Earlier this week, 45 Native American tribes and tribal organizations received $7 million in funding for Indigenous language preservation efforts.
The Living Languages Grant Program, coordinated by the Indian Affairs Office of Indian Economic Development, allocates funding to projects that document and preserve languages Indigenous to the United States of America. On average, the tribes and organizations that were selected for the grants received more than $150,000 each (the largest grants given were worth $200,000).
“Through the Living Languages Grant Program and other interagency efforts, the Biden-Harris administration is working to invest in and strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and ensure that progress in Indian Country endures for years to come,” said Bryan Newland, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.
After centuries of erasure, Indigenous languages spoken across the Americas have been heavily persecuted, ultimately resulting in language death and low populations of native speakers for many of these languages. Measures such as banning the languages in schools have had a profound negative impact on the languages. In the United States, Navajo has the largest population out of other Indigenous languages, but is still not even among the top 20 most widely spoken languages in the country.
In recent years, revitalization efforts in the US and abroad have become a bigger priority — so much so, that the United Nations declared 2022-2032 the “International Decade of Indigenous Languages.” In the announcement of the most recent round of Living Languages Grants, the Indian Affairs Office noted that the Biden-Harris Administration has placed particular emphasis on funding projects to support Native American communities across the United States.
“Native language preservation has for many years been cited by Indigenous leaders as important to their self-preservation, self-determination and sovereignty,” Newland said. “Native preservation and language revitalization is a critical priority because languages go to the heart of a Tribe’s unique cultural identities, traditions, spiritual beliefs and self-governance.”