Language Immersion Benefits to Native American Communities

ICTMN Staff
5/22/11

On May 18, YouTube user ml4done posted a video detailing the Navajo Nation's treaties with the United States, in particular the education article added to the second treaty.

"In the early 1900s the assimilation efforts written into some of those laws ordered indigenous Natives to be Westernized by converting through Anglo influence practices and lifestyles, thus transforming a once called 'savage people' by the United States government into a properly cultured society. In order to do so the indigenous would have to completely abandon their original ethnic language and speak English only," the narrator says.

This is why, the narrator says language immersion is so important in Native American communities.

"The concept and purpose of immersion is for identity, self-identity. In this world today, identity is more important than ever. The general idea is to revitalize the Native language, whether here in the United States or elsewhere in the world."

The video points to a 2005 Dine Culture & Language Survey that says "a staggering percent of community parents would like for their children to speak Navajo but only eight percent identify with actually speaking and understanding the language. This is an alarm to the community."

The Navajo Language Immersion Program on the Navajo Reservation in Fort Defiance, Arizona has been successful.

"I have seen first hand what the benefits of the immersion program are. My children are now able to read and write in Navajo. The key to continuing being Navajo and to save our way of life as well as keep our culture alive is in the language. The language is what makes us Navajo," said Vikki Shirley, Navajo Nation first lady.

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