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The U.S. Department of Education announced last week more than $8 million in available grant funding across three key initiatives for Native Students.

The new grants seek to bolster Native students' exposure to language and culture in their classrooms through three competitive programs to increase access to Native American languages in schools, support Native American teachers, and ensure Tribal Educational Agencies can coordinate grant resources alongside state and local partners.

There are now more than 200 tribal communities without living speakers of their native languages. In the years leading up to the Native American Language Act (NALA) of 1990, Native languages were almost entirely excluded from classrooms across the country. Federal Indian Boarding Schools drove the degradation of Native language with policies that forbade students from using their American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages. 

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Julian Guerrero, Director of the Office of Indian Education, told Native News Online that establishing strong Native language programs is critical to preserving culture and sovereignty.

“To raise the bar for multilingual learners, the U.S Department of Education announced these competitive grant programs to ensure that teachers, principals, school leaders, and other support staff who serve Native American students have the ability to provide culturally appropriate and effective instruction,”  Guerrero told Native News Online.  “Strengthening the presence of Native American language in classrooms is essential to promoting Native culture, history, traditions, and tribal sovereignty.”

Out of the $8 million in funding, $2.9 million will support a new Native American Language Resource Centers (NALRC) program. The NALRC program will support establishing, strengthening, and operating one or more Native American language resource centers —both regional and national — which will advance policies set forth by NALA. 

As well, $2.4 million in available funding will support the State Tribal Partnership (STEP) program to increase tribal, local and state education agencies that serve students from affected tribes and build the capacity of tribal education agencies. 

The remaining $2.75 million in available funding will support the first-ever Native American Teacher Retention Initiative (NATRI) competition to bolster the recruitment and retention of Native teachers. Native American teachers make up only .5 percent of public school teachers across the U.S. Studies show that students receive most of their information about Native culture, history, and traditions from their teachers.

The NATRI program will award projects that elevate Native American teacher's leadership responsibilities, professional development, and programming that serves the unique needs of Native youth through well-trained teachers who incorporate Native American knowledge, culture, and language into their work.                 

For more information about how to apply for these competitive grants, click here.

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.