Teaching Indigenous Languages  

Teaching Indigenous Languages

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Havasupai Girls

On September 13, 2007 the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes language rights. Only four nations initially voted against this declaration, including the United States of America. Since then Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.A have reversed their positions. On December 16, 2010, President Barack Obama declared,

And as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.

The aspirations it affirms--including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples--are ones we must always seek to fulfill. And we're releasing a more detailed statement about U.S. support for the declaration and our ongoing work in Indian Country. But I want to be clear: What matters far more than words--what matters far more than any resolution or declaration--are actions to match those words.... That's the standard I expect my administration to be held to.

Article 13-1 of the declaration reads "Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons" and Article 14-1 reads "Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning." The United Nations General Assembly declared 2008 as the International Year of Languages.

The National Geographic Society's Enduring Voices Project noted a few years ago that by "2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth--many of them not yet recorded--may disappear, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain." It identifies language "hot spots" around the world where Indigenous languages are most rapidly being lost, two of which are in the North America. The Native American Languages Act of 1990 makes it U.S. Government policy to promote, protect, and preserve the Indigenous languages of the U.S.A. This "Teaching Indigenous Languages" web site is an outgrowth of a series of annual conferences started in 1994 at Northern Arizona University to help achieve the goals of the Native American Languages Act. These conferences focus on the linguistic, educational, social, and political issues related to the survival of the endangered Indigenous languages of the world. The 27"th Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium was held as a virtual conference on June 14-18, 2021. The 28th Symposium as a hybrid (in-person and virtual) conference for June 17th and 18th, 2022 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. The 2023 SILS is again being held as vrtually (via Zoom) and in person in Flagstaff, Arizona, at Northern Arizona University on June 23-24 in conjunction with the 13th annual American Indian / Indigenous Teacher Education Conference. To receive conference updates and related information join the Indigenous-L List.

At the heart of this site are over a hundred full text papers from the 1994 through 2008 Stabilizing Indigenous Languages conferences as well as the 2000 Learn in Beauty conference and the 1989 Native American Language Issues Institute published in nine monographs. This site also has over 60 columns from the magazine of the National Association for Bilingual Education, articles, and other materials. There is a subject index, a language/tribe index, and links to related sites, including an American Indian / Indigenous Education site. Please direct comments or questions about this site to Jon Reyhner at Jon.Reyhner@nau.edu.

Mexico Opens University for Indigenous Languages 2023
UNESCO Declares International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032
Effort to recover Indigenous language also revitalizes culture, history and identity Daryl Baldwin 10/10/2022
Revitalizing the Oneida Language through Indigenous Language Immersion Cultural Survival Quarterly 9/2022
Securing the Future of Our Languages: Investing in New Indigenous Language Speakers Cultural Survival Quarterly 12/2021
Cherokee Nation's Efforts in Language Preservation Honored by First Lady 12/13/21
Indigenous Language Revitalization: Innovation, Reflection and Future Directions 2021 WINHEC Journal
Rapid Word Collection Haislakala Video: First Nations Education Foundation
'Race against the clock': the school fighting to save the Ojibwe language before its elders pass away The Guardian April 7, 2021
Walking in Both Worlds: Native American Students and Language Acquisition Video June 6, 2020

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