Language of the Heart: Narrative Inquiry into Indigenous Language Revitalization through Early Childhood Education
This thesis examines heritage language learning and loss, and revitalization. It stems from my initial interests in Indigenous language revitalization and sustainment, bilingual education, and specifically dual language education in the United States. In this thesis, I describe my inquiry journey through narratives of the significant experiences and people I met and the scholarship I engaged in, particularly through visiting Keres Children’s Learning Center at Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, and attending the La Cosecha Dual Language Education conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In these narratives, I also reflect on what I have learned, how I was personally impacted by what I was learning and my thoughts and ideas about particular issues. These narratives helped me gain a deeper understanding of and expand my knowledge of heritage learning, bilingual education, dual language education and critical issues of language development and promotion (or non-promotion) in our country’s schools and families. Equally important is the knowledge I gained about dual language pedagogy and its critical importance to language revitalization programs serving Indigenous children, and their families and communities. I begin my thesis with a review of literature followed by a description of my methods and then move on to my narratives of significant learning moments, chronologically, and then summarize my key findings. I end with, ironically yet crucially with the most important lesson I learned through my inquiry journey—an understanding of my linguistic self.
This thesis examines the questions of
1. To become a Dual Language Education expert, researcher, or scholar, what does it take?
2. In what ways can a non-Native help Indigenous communities engaged in indigenous language revitalization and sustainment (ILRS)? What would they need to learn or know?
Some significant findings of my thesis work include
1. The strength, versatility, and challenges of the dual language education model in a national context
2. Culturally-sustaining pedagogy and strategies for adapting lessons to local culture
3. The centrality of tribal sovereignty and tribal control over the Indigenous language in order to grow and maintain an IRLS effort
4. Ways in which a non-Native can help an ILRS initiative
5. Respect for native communities’ right to say no to research