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Reclaiming Muscogee Creek: Building a Foundation for a Future in Language Revitalization

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Throughout the course of the Honors Thesis/Creative Project, the intent was to gain knowledge regarding national, state and community initiatives regarding Indigenous Language Revitalization and Maintenance (ILRA). For over a year, I had the opportunity to visit a total of

Throughout the course of the Honors Thesis/Creative Project, the intent was to gain knowledge regarding national, state and community initiatives regarding Indigenous Language Revitalization and Maintenance (ILRA). For over a year, I had the opportunity to visit a total of five indigenous communities, including Pine Ridge, SD, Gila River Indian Community, AZ, White Mountain Apache, AZ, Cochiti Pueblo, NM and Santo Domingo Pueblo, NM. The goal was to learn about the status of their language, current ILRA initiatives as well as challenges and successes that face American Indian nations. During each visit, key elements to successful language revitalization initiatives were identified that could benefit those continuing their effort to reverse language loss as well as those looking to enter in the field of language revitalization.

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2014-12

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Intergenerational language ideologies, practices, and management: an ethnographic study in a Nahuatl community

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Although there are millions of Nahuatl speakers, the language is highly threatened. The dominant language of Coatepec de los Costales, a small village in Guerrero, Mexico, was historically Nahuatl, a Uto-Aztecan language, referred to by some as “Mexicano” (Messing, 2009).

Although there are millions of Nahuatl speakers, the language is highly threatened. The dominant language of Coatepec de los Costales, a small village in Guerrero, Mexico, was historically Nahuatl, a Uto-Aztecan language, referred to by some as “Mexicano” (Messing, 2009). In the last 50 years, there has been a pronounced shift from Mexicano to Spanish in the village, and fewer than 10% of the residents currently speak Mexicano. Without intervention, the language will be lost in the village. The ultimate cause of language shift is a disconnect in transferring the Indigenous language from the older to the younger generations. In Coatepec, older Nahuatl speakers are not teaching their children the language. This recurring theme appears in case studies of language shift around the world. Using a conceptual framework that combines (1) a critical sociocultural approach to language policy; (2) Spolsky’s (2004) definition of language policy as language practices, ideologies or beliefs, and management; (3) the ethnography of language policy, and (3) Indigenous knowledges, I collected and analyzed data from a six-month ethnographic study of language loss and reclamation in Coatepec. Specifically, I looked closely at the mechanisms by which language ideologies, management, and practices were enacted among members of different generations, using a combination of observation, archival analysis, and in-depth ethnographic interviews. Seidman’s (2013) three-part interview sequence, which includes a focused life history, details of experience, and reflections on meaning, provided the framework for the interviews. What are the language ideologies and practices within and across generations in this setting? What language management strategies – tacit and official – do community members of different generations employ? This in-depth examination of language ideologies, practices, and management strategies is designed to illuminate not only how and why language shift is occurring, but the possibilities for reversing language shift as well.

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2016

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What are the limitations to teaching Navajo language in the Head Start Immersion Program?

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This study investigated the limitations of Navajo language teaching in Navajo Head Start immersion centers. The research questions asked what did Head Start teachers perceive as barriers to Navajo children successfully learning the Navajo language, what skills and knowledge

This study investigated the limitations of Navajo language teaching in Navajo Head Start immersion centers. The research questions asked what did Head Start teachers perceive as barriers to Navajo children successfully learning the Navajo language, what skills and knowledge did Head Start teachers have that were relevant to teach Head Start children the Navajo language, what Head Start teachers perceived as their strengths and weaknesses of the language immersion program, and what program and instructional qualities promoted and restricted the success of the language program? Two males and six females who resided in the western part of the Navajo Nation wee interviewed as to their teaching experiences. All of the interviewees were between the ages of late 40's to mid-60's and all spoke Navajo fluently. They had been employed with Head Start for more than 10 years. They came from families who had strong beliefs in the Navajo culture and language, and believed all teachers should take Navajo language and culture classes to teach in Head Start. The interviews revealed the participants use their traditional language and culture skills to teach Navajo, but they had limited knowledge as how to use the curriculum provided by Division of Dine Education. The English curriculum was accessible and easy to follow, but did not adhered to President Hale's Executive Order to perpetuate the language. It was recommended that Head Start administrators and support staff review the Navajo language policies and regulations, train teachers how to write a lesson plan that was simple and teacher friendly, revamp the curriculums, and train teachers how to critique, analyze and develop lessons from the Navajo Curriculum. In addition, administrators, should monitor and provide technical assistance to ensure teachers are implementing Navajo language instruction according to Navajo Standards and monitoring each child's progress according to developmental domains and assessment.

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2015