What we are doing
Expanding effective language revitalization techniques
Fortunately, there are effective techniques that work to quickly transmit language from elders to young people. The experience of Indigenous Peoples in Hawaii and New Zealand shows that immersion schools, language nests (multigenerational speakers working with group of young, often preschool, learners), and master apprentice programs (pairing an elder speaker with a learner or small team) are very successful. These efforts work best when a weekly commitment of 20-30 hours weekly is made by both second-language learners and fluent speakers.
But many Native American language communities are in need of funding, political support, and training to make these programs sustainable. We're working on all three fronts. Since 2008 we've partnered with tribal language programs to develop and submit a range of federal, private, and corporate grants. In Washington, D.C. we partnered with the National Alliance to Save Native Languages to conduct ongoing outreach to persuade the congress to increase funding for Native language programs, bringing hundreds of tribal members to the Capitol in the summers from 2007-2011. Federal appropriations allotted for Native American language preservation, restoration, and immersion programs has remained stable (though it is still far too little, at $12 million, which 562 federally recognized tribes, hundreds of state-recognized tribes, and tribal nonprofits, schools, and colleges must compete for annually).
To link all the small, isolated, struggling Indigenous language programs (and larger, well-supported language programs) we've built The Language Gathering (languagegathering.org), a website hub where language advocates can share success stories and challenges, fund-raising tips, language advocacy and educational events and jobs, and a host of other information. This platform aims to engage members from the 300+ tribal language programs, projects, and contacts we've made since 2007-2008.
Since 2007 we've been guided in our efforts by language program directors (primarily from five language communities) and the National Alliance to Save Native Languages to provide local assistance requested in the Sauk, Euchee, Wampanoag, Northern Arapaho, and Alutiiq programs. For more information on these programs and the National Alliance, click here or visit our companion websites at languagegathering.org and ourmothertongues.org