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Jodi Lee Spotted Bear: Supporting Native language immersion

Filed Under: Education | Opinion | Politics
More on: h.r.4214, jodi lee, languages, mha nation, north dakota, s.1948

Students from the Lakota Language Nest sing to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Cannon Ball Flag Day Powwow in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on June 13, 2014. Photo by Desiree Condon / Facebook

Native journalist Jodi Lee Spotted Bear calls for passage of the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, S.1948 and H.R.4214:
Tribal, state and federal elections are before us. It’s critical we be engaged with the voting process and elect candidates who will support community needs. It’s equally important we tell candidates our specific needs.

All across the country, American Indian languages stand in peril — only to be laid to rest with each passing elder. When the language goes so does our philosophies, scientific knowledge, stories and ceremonies. On Fort Berthold, less than 1 percent our population is fluent in any of the three languages, Nueta, Hidatsa and Arikara, said Delvin Driver, Sr., Hidatsa language instructor.

During the Little Shell Powwow, I had the chance to sit under our camp shade and visit with North Dakota U.S. House Democratic candidate George Sinner. I asked him about his support of indigenous languages and the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Actnow before the U.S. Senate.

“My question is: Why wouldn’t we do this?” said Sinner. “Why don’t we want to preserve our heritage? Why don’t we? We’ve built millions and millions of dollars of American history museums across this country. But this is more than a museum. This is the life of people. This isn’t just the clothes they wear. This is the language they speak.”

Indeed, language is the lifeblood of living cultures, not something to be packaged as audio and set on a museum shelf.

Get the Story:
Jodi Lee Spotted Bear: Language immersion should be priority for elected leaders (Buffalo's Fire 8/14)

Related Stories:
Ryan Wilson: Native language immersion programs need support (8/21)
Peter MacDonald: Code Talkers support language immersion bill (8/7)
NIEA heads to Capitol Hill to advocate for Native language bills (6/28)

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