a family and community issue. Exclusive focus on education compounds, rather than solves, the problem of language shift. Groups who are succeeding in saving their language (the Basque of Spain, for example) find ways to revitalize and stabilize their speech community. In these cases, schools play a role, but the community is the primary focus of action.
Several courses of action would greatly assist American Indian communities in developing the effective right to maintain their languages. Such actions include: 1) fostering of new, innovative, community-based approaches to strengthen and stabilize threatened languages; 2) directing more research efforts toward analyzing community-based successes in resisting loss of Native American languages and other minority languages as well; 3) fostering communication and partnerships between communities and organizations trying new approaches to maintaining languages; and 4) promotion of heightened consciousness of the catastrophic effects of language loss both among members of language minority populations and among members of the mainstream population. Unfortunately, the human and financial resources needed to stabilize or restore American Indian languages extend beyond the resources of nearly all Indian communities.
Why Mainstream Institutions Should Fund Language Stabilization Efforts
The tragedies currently experienced in small American Indian speech communities may soon be experienced in societies with populations in the millions. In fact, language shift and the accompanying social dislocations are likely well underway in some very large societies. The chilling prospect of world-wide, logarithmic increases in the maladies of reservation communities in terms of depression, substance abuse, family violence, and the like is very real.
Internally and externally, ethnic and sociocultural issues are quickly becoming the most difficult issues many societies face. With massive population movements just getting underway, understanding what makes cultures tick and successfully promoting cross-cultural understanding is as important, in terms of human survival, as narrowing the gap between rich and poor, preventing war, or protecting the natural environment. In fact, better understanding of culture and intercultural relations is critical to effectively addressing such problems. Likewise, understanding the dynamics of language maintenance is critical to understanding cross-cultural relations from the individual to the societal level. Cross-cultural understanding and partnership are fundamentally impossible between two societies, for example, when one society is consciously or unconsciously exterminating another.
Stabilizing an endangered language touches all aspects of a community from child-rearing practices and intergenerational communication to economic and political development. Helping American Indians develop the effective right to save their languages would likely produce important benefits, not only for the various tribes on the brink of destruction, but for all societies. An investment in Indian languages that would be large enough, come fast enough, and be well-enough planned to make a difference would likely prove to be an extremely effective investment in terms of addressing pressing national and international problems.
Many of the keys to the psychological, social, and physical survival of our species may well be held by the smaller speech communities of the world. The keys will be lost as cultures die.
Where American Indians are concerned, for example, tremendous contributions have been made to the mainstream society in many areas including agriculture, governance, art, and philosophy. If the natural world survives the next few centuries, much will be owed to the insights and perspectives of American Indians and other indigenous groups. Unfortunately, the few Indian communities that have survived until now may be extinct by then.
Turning Point in Tuba
The people of Tuba City, like those in many other Indian communities, are at a critical juncture. The children of Tuba City could come of age in a community steeped in the joys of Navajo and Hopi life as well as enjoy the benefits of participation in the larger society--particularly higher income and higher education. However, such achievements will not come easily.
A vicious cycle persists that is very difficult to break. Lack of community infrastructure and many social problems contribute to language shift; language shift fosters dysfunctional behavior, and so it goes. So much damage has been inflicted on the local cultures that many people seem rather fatalistic about language loss, not to mention solving the many social problems associated with the accompanying cultural unraveling.
Reasons for optimism, however, are clearly evident. Increased awareness of key issues and alternatives concerning the role of Navajo language in the future is occurring in families, the schools, and various organizations. Indians and non-Indians are collaborating rather effectively in addressing language-related issues. Intelligent youth, many destined to be leaders of tomorrow, demonstrate renewed interest in joining with their elders in preserving their most valuable birthright--their language, culture, and land. A special resiliency exists here and a vision for a brighter future clearly exists.
Can sufficient action be taken quickly enough to stabilize local languages and, hence, the cultures? This is the fundamental question in Tuba City today because opportunities to stabilize local languages may be gone in a very short period of time--perhaps in five years.
Note: The National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education has an electronic bulletin board for endangered languages and an information bank on related issues. To gain access, contact the Clearinghouse at 1(800) 321-6223.
In the September 1994 issue of the Reading Teacher Richard L. Allington notes that teachers too often confuse experience with aptitude. In the process they underestimate the intelligence and abilities of students who come from families that do not emphasize reading and homes that contain little reading material. Allington goes on to note that children who do not experience much reading in their homes often find little to read at school.
The Council for Indian Education is a non-profit organization set up to provide more reading material by and about American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Council seeks to promote a better understanding of Native cultures and to provide material to stimulate student interest in reading. It currently has in print over 100 books for children and adults. Indian and non-Indian students alike enjoy the histories, biographies, legends, fiction, and poetry published by the Council, many written and/or illustrated by Native Americans. An Intertribal Indian Editorial Committee approves all material selected for publication.
Several of the Council's publications have won or have been nominated for awards. In 1994, Remember My Name by Sara H. Banks, about Cherokee history, was chosen as one of two best children's books in the United Kingdom by the Young Book Trust. Red Power on the Rio Grande: The Native American Revolution of 1680 by Franklin Folsom recently won the Charles W. Follett Award for worthy contributions to literature for young people. Kamache and the Medicine Bead by Jerry Cunnyngham, a humorous tale about an Apache boy and his struggles to prove his manhood, was nominated for the 1994 Nevada Young Reader's Award. Navajo Magic of Hunting by Elsie Kreischer won first place for a children's book in 1992 from the National League of Pen Women.
The Council has its classics such as the humorous tale about the mishaps of the first Cheyenne to own an automobile in Grandfather and the Popping Machine by Henry Tall Bull and Tom Weist. Another popular book is Charlie Young Bear by Katherine Von Ahnen and Joan Young Bear Azure. It is a story of a contemporary young Mesquakie boy who prays for a bicycle when his family receives settlement payment from the U.S. Government for treaty rights.
Teachers can benefit from Teaching the Native American by Hap Gilliland now in its second edition. Chapters by Gilliland and other educators provided information on culturally relevant education, self-image, Native American learning styles, and suggestions for teaching various subjects. All teachers can benefit from this work when considering teaching alternatives and a sensitivity to different learning styles. The Council also has available bilingual publications including an English-Cheyenne Student Dictionary.
Many of the Council's publications express the traditional art of good storytelling. This most likely is the result of the Council's original intent: to give a true concept of Indian culture and build the self concept of Indian children through high interest books that relate to Indian children's' backgrounds and reading level. Before its incorporation as a nonprofit educational organization in 1972, the Council consisted of a committee of Indian and non-Indian educators to develop culturally related reading materials for teaching reading to Cheyenne children. Later this committee was expanded to include other Plains Indian tribes, and, today, tribes from throughout the United States.
Gail Tall Whiteman, a Northern Cheyenne from Lame Deer, MT, wrote in
a letter to the Council:
These particular stories have such a sentimental value to me, they were my link to my Culture. When I was 10 years old and in 5th grade at Connell, Washington thousands of miles from my homeland and family, I found comfort in the stories because they would spark my memory and I could hear my own grandfather telling me similar stories. Every time my grandpa told a story, there was always a lesson to learn.
A seven member board of directors and sixteen member Intertribal Editorial Board are all unpaid volunteers. The editors read and evaluate all material considered for publications to ensure it is culturally accurate and of a quality they would want their children to read. All contributions and income from sales are used to publish more books.
Many Council books are priced in the $5 and $6 range. To get a catalog of publications or guidelines for submitting manuscripts, write to the Council for Indian Education, 2032 Woody Dr., Billings, MT 59102, enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope.
In November 1994 and May 1995, with funding and sponsorship from OBEMLA, Northern Arizona University's Center for Excellence in Education hosted two symposia on stabilizing indigenous languages. The first symposium developed a rationale for native language maintenance based on human rights and on the needs of American Indian peoples. The group then engaged in extensive discussions of the roles of families, communities, and schools in the learning and teaching of native languages.
The purpose of the November meeting was to establish what is to be done and why, whereas the May symposium was intended to document how the process of language maintenance and transmission can become a reality, with an emphasis on "success stories." The broad areas of family, community, and school naturally fell into subtopics such as preschool, adult education, arts and the media, and so forth.
Each symposium highlighted talks by well-known scholars who shared state-of-the-art information; however, most of the time was spent in small participatory sessions led by skilled moderators who encouraged everyone to speak. The outcome of the discussions has been a somewhat surprising convergence of ideas in terms of what impedes language maintenance and what promotes it. Among the most frequently discussed barriers were:
For the majority, however, the symposia were like a support group, strengthening everyone's resolve to keep up the good work and share new ideas. Several persons indicated that they had sharpened their awareness of key issues and strategies. Perhaps these kinds of events are most useful for novices, who like the idea of keeping their native language alive, but are not sure of the best way to go about it.
The fact that the sessions were conducted in English and not in one or other of the native languages was the object of some criticism. On the other hand, the few participants who made sustained and exclusive use of their own language in addressing the group frustrated those who would have liked to understand their message. The language of wider communication (in this case, English) plays an important role in our lives. It seems an appropriate and advantageous tool to use in multilingual settings, although not necessarily in our own homes. We are not advocating a return to monolingualism in any language. When two or more languages coexist, the speakers' repertoire is richer than that of monolingual persons, communities, or nations.
Northern Arizona University's Center for Excellence in Education is planning to publish the proceedings of these two symposia in the coming year. For more information, contact Dr. Gina Cantoni, Regent's Professor of Education, Northern Arizona University, PO. Box 5774, Flagstaff, AZ. 86011-5774. Dr. Cantoni may also be contacted by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (520) 523-4842.
At the beginning of European settlement there were approximately 250 languages spoken by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Today, only about a third of those languages are still spoken. The extent of the endangerment of this remaining third is documented in the upcoming 13th edition of the Ethnologue: Guide to the World's Languages; of the 208 languages in the world listed as having ten or fewer speakers, 102 are Australian indigenous languages.
A recent Australian government commissioned report The Land Still Speaks by Graham McKay (1996) reviews in 290 pages the language maintenance and revitalization efforts in Australia and successful indigenous language programs overseas. The main purpose of the report is to discover effective ways of promoting and developing indigenous languages.
One strategy employed to achieve this goal was a pilot study of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language communities (Barkly Tableland, Kempsey, Ringers Soak, and Saibai) with either language revitalization or language maintenance efforts. A significant amount of the report is dedicated to reporting this pilot study. McKay notes that,
While most people . . . tended to see the term 'language maintenance activities' as including only formally organized language programs and activities, Saibai Island Council, in its response, made explicit what other communities assume: that traditional ceremonies and other traditional activities (they mention dancing, singing and story-telling--others would include hunting) are an important means of keeping the traditional language strong. At the same time, the people of Saibai include church services and tombstone unveiling in this arena, showing that Christianity and other post-contact developments have been firmly adopted by members of the community in the ongoing development of their indigenous culture and life. The church has become part of their heritage . . . but not the school . . . (p. 110).When discussing language maintenance and revitalization efforts sociolinguistic factors must be taken into consideration. McKay posits the notion that,
A language 'dies' or 'is lost' when its speakers choose to abandon it for another language. Any consideration of language maintenance, then must take into account the perceptions and needs of speakers, the situation they find themselves in, and the other languages they are using or in contact with, as well as their aims and intentions. (p. 219)It is from within this framework that the information regarding language maintenance and revitalization efforts in the four communities are addressed. McKay provides the contextual information needed for the reader to develop a fuller understanding of the choices that the four language communities made in regard to their languages. For example, he discusses historical contexts, language contact situations, and the political and economic factors that either enable or constrain language maintenance.
The report is well organized. It provides a concise executive summary in the preface that helps situate the reader. McKay furthers this contextualization by giving an overview of specific reports on indigenous language loss and language maintenance and revitalization efforts in Australia. He also carefully explains some basic linguistic terminology for laypersons who do not possess linguistic expertise.
The Land Still Speaks also includes a review of selected literature on language maintenance by Bratt-Paulston, Dorian, Fishman, Giles & Johnson, Guyette, Kulick, Martin-Jones, McConvell, and Thieberger. Though there is not enough space in this column to present a complete review of the literature, McKay does provide enough of an overview of the literature to give the reader an idea of the different perspectives regarding issues of language maintenance.
Throughout McKay's study of language maintenance in the four communities are principles and recommendations presented out of numerical order, which is a little confusing at first. For example, the first recommendation to appear in the text, in the discussion of language maintenance intervention in Australia, is recommendation number fourteen. Despite the fact that it seemed "out of place" numerically, it was located in the text where it made the most sense. This recommendation states:
That, on a State-by-State basis, 15 per cent of the combined funding under the Aboriginal Languages Education Strategy (ALES) and the Aboriginal Literacy Strategy (ALS) be allocated to ALES to provide specific impetus for activities in indigenous languages rather than programs of English literacy. (p.13)McKay adds that the 15 percent is a minimum allocation, not a maximum and that indigenous language programs could easily warrant greater expenditure. Having the principles and recommendations located within the text gives the reader a better understanding of how the recommendations relate to the review. An entire list of principles and recommendations in numerical order is located at the end of the report.
While the principles and recommendations are specific to Australia, a majority of the 19 principles and 25 recommendations contain elements that could form part of recommendations for language maintenance efforts in other parts of the world. The principles are categorized as general, residence, community leadership and training, language use in communities, language teaching programs, broadcasting and language, research, and administrative divisions. The recommendations include establishing funding priorities, broadcasting in indigenous languages, inclusion of indigenous languages as a "core subject" in school curricula, establishing a publication program, use of interpreters, calling for further research, and so forth.
The review also includes a list and explanation of issues that have a strong influence on language maintenance and development efforts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Just as the principals and recommendations, several of the issues can be generalized to language maintenance efforts in various parts of the world. For example, the issues of indigenous control, the participation of elders, training of local teachers, working with linguists in mutually supportive ways, literacy in indigenous languages, and indigenous language teaching are not context specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Indeed, they are issues that are evident in language maintenance and revitalization efforts all over the world. McKay brings these issues into focus and briefly discusses all of them.
This review does not limit its discussion to the four areas in the pilot study. It also provides a complete survey of language maintenance activities in Australia and of selected programs overseas. For example, the review examines language maintenance activities regarding the Maori language in New Zealand, the Hualapai Bilingual/Bicultural Program in Arizona, Mohawk language programs in Canada, and language maintenance programs in Oaxaca, Mexico.
What was most evident throughout the report is the notion that "Language maintenance cannot be entrusted largely to the school, though family and community language use can be supported and strengthened by the school language program" (p. 66). This view reflects part of socio-linguist Joshua Fishman's (1991) theoretical paradigm for minority-language maintenance. Though many of the programs reviewed in this report had a school component, they were not dependent upon schools for language maintenance and revitalization efforts. Community involvement and support are essential to such efforts.
Fishman, J. (1991). Reversing Language Shift: Theoretical and empirical foundations of assistance to threatened languages. Clevedon, Avon, England: Multilingual Matters.
McKay, G. (1996). The land still speaks (Commissioned Report No. 14). Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service (GPO Box 84, Canberra ACT 26011, Australia).
"Thing-a-ma-jig" is a word we use when we cannot recall the right word for something. In his book, Replacing Thing-a-ma-jig, Jim MacDiarmid attributes our inability to recall such words to a faulty process of language acquisition. Our inability to recall a word not only affects our ability to communicate but also inhibits our ability to express the knowledge we possess. The author believes that meaningful language development is essential to the acquisition of knowledge, and he proposes his Developmental Language Process (DLP) as the way for teachers to aid their students' language development.
As the name implies, DLP is a process not a program. As a process, DLP can be used to teach almost any concept. In fact, it is the development of a concept that is the first of the ten stages of DLP. The ten stages, which the author describes in detail, are concept development, basic listening, basic speaking, listening comprehension, creative speaking, basic reading, reading comprehension, basic writing, creative writing, and extension activities. Two types of skills are vital components of all stages of DLP. The first skill type is intellectual and includes the skills of comparing, contrasting, classifying, matching, sequencing, and so forth. The second skill type is visual and includes recognition/discrimination, memory, and sequencing .
DLP can be used with students of all ages and abilities. As the author points out, as students get older and "wiser," educators too often take shortcuts in their teaching process. They make assumptions, often incorrectly, concerning the ability of their students, especially limited English proficient (LEP) students, and omit what would be the first few stages of DLP. They assign content-based reading (Stage 7) and expect their students to comprehend a new concept. They fail to first introduce the concept, motivate the students, make the learning relevant, provide concrete examples, introduce new vocabulary, and so forth, and then they wonder why the students cannot comprehend the assigned reading. According to MacDiarmid, by being faithful to the ten stages of DLP teachers can increase the likelihood of student success.
The basic principle of DLP is the progression from concrete to symbolic to abstract. This progression helps the student to visualize a concept, which is just one part of DLP that would be especially helpful for instruction in a bilingual/multicultural setting. As MacDiarmid points out, teachers, especially secondary teachers, often rely almost exclusively on one of the most abstract vehicles for teaching, the textbook.
In the first four chapters MacDiarmid provides an explanation of each of the stages of DLP and a practical example of how each stage can be applied in the classroom. In each of the remaining chapters the author addresses the relationship between DLP and a specific area of education, including reading, whole language, phonics, high frequency words, grammar, bilingual education, and assessment.
In the chapter on bilingual education and biculturalism the author makes use of the stages of DLP as a means to incorporate multiple languages and cultures in the teaching/learning process. For the beginning second language (L2) learner, L2 is used in only Stage 2 (Basic Listening) and Stage 3 (Basic Reading). As the learner acquires the second language other stages are added. Although DLP is not specifically designed for second language learners, the author's primary experience is with the Inuit of Northern Canada, and it is with their needs in mind that many of the practical applications of DLP are made.
The book has ten short chapters describing DLP and then over 100 pages of sample activities for language and skills development for each of the ten DLP stages. The last 80 pages of this 353 page book include sample lessons, lesson templates, a sample story unit, word lists, a list of language concepts, and an informal reading inventory.
After reading the book and personally applying some of the activities, I believe the design of the Developmental Language Process is such that it can be successfully used with second language learners. The structure and logical progression of the process along with the concrete hands-on activities provide the additional tools often needed by second language learners.
Good teachers use all of the stages of DLP some of the time, and some of the stages of DLP all of the time. The author would challenge us to increase our awareness and use of each stage. Incorporating DLP into our teaching strategies will add additional time to lesson planning, especially in the beginning, and to actual implementation of lessons. One question arises, especially from secondary teachers, as to how they will get through their required curriculum if they spend the extra time needed for DLP . This is the old depth versus breadth question with the added question of how important is it to cover the curriculum if LEP students are left behind in the process. I believe the increased time will produce positive results in student performance.
Note: Cindy May is completing a Masters Degree in Bilingual/Multicultural Education at Northern Arizona University. Replacing Thing-a-ma-jig: The Developmental Language Process (2nd Ed.) by Jim MacDiarmid was published in 1995 in Canada by the Lowe-Martin Group and is available from International Language Development Consultants Ltd., 2044 Arrowsmith Dr., Suite 304B, Gloucester, Ontario, Canada K1J 7V8.
Jon C. Stott's Native Americans in Children's Literature (Oryx Press, 1995) contains categorized lists of well over 100 books by and about Native Americans along with short synopses and critiques to help language arts teachers find stories to use in their classrooms. The appendix gives ideas for units to incorporate Native American children's literature into the classroom.
The first chapter deals with stereotypes and misrepresentations of Native Americans in literature. Stott gives a well thought out treatment of how Indians were stereotyped in early American literature and how that same literature helped create some of the stereotypes that are alive today.
The second chapter deals with picture books. Stott advises writers of Native American stories to choose a specific tribe and then portray that tribe accurately without stereotypes, avoiding what he refers to as the "Generic Indian." His definition of a generic Indian includes the most basic stereotypes such as feather headdresses, bows and arrows, totem poles, and so forth. He defines storytelling as gently presented lessons that members of the audience could apply to themselves without public ridicule and that children could use as guides for their own maturation and socialization processes. There is also a fine description of traditional European fables.
Stott not only confronts the differences in cultures, but he also brings out the commonalties that all cultures possess throughout the world. Storytelling or fables can be traced back to nearly every culture on earth, past or present. All cultures recognize the importance of teaching their youth through stories.
The third chapter deals with the advantages of telling stories orally and the effects of translation. Oral stories have numerous advantages over written stories. Volume, pitch, tone, and changes in voice are all lost once a story becomes written. A common practice of translators, unfortunately, has been to change supernatural beings into either elves or fairies to better fit into the more mainstream cultures.
The fourth chapter gives the bulk of the book's information. This section deals with cultures in conflict, changes that have materialized, and how this conflict has influenced the content of some of the culture's works. Stott compares oral stories with their "European" counterpart, the novel. He states that oral stories unite people into a group while the novel creates individualism and isolates people. Storytelling is a group activity whereas reading novels is a solitary occupation. Isolation has even become a dominant theme of classic novels such as Moby Dick, The Old Man and the Sea, and White Fang.
Another difference mentioned by Stott is the chronological order followed by both cultures. Anglo (Euro-American) stories tend to be linear, methodically following time from one moment to the next, while many Native American stories do not follow this format. To someone unfamiliar with Native American stories, they appear to lack order and jump without reason to unrelated happenings with no regard to sequence.
A quote by author Maria Chona (Tohono O'odham) illustrates another difference. When she was asked about the conciseness of her stories she was quoted as saying "The story is very short . . . because we understand so much." Traditional stories dealt with familiar materials, and the listeners were expected to visualize and supply the details. In contrast, the novel supplied the reader with great detail, and conflicts arose when Native American stories began to be written. As they were written, the stories were completed in great detail with the result that their accuracy was questioned and the audience was no longer allowed to use their imagination.
Stott's epilogue discusses the works of Inuit author Michael Kusugak. Kusugak's ability to bring traditional stories into a modern setting is exceptional. Kusugak's four books: A Promise is a Promise, Hide and Sneak, Baseball Bats for Christmas, and Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails can be used to in the classroom to bridge the gap between cultures.
Another strength of Stott's book is the appendix where he shows how to incorporate traditional Native American stories into a language arts curriculum. Several different approaches are discussed. The lessons start at a low level and work their way up to higher levels, and teachers should find a level their students would feel comfortable at and simply start there, modifying the lesson plans as the teacher sees fit to meet the local situation. Stott points out that it is important to relate the stories to non-Indian stories with similar themes and character types and to review the books used to ensure the accuracy and the respect of the cultures the stories portray.
All in all, Native Americans in Children's Literature is a well thought out book with a great deal of insight. The book as a whole is geared more toward literature that can be used at the elementary and junior high level.
Note: Jon C. Stott is professor of children's literature at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Oryx Press, P.O. Box 5007, Westport, CT 06881-5007.
Chinle Primary School's Dual Language Program meets the needs of students who speak Navajo as their primary language and students who speak English who are learning Navajo as their heritage language. Ambrose Yazzie describes the purpose for Navajo-English dual language instruction,
Throughout my education I spoke Navajo. English was my second language. Today when I speak Navajo with my students, they often respond in English. I tell them they should not be ashamed of speaking the Navajo language, that it is good to know two languages.Chinle Primary School is located near the geographical center of the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. Its 1995-96 Home Language Survey identified 700 students who speak Navajo as a home or ancestral language, and 393 of these students were found to be limited English proficient (LEP). In 1996-97 the number of LEP students increased to 456. District assessment measures also document a 50% decline in Navajo language proficiency for students in grades 1-3 since 1975. This trend, which might mistakenly be interpreted as a successful transition from Navajo to English, has not been accompanied by increases in academic achievement in language or mathematics. Since 1975, student achievement has remained in the lower 30% of the population. This low academic achievement, lack of proficiency in English, and language shift away from the students' ancestral language has been accompanied by a demographic shift from a rural, traditional lifestyle to one where Navajo language and culture are no longer part of the young child's everyday experience.
Chinle's Dual Language Program started with two classrooms at each grade level in 1997. Each classroom has a bilingual teacher and a paraprofessional working with half Navajo dominant LEP students and half English proficient students. In the dual language classroom students interact reciprocally as active learners. A curriculum outreach component focuses on the design and implementation of curriculum and multimedia presentations in the content area of mathematics to enhance the status of the Navajo language for all students. A Summer Dual Language Camp extends the school year and provides community based language learning experiences designed to reverse the tide of language shift that has disadvantaged students.
The staff development component of the project combines the resources of a Title VII funded Bilingual Teacher Training Program at Northern Arizona University and the Annenberg Rural Systemic Initiative. Teachers are developing a new perspective on successful learning in mathematics using both Navajo and English. First grade teacher Alta Clements provides an example of the need for culturally based mathematics when she reflects on the use of story problems in her first grade textbook, "They ask students to count the number of blocks on a trip to the store. Kids here count the fence posts not the blocks. They need to think about their world when they solve problems."
Another example of culturally relevant curriculum is a thematic unit "Dibé Iina Ate: Sheep is Life" that integrates the world of Chinle Primary students with the teaching of mathematics. Themes are coordinated with the Arizona State Standards for Mathematics. For example, to assess Objective 1.1: "Represent and use numbers in equivalent forms through the use of physical models, drawings, word names and symbols," teachers discuss the use of visual models for measurement. Traditionally Navajos did not use cups, yardsticks, or any type of measuring tools. They used their hands to measure flour for frybread. They estimated a days travel not in miles or kilometers but in the length of a day on horseback or in a wagon. When a weaver sat in front of a loom preparing to weave a rug, she did not draw a diagram. She constructed a mental model of the rug. Second grade teacher Beulah Yazzie discussed the visual model developed by the weaver, "Everything theyre going to make comes mentally."
Teachers at Chinle Primary School ask students to use these visual models to estimate the distance around the sheep corral, the cornfield, and the hogan. Students confirm their estimation using yarn or sticks as units of measurement. Beulah Yazzie asked students to interview their parents with questions that were generated from a class discussion about what they knew and wanted to know about sheep. "Where do sheep get their water?" "How much do they need?" The students experienced measurement in this traditional setting. Yazzies second grade students reported "My grandparents did it this way." Yazzie and her students learned from the grandparents that sheep need additional water in the winterabout two buckets a day.
Yazzie concluded the unit with a visit to a summer camp where the students selected a sheep for butchering. The students noticed the different textures of the sheeps wool, took pictures, and recorded their observations in a learning log written in Navajo and English. The students learned about changes in livestock husbandry over the years. They viewed the videotape Seasons of the Navajo that shows the sheep dipping process, read a bilingual book written in the 1940s Who Wants to be a Prairie Dog?" by Ann Nolan Clark, and discussed the sheep dipping process. Students compared and contrasted the care of sheep in the 1940s with current practices. A student wrote about the texture of the wool, "The lambs wool feels like a blanket."
Just as students write to reflect on changes in the Chinle community, these bilingual teachers reflect on changes in the school setting that they have experienced. Bilingual teachers were trained in a 1998 bilingual methodology class in Chinle in which I participated. Suppression of Navajo language within schools in the 1950s and 1960s was a common theme discussed by many of the class's Navajo teachers. They described their resistance to learning English as they used Navajo words that sounded like English to respond to their teachers. Eleanor Smiley wrote,
We were all forced to change our Navajo language into English. Speaking my language became hard for me to speak in front of the dorm aide. I had to stay quiet around them. It was funny too. Our dorm aides spoke to each other in Navajo and we couldn't. One day I decided to mumble anything, just so something would come out of my mouth and to show them that I can speak English.Cindy Aronilith wrote, "I am still learning the language, and I am proud that I am a Navajo." The bilingual teachers tell how their attitudes as language learners were shaped by their early schooling experiences and how they have transformed these experiences and to revitalize the teaching of Navajo language and culture within the school. Cindy Aronolith wrote,
The one method that I found to be very useful is learning as "co-learners and co-teachers" we take it day by day and try to relate what we do to our own lives and interests. our class takes both the Navajo and English language (reading, writing and speaking) one day at a time.Helen Dinéyazhe, a third grade bilingual teacher discusses how she studied Navajo literacy at Diné College (formerly Navajo Community College) and how learning to read and write in Navajo prepared her for her teaching career. Dinéyazhe, the daughter of a bilingual first grade teacher at Chinle Primary School, spoke English as a child. When she entered the Navajo Teacher Education Project at Diné College, she enrolled in Navajo 101 and 102: Navajo for non-native speakers. Her instructors encouraged her to think in Navajo and she began to practice grammatical substitution drills while jogging. Dinéyazhe read childrens books in Navajo and asked colleagues and family members questions about the language. As she gained proficiency in oral and written Navajo she enrolled in courses for native speakers: Navajo 211 and 212. Her proficiency in reading helped her to become a better speaker, and her instructors encouraged her to use her interest in music in preparing class presentations. She wrote songs in Navajo that she published and taught to the class. For an oral history project, she interviewed elders in the community in Navajo about their early schooling experiences. The elders told her that they had been hit with a wooden spoon as punishment for speaking Navajo in their dormitory rooms. Dinéyazhe used these stories to improve her ability to record and transcribe oral Navajo, as a reminder of changing attitudes toward Navajo language, and as an example of the importance of respecting her students.
Editor's Comment: Last month's indigenous bilingual education column discussed how Yup'ik Eskimo teachers were transformed the culture of their schools so that their students could receive a better education that prepared them for life both in their own communities and in the wider world. The Navajo teachers involved in Chinle Primary School's Dual Language Program are working to accomplish the same goal for their students by building on their students cultural and experiential background. Go to an extended version of this column
Currently, the Lakota language in South Dakota is facing a process of attrition similar to that of many native languages in the world. Lakotas about 40 years or older tend to be still fluent speakers, while the younger generations can typically understand but can't speak it fluently. Many children can barely understand Lakota, and they tend not to speak it because it's not "cool." Lakota is being replaced by English, the language of the multi-media and modern life.
Joshua Fishman (1991, 1996a, 1996b), an expert on language revitalization, argues that any declining language can only be reversed if it reemerges in its native communities as the mother tongue. Surviving speakers need to discipline themselves to the point of conversing with their children exclusively in the language to allow them to once again acquire it largely unconsciously and automatically. Family members have to aim to conduct all daily communication of the home in the language.
In the formal education system, I argue, it is best to immerse children as early as preschool in the target language for as many hours of the day as possible. This is because spontaneous language acquisition usually stops around the age of puberty. In later years, students require increasingly analytical instruction based on grammar. Language learning then becomes a matter of highly conscious effort.
Surveying the Community
When I was studying for my Master's Degree, I conducted a survey in the spring of 1999 to assess the ideas, feelings, and attitudes of community members on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in central South Dakota. The purpose of the study was to obtain data that could be used in a grant writing process to justify the establishment of a Lakota immersion program in Head Start and the early elementary grades. In preliminary interviews, interest was expressed by school administrators to pilot such a program at the Head Start Center and the Cheyenne Eagle Butte School if community desire was high and outside funding could be found. In my survey, I was mainly interested in finding out how much interest there was for revitalizing the Lakota language.
Residents of three communities were surveyed to evaluate their beliefs concerning Lakota language instruction in the school system preschool through grade 12. I sent out 150 surveys and 88 were returned. Forty-six percent indicated they lived in Lakota households, 49 percent were from mixed of Lakota and non-Lakota households, and five percent reported "other" household compositions. Thirty-six people reported having children ages three to five. Twenty percent of the children were of early elementary age, 21 percent were upper elementary age, and 23 percent were middle/high school age.
Over 80 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with issues that support language preservation efforts. They believed that children should learn to understand, speak, read, and write their native Lakota language, that there should be bilingual education or immersion at all school levels, and that Lakota should return as an everyday spoken language. Eighty percent said they would enroll their child in an immersion classroom, while only four percent thought they would not. More than three-fourths of all respondents felt that a Lakota speaking the native language has more of a cultural identity than a Lakota who does not. Yet, about half of the respondents admitted to teaching little or no Lakota to their children at the present time, while only 16 percent could answer "completely" or "a lot." These results strongly suggest the need for a Lakota language program on Cheyenne River to keep the language alive.
It is fortunate that the majority of respondents who were in agreement with intensified Lakota language education at all school levels were 40 to 50 year olds with children between the early elementary and middle school level, precisely the age group that is holding most key office position with decision making power within the structure of the tribal government. At the same time, it is unfortunate that people around their thirties and especially the youth do not think more highly of language revitalization issues, possibly not recognizing its urgency.
Survey respondents indicated a slight preference for bilingual education as compared to immersion programs. Research suggests that complete exposure to a language, as is only possible in immersion classrooms, results in quickest and most complete language learning in young children (e.g., Wilson & Kamana, 1996; Yamauchi & Ceppi, 1998), and I suggest that more information sessions are needed to inform the general public of these findings and to assure increasing support for immersion programs. As the second choice of all surveyed community members, immersion still received sufficient positive responses to make the initiation of a pilot project in Head Start and the lower elementary level a likely success at this time.
For the upper elementary, middle school, and high school level, survey results, supported by second language acquisition research (Saville-Troike, 1981), suggest that a program teaching Lakota for a number of hours per week would receive enough student enrollment to be justified. It needs to be mentioned that a potential number of respondents also suggested partial immersion and bilingual education in high school. However, as mentioned earlier, second language acquisition studies support a more structured program for older students (Saville-Troike, 1981).
A Successful Example
To offer an example of a very successful immersion program, I am introducing here the example of the Hawaiian language (Wilson & Kamana, 1996). In the 1980s educators realized that there were only few Hawaiian language speakers left. A tiny community where Hawaiian was still dominant was chosen for a family operated immersion preschool program to establish the return of Hawaiian, a Polynesian language, as the mother tongue. A non-profit organization, the Punana Leo, was founded to develop materials and train teachers. Instruction began totally in Hawaiian in an all-day, eleven-month program. Parents paid tuition, attended meetings, donated eight hours labor per month, and attended weekly language lessons to strengthen their own language skills. By fall 1995, there were thirteen sites teaching Hawaiian through immersion. By 1996, the first group had reached the ninth grade and over a thousand students were being served. There was a long waiting list for classes that now continued throughout high school. The program had become very successful as indicated by increasing fluency of the children. A long-range study has shown academic achievement equal to or above students attending regular English speaking schools. The curriculum was designed as follows:
To revernacularize Lakota, a similar program is necessary. People need to start making drastic if not revolutionary changes to assure the continuation of their language. As Joshua Fishman explained repeatedly, this requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline by every community member. English has to be made inaccessible in certain contexts. Ideally, there should be whole buildings and events where only Lakota can and will be spoken. People could voluntarily ban television and other forms of modern media entertainment from their homes, at least for certain hours or within certain contexts. Additional steps should include immersion youth camps, public advertising on billboards in Lakota, announcement boards in office buildings, street signs, storefront signs, local radio stations, newspaper(s), and local Public Access TV in Lakota. Store clerks and office personnel should greet their clients in Lakota. And finally, Lakota immersion needs to gain public support and to be implemented in the schools. Several educators on Cheyenne River, including myself, are currently working on making that goal a reality.
Fishman, J. (1991). Reversing language shift. Theoretical and empirical foundations of assistance to threatened languages. Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters.
Fishman, J. (1996a). What do you lose when you lose your language? In G. Cantoni (Ed.), Stabilizing indigenous languages (pp. 80-91). Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University.
Fishman, J. (1996b). Maintaining languages: What works what doesn't? In G. Cantoni (Ed.), Stabilizing indigenous languages (pp. 186-198). Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University.
Saville-Troike, M. (1981). The development of bilingual and bicultural competence in children. ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 206 376.
Wilson W. H. & Kamana, K. (1996). Hawaiian language programs. In G. Cantoni. (Ed.). (1996). Stabilizing indigenous languages (pp. 153-156). Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University.
Yamauchi, L. A. & Ceppi, A. K. (1998). A review of indigenous language immersion programs and a focus on Hawai'i. Equity & Excellence in Education, 31(1), 11-21.
Marion BlueArm currently lives in Spearfish, South Dakota, where she recently received a Masters Degree in Curriculm Development and Instruction. An educator with speical interest in Lakota Language preservation, she has lived in the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for 20 years. A longer version of this column can be found at http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~jar/ILAC/ILAC_17.pdf in pdf format
Of the 20 schools in the Flagstaff Unified School District (Flagstaff, AZ), Leupp is the most unique for several reasons. First, it is the only school in the district that is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation. In addition, it boasts the highest minority population in the district (99% American Indian). Unfortunately, Leupp is unique in other respects. It has the highest percentage of low income students (98%), the highest poverty rate (58%), and the highest percentage of limited English proficient students (43%). For years, it was also the poorest performing school in the district academically.
So it was with mixed emotions that the faculty and staff at Leupp Public School introduced a Navajo immersion program in the fall of 1998. For some, there was jubilation because a program was being implemented that might help stem the light-speed decline of the Navajo language. Two year earlier, Leupp parents were alarmed when test scores revealed that fewer than 10% of their children could speak the Navajo language. This was shocking news to a community where just a generation ago Navajo was the dominant language among young and old alike. When Leupp parents were surveyed to determine if they wanted the school to develop a bilingual program, 95% responded in the affirmative.
However, not all faculty and staff shared this enthusiasm. Some argued that Leupp students would fall even further behind in their English language and academic skills if they were taught in Navajo for half of the day. Opponents also pointed out that the program would not be grounded on the same principles as traditional bilingual programs. That is, teachers would not be building upon the students' foundation knowledge in Navajo and transferring skills to English because English was their dominant language.
The counter to these arguments was simple and perhaps naïve: "We've tried English-only with the Navajo for 130 years, and the results have been disastrous. The parents want this program. The community wants it. The Navajo Tribe wants it. Let's give it a try. We can't do any worse, and we may do a lot better."
With a proverbial leap of faith, the district applied for and received a five-year Title VII comprehensive school-wide grant to develop a Navajo Immersion (NI) program. Beginning in 1998, kindergarten students were taught in the Navajo language for 80% of the day. The NI curriculum was centered around the Navajo concept of hozho, or "peace, beauty, and harmony." Objectives were taught through four global themes, each representing one of the four Sacred Mountains of the Navajo. While the curriculum was grounded in Arizona state standards, concepts were initially presented in the Navajo language from a Navajo cultural perspective (see Fillerup, 2000).
In the fall of 1999, the NI program was expanded to include first grade, with second grade added in the fall of 2000 and third grade added in 2001. Additional grades will continue to be added until the immersion program permeates the entire school, grades K-8.
Last spring (2001), the original cohort class took the Stanford 9 test for the first time, as second graders. Twenty-three students were administered the test, including 17 LEP and six non-LEP students. Although the sample size was small, the results were more than encouraging.
NI Students v. District Students: Non-LEP & LEP
The second grade Non-LEP students in the NI program averaged 72.0 NCEs in Reading, 71.0 NCEs in Math, and 52.0 NCEs in Language. By comparison, Non-LEP students district-wide averaged 56.4, 58.9, and 51.1 NCEs in Reading, Math, and Language, respectively. Overall, Non-LEP students in the NI program outperformed the average Non-LEP student in the district by 15.6 NCEs in Reading, 12.1 NCEs in Math, and .9 NCEs in Language. Even more impressive, LEP second graders in the NI program averaged 56.8 NCEs in Reading, 66.7 NCEs in Math, and 44.8 NCEs in Language. In other words, LEP students in the NI program outperformed the average Non-LEP student in the district by .4 NCEs in Reading and 7.8 NCEs in Math, while scoring within 6.3 NCEs in Language.
NIP Students v. "Mostly English" Students at Leupp: Non-LEP & LEP
Second grade students in the NI cohort also outperformed the previous year's (1999-00) "mostly English" second graders at Leupp in all three subtests. Non-LEP second graders who had received almost all of their instruction in English averaged 54.0 NCEs in Reading, 62.0 NCEs in Math, and 44.0 NCEs in Language, while LEP students in the mostly-English program averaged 23.3, 33.8, and 15.4 NCEs in Reading, Math, and Language. Non-LEP students in the NI program outgained their mostly-English Non-LEP predecessors by 18, 9, and 8 NCEs, and LEP students in the NI program outgained the mostly-English LEP second graders by a staggering 33.1, 32.9, and 29.4 NCEs in Reading, Math, and Language, respectively.
So What Does This Mean
It should be noted that, along with the NI program, several other initiatives were introduced to improve student achievement at Leupp. These included: sheltered English instruction at all grades, Take-Home Technology, family literacy, and school-wide literacy programs, such as Sustained Silent Reading, Read Across the Rez, and Books in the Home. Another critical component to Leupp's success has been the superior leadership of principal Louise Scott, a strong advocate for Navajo language revitalization, and the relentless support of district superintendent Larry Bramblett. Finally, collaborative efforts have enabled the Leupp staff and community to incorporate Navajo culture throughout the school. Specifically, sweat lodges were built for traditional sweat ceremonies; a shade house was constructed by students as part of a thematic unit and is used for traditional school and community gatherings. In January 2002, a hogan, the traditional Navajo home, was formally dedicated on site to serve as a school cultural center and meeting-place.
While all of these efforts have contributed to Leupp's recent success, the students in the NI program demonstrated the greatest gains on a standardized test in English. While one SAT 9 test does not make or break a program, this data should help to dispel any concerns about indigenous language immersion programs having a detrimental effect on the English language development of native students, whether LEP or Non-LEP. In fact, all of our data thus far indicates that the NI program accelerates English language proficiency and academic achievement. While Reyhner and Tennant (1995) have argued persuasively as to the affective benefits of teaching in the tribal language, we also have quantitative data to support the academic and linguistic advantages of indigenous language instruction.
Fillerup, M. (2000). Racing Against Time: A Report on the Leupp Navajo Immersion Project. In J. Reyhner, J. Martin, L. Lockard, & W.S. Gilbert (Eds.), Learn in Beauty: Indigenous Education for a New Century. Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University. Available at
Reyhner, J. & Tennant, E. (1995). Maintaining and renewing Native languages. Bilingual Research Journal, 19, 279-304.