Six Native American tribes and organizations have received grants that will go toward language revitalization programs that foster immersion education in Native American languages.
The First Nations Development Institute (FNDI) has awarded another round of grants as part of its Native Language Immersion Initiative (NLII). The grants, which range in size from $45,000 to $75,000, will promote immersion programs for six Native American languages, all of which are considered critically endangered: Hawaiian, Lakota, Tlingit, Salish, Yuchi, and Miwok.
“With the latest awards to six Native partners, we recognize the critical need to invest in and support the work of Native language programs,” said Michael Roberts, president and CEO of the FNDI.
The institute first began the program in 2017, in an attempt to provide language revitalization projects with the financial support necessary to succeed. The most recent round of funding is the fifth cycle provided through the NLII, which has awarded more than $4.4 million to 34 different Native American language revitalization projects. Since its inaugural year, the NLII has supported projects such as the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, which has successfully revived the Wampanoag language, a language which went unspoken for several generations.
Currently, there are about 150 Native American languages spoken in the United States — very few of these languages are spoken by more than 10,000 native speakers. Yuchi, for example, was once spoken across the modern-day southeastern US — now, it has just nine native speakers, all of whom are between 60 and 90 years of age. In recent years, Native-led groups — for example, the Cherokee Nation’s development of the Durbin Feeling Language Center — have put more money and resources toward revitalization projects than ever before.
“We have come a long way, but we must continue our keen focus on language immersion and revitalization,” Roberts said. “Native languages strengthen the identity, resilience, and health of Native communities and ensuring their endurance will take the effort and commitment of many generations to come.”