Broken Promises on Native Language Revitalization; Art Exhibit: Singing Our History

We do a pretty good job in this country of writing reports and making recommendations, where we fall down is implementation.

For example, on this day in history, Jan. 23, 1992, the White House was in the middle of the three-day conference on Indian Education. It issued a 57-page Executive Summary with many recommendations. Here are a few of those recommendations specific to Native languages.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that American Indian /Alaska Native students will have access to curriculum and material which provides accurate and relevant information on the language, history, and culture of the American Indian/Alaska Native. (p. 21)

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that successful Early Childhood Programs shall be affirmed by the President and Congress to include the following components ….7. Respect the use of Native American culture and language in the educational process of Indian children at an early age to enhance the level of pride and self-esteem in learning … (page 29)

Ensure the strengthening, preservation, and revival of native languages and cultures to permit students to learn their tribal language as a first or second language. (page 32)

You get the idea. We could even go back to October of 1990, when Congress passed the Native American Languages Act as part of a larger bill. According to the National Association of Bilingual Education:

In this act Congress finds that “the status of the cultures and languages of Native Americans is unique and the United States has the responsibility to act together with Native Americans to ensure the survival of these unique cultures and languages.” Section 102 (6) of the act declares that there is “convincing evidence” that student achievement, community pride, and educational opportunity are “clearly and directly tied to respect for, and support of, the first language of the child.”

That said, Minnesota’s Native languages are in trouble. There are only a handful of first-language Dakota speakers still alive. There are more first-language Anishinaabe speakers, but those numbers are low, too. According to conversations with the Dakota Ojibwe Language Revitalization Alliance, Minnesota lacks both needed language curriculum as well as trained language teachers.

A 2011 report from the Minnesota Bureau of Indian Affairs on the state of Dakota and Ojibwe languages opens with these lines:

Minnesota’s most enduring languages are in danger of disappearing. Without timely intervention, the use of Dakota and Ojibwe languages – like Indigenous languages throughout the globe — will decline to a point beyond recovery.

Click here for Healing Minnesota Stories resource page on Native Language Revitalization.

Red Lake Art Exhibit: Singing Our History

A new exhibit of art and photography recently opened on the U. of M. campus titled Singing Our History: People and Place of the Red Lake Nation. It is showing at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, 405 21st Ave. S. in Minneapolis. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and will run through Feb. 13. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

This is short notice, but there is a reception tonight, 6-9 p.m., with Ojibwe drum, foods, and culture. According to publicity, the exhibit: “explores the many ways the Red Lake Nation has been and continues to be portrayed by artists and members of its communities through art and photography.”



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