Andre Cramblit: More funds needed to help tribes save languages

Andre Cramblit. Photo from From The River Collective / Facebook

André Cramblit, a member of the Karuk Tribe who chairs the Karuk Language Restoration Committee, offers ideas for preserving Native languages:
An anonymous quote I often use is extremely harsh, but also painfully accurate IMHO. “If you lose your language you are no longer a member of your tribe but rather a descendant of tribal members.” The ability to think, speak, dream and pray in your language is what connects us to our ancestors and cultural heritage. It is this link that upholds the health and wellness of the Native community Language is the method of transferring our traditional knowledge to future generations.

There is significant effort in NDN country to turn this dire situation around and to pull our languages back from the brink of extinction. Small groups meet every day in classrooms, kitchens and community centers working diligently to piece together the tattered remnants of their indigenous Language. From pairs of master speakers and their apprentices, to full blown language immersion schools, we are making progress towards the goal of hearing our languages used on a daily basis.

I have been a reviewer for the Administration of Native Americans (ANA) language grants since it’s inception in the early 90’s, until now. I am willing to review and assist language programs in developing their applications. I recall in that first round of applications we received nearly $30 million worth of requests for the meager $1 million we had to disperse. We were literally doing language triage. Deciding if a Tribe had too few speakers or resources to warrant use of our limited funds or if the bigger tribes, although still in need, had the critical mass that relieved us of the need to provide them funds. It was morally agonizing to have to make these decisions. Help came in the mid 2000’s with a little more ANA money coming in through the Ester Martinez Language Act but there is still a desperate lack of monies available to serve all of the language needs of the Tribes in the US. This doesn’t take into consideration that ANA funds can only be used for federally recognized tribes.

Get the Story:
André Cramblit: Lose Your Language, Lose Your Tribe (Indian Country Today 3/10)

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