By: Julian Guerrero, Director, Office of Indian Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
uaweka (“Hello everyone,” in Comanche language)
Advancing its commitment to maintaining, protecting, and revitalizing Native American languages – the U.S. Department of Education has announced approximately $1 million in grant funding available for Native American Language (NAL@ED) projects. Native American language learning is fundamentally connected to the well-being and sustainability of Tribal sovereignty and self-determination. A major emphasis of this program is to fund both partial and full immersion programs in addition to developing new or expanding existing language programs.
There are now over 200 tribal communities without living speakers of their mother tongue. In the years leading up to the Native American Languages Act (NALA) of 1990, Native languages were largely excluded from classrooms across the country. Additionally, the Federal Indian boarding school system discouraged and prevented the use of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on Native language communities, especially the elderly population, who are often fluent Native language speakers. Now more than ever it is critically important to assist Native communities with funding to protect and revitalize their languages.
“Speaking from personal experience, I did not learn, and neither was I exposed to my own Native language in public school. This was an embarrassing struggle for me as I always wanted to learn my language all throughout my K-12 experience. Thankfully, I am slowly reclaiming my language via weekend classes with the Comanche Nation language department. My own experience should not be the norm for any of our young Native children, yet the challenge remains. Ensuring Native languages are present in classrooms are essential to continuing the existence of Native culture and traditions.”
Julian Guerrero, Jr., Director of the Office of Indian Education
The NAL@ED grant program is a discretionary grant competition authorized under the Elementary and Secondary education Act of 1965 (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Authorized activities under this program are to maintain, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans and Alaska Natives to use, practice, maintain, and revitalize their languages, as envisioned in the NALA; and to establish a grant program to support schools that use Native American and Alaska Native languages as the primary language of instruction.
- Estimated average size of awards is $350,000 and an estimate total of 3 awards, with a project period up to 60 months.
- Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) includes a 60-day application period to provide prospective applicants enough time to develop high-quality applications.
- The Office of Indian Education (OIE) will broadcast a pre-application webinar. There is no registration fee to attend this session. Links to the webinar and all pre-application activities will be available on the NAL@ED website.
After grants are awarded, the Department will provide on-going technical assistance to grant recipients. Successful projects will work in, and with, Tribal communities to improve Native language learning outcomes and prevent the disappearance of Native languages. For more information about this grant competition visit: https://oese.ed.gov/offices/office-of-indian-education/native-american-language-program/.
Thank you for your interest in this vital program and the OIE looks forward to interested and eligible applicants.
Uraako, tsaakuka mia. M uu n um utekwap u tsa mui natsuwit umaka?eet u.
(“Thank you very much, go in a good way. Your language gives you strength.”)