Federal grants awarded to the Anchorage School District and Yukon-Koyukuk School District in Fairbanks will fund development and expansion of programs in which academic instruction is provided in the local Native language.
The “Native American and Alaska Native Language Immersion Schools and Program aims to help schools, tribes and Native organizations maintain and promote indigenous peoples’ right to practice and revitalize their languages and cultures, and improve students’ educational opportunities and outcomes, said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who created the program with Sen. Al Franken, D-MN.
“Native languages are the common thread that binds all indigenous peoples’ present to their past, to their culture, stories, dance and ways of knowing,” Murkowski said. “Native American and Alaska Native students have better outcomes when they attend Native language immersion schools and programs. But in far too many communities, these languages are in danger. I’m grateful for the wisdom and advice of the many Native language revitalization experts throughout Alaska who helped to craft this new program,” she said.
The Anchorage School District has partnered with Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Cook Inlet Native Head Start, Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Lower Kuskokwim School District to create and share expertise, curriculum, and professional development in providing a Yup’ik language immersion program in an Anchorage elementary school.
The Yukon-Koyukuk School District has partnered with the Huslia, Minto and Rampart Tribal Councils, Brightways Learning and the Association of Alaska School Boards to expand the district’s existing Athabascan immersion program from grades K-4 to all students, Pre-K to grade 12 and to publish digital story books in Native languages.