ANA Grant to Help Revitalize Languages

Feb 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-3: Sustaining Our Future, Tribal College News

Imagine what it would feel like if there were only two- dozen speakers of the English language left on earth.  It seems impossible. Yet, many indigenous tribes around the world are facing language extinction.  In an attempt to bring back their languages, Fort Belknap College in Harlem, MT, designed a program that has been awarded a federal Administration for Native Americans Category II Language Program grant.

The college received $375,000 for a three-year period. The “Speaking White Clay Implementation Project” evolved in response to the college’s mission of providing culturally entwined educational programs to their students as well as a desire to keep the languages alive.  Continuing the survival and vitality of the Gros Ventre language is of grave concern to the tribe.  Members are worried about the continuing decline of both the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine languages because with few fluent speakers under the age of 65, the threat of language extinction is very real.

Lynette Chandler, a Fort Belknap tribal member and graduate of Montana State University in Bozeman, MT, is spearheading the project.  From the 35 identified fluent Gros Ventre speakers, eight have been paired up with eight learner students.  The speaker-learner teams meet for a minimum of 10 hours per week and gather once a month to reinforce their individual efforts.  By the end of the project it is anticipated that all eight learners will be sufficiently fluent in the Gros Ventre language to pass the exam for Class VII Certification for teaching native languages in Montana public schools.

Language camps will also be held every summer for the next three years.  The fluent speakers will teach college students and 50 youth between the ages of 15 and 25 in Gros Ventre language and culture.

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