IIisagvik offers language nest program

May 15th, 2013 | By | Category: 24-4: Language Revitalization, Tribal College News
By Devin H. Bates

A LANGUAGE NEST. Uqautchim Uglua teacher Tuuqlak Diaz reads to the students in Iñupiaq.

Ilisagvik College’s (Barrow, AK) Uqautchim Uglua language nest program initiated a new Iñupiaq Early Learning associate of arts degree to meet the college’s goal of increasing the number of Indigenous certified teachers on Alaska’s North Slope. This degree offers a holistic approach with a traditional Iñupiaq emphasis and is designed to support Native students in their learning experiences while meeting accreditation requirements. A strong Iñupiaq studies component has been incorporated into the degree program with 12 required credit hours of Iñupiaq language and cultural and traditional arts. Students can choose from an education or business track. The degree will prepare students to open their own language nests, become educational paraprofessionals, or continue their education at a fouryear institution to become certified teachers.

The first cohort was launched during the spring 2013 semester, as Uqautchim Uglua brought students together for a brief residency at Ilisagvik College. Courses are offered via distance education to facilitate the participation of students living in the outlying villages across Alaska.

An Iñupiaq language immersion nest and teacher training center also opened at Ilisagvik College this past November. Early learning practicums are conducted in Iñupiaq for up to 12 children, ranging from birth to three years of age.

Besides the early immersion program, students’ parents participate in a Parent Empowerment Group and interview elders to capture traditional parenting information. The information gleaned will be compiled and shared with partnering institutions and language nests. Traditional parenting information will also inform the college’s education courses.

Due to these efforts, there has been progress in embedding the Iñupiaq culture and values into the college’s Early Learning Associate of Arts program. College president Pearl Brower stated, “Ilisagvik College is Alaska’s only tribal college. Part of our mission is to perpetuate our Iñupiaq culture, language, values, and traditions. The creation of the Iñupiaq Early Learning Degree and the start of the language nest movement on the North Slope fall directly into the mission of the college.” Uqautchim Uglua interim program director Devin Bates added, “Uqautchim Uglua is one central embodiment of a serious, consolidated and sustained effort by the people, communities, and entities of the North Slope to indigenize regional education systems, increase the number of state-certified Iñupiaq teachers on the North Slope, address issues pertaining to child care, and attack Native language and culture degradation concerns head on.”

The project is supported by a grant from the American Indian College Fund’s Wakanjea Sacred Little Ones project, which is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Alaska Native Education Program, the North Slope Borough’s Mayor Office, and Ilisagvik College.

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