Jodi Rave: Native language preservation efforts

"Verda King gets excited when she talks about teaching youths in a nearby public school how to speak the Cheyenne language from her office at the Dull Knife Community College.

Language teachers like King are fervent in their need to preserve the language, and believe they can make a difference. But they face many obstacles - no K-12 curricula and a lack of state support - that effectively prevent them from teaching students their Native languages like Cree, Gros Ventre, Kootenai and Nakota.

Typically, the number of new language speakers remains stagnant.

The most proven method of teaching a language is through immersion schools, but the state Legislature recently nixed House Bill 750, which called for the state to provide funding for three existing tribe-based immersion schools, including the Gros Ventre, Salish and Blackfeet programs. The bill never made it out of committee to reach a full vote before the Legislature.

About 90 percent of Native students attend public schools.

It's been difficult for tribes to start their own immersion schools independent of the state because they can't afford it. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes were able to create an immersion school because the tribe pays for the majority of the private school's operating budget. But other tribes in the state don't have the same economic options to start their own."

Get the Story:
Native educators struggle to fund language programs (The Missoulian 4/15)

Relevant Links:
Indigenous Language Institute -

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