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Institute for Domestic & International Affairs, Inc.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Preservation of Language and Culture Director: Natasha Bennett

Š 2010 Institute for Domestic & International Affairs, Inc. (IDIA) This document is solely for use in preparation for Rutgers Model Congress 2010. Use for other purposes is not permitted without the express written consent of IDIA. For more information, please write us at

Policy Dilemma ______________________________________________________________ 1 1819: Civilization Fund Act of 1819 __________________________________________________ 3 1823: First Native American Newspaper ______________________________________________ 4 1878: Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 _______________________________________________ 5 1990: Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990______________________________________________ 5 1990 and 1992: Native American Language Acts________________________________________ 6

Possible Causes ______________________________________________________________ 7 Changes in Environment ___________________________________________________________ 7 Acculturation and Assimilation ______________________________________________________ 8 Death and Shrinking Populations ____________________________________________________ 9

Actors and Interests __________________________________________________________ 10 Bureau of Indian Affairs __________________________________________________________ 10 The Hopi Tribe __________________________________________________________________ 11 The Navajo Tribe ________________________________________________________________ 11 Anthropologists __________________________________________________________________ 12 Individual States _________________________________________________________________ 13

Projections and Implications ___________________________________________________ 14 Conclusion _________________________________________________________________ 17 Discussion Questions _________________________________________________________ 18 Bibliography________________________________________________________________ 19 For Further Reading______________________________________________________________ 19 Works Cited_____________________________________________________________________ 20 Works Consulted_________________________________________________________________ 22

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Policy Dilemma Native Americans have had a long history of rich culture particularly defined by the harmony between land and people. Since the arrival of the Europeans and their continued oppression, many basic American Indian values have come into conflict with the settlers’ lifestyles. Each tribe’s culture has experienced difficulties throughout the United States due to a combination of federal policy, the introduction of Western values, and the loss of indigenous languages. “Americanization” programs, changes in the location and sizes of reservations, poverty, and the need to modernize have all played a major role in the deterioration of culture and language specifically. Throughout the last four hundred years, the use of American Indian languages has been steadily declining, causing many to go extinct. In more recent years, those languages and customs that have managed to survive are now experiencing similar, more drastic, fates as modernization trends have increased the gap between living standards outside and within the reservation. The growing pressures to raise living standards on the reservations have caused many Native Americans to attempt to adopt mainstream Western culture and only speak English at the price of losing a significant piece of their native heritage. It has been estimated that of all the 187 native languages in existence today approximately only a dozen have a strong chance of survival in the next century.1 When new generations no longer learn their traditional languages as their first language, the language becomes endangered, or moribund. Although it is not uncommon for younger generations to learn their traditional languages, the loss of native fluency leads to a lack of use that transcends generations. Transformation of language is a key indicator of the mutations that a culture experiences and can be most clearly seen in American Indian country. Specifically true for indigenous cultures, expression is deeply embedded in languages, physical locations, and craftsmanship. These aspects of life relate a culture’s rich history, philosophy, and 1

“The Status of Lakota”, Lakota Language Consortium, (accessed June 21, 2009).

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spirituality to an entire civilization. When a culture’s language is restricted or in danger of extinction, its way of life becomes increasingly more difficult to sustain. In addition, drastic changes in culture can cause social alienation, or the feeling of being lost or disconnected from members in a society. As younger generations lose traditional ties to the culture and language and experience alienation, they begin to search for life outside the reservations but also experience a cultural disconnect.2 As sustaining a society’s culture becomes more difficult, it can ultimately disappear, leaving behind lost generations of people until the memory of a culture no longer exists and is gone forever. Aside from the cultural value of a society, it is also important to note how the society functions. For example, historically Indian cultures have been self-sustaining based on cultural values such as communal living, strong family ties, hunting and gathering, etc. When a language and culture are in danger, so is the way that society functions because the basic values and philosophy become harder to express and maintain. This can become dangerous when a society is economically dependent on its customs and worldview for survival, seeing as a modernized way of life may be incomprehensible and ignore people’s needs. The preservation of language and culture is not only important to secure rich diversity, but also to help maintain an important way of life that people depend upon for survival. It is important to consider the differences in culture between American Indian tribes and that of the rest of the American population in a way that will permit Native American languages and cultures to survive while being able to maintain an adequate standard of living that does not restrict the continual transmission of culture from generation to generation.


Janis Swenson Taylor, “Through a Critical Lens: Native American Alienation from Higher Education”, Education Informational Resources Center, 2001, h_SearchValue_0=ED452753&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED452753 (date accessed: November 29, 2009).

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Chronology 1790: The Naturalization Act of 1790 This act actively excluded Native Americans from United States citizenship on the basis that their culture and traditions did not comply with the white traditions of citizenship.3 Because they were not white, they could not qualify for naturalization and were classified as “domestic foreigners”4 and therefore treated as such. This act becomes the fundamental starting point for justifying large-scale programs to convert them to an “American” or Western lifestyle. Policy-makers and missionaries viewed reforming Indian lifestyles as a service. This act is characteristic of underlying attitudes that have shaped assimilation and exclusionary policies. Many Native Americans, as well as white Americans, have internalized a difference of culture, resulting in a sense of inferiority or lack of legitimacy for Native Americans, and disregard for the rest of the population.

1819: Civilization Fund Act of 1819 Led by Thomas McKenney, the first head of the Office of Indian Affairs, the passage of this act embodies the mentality that education is the key to civilizing the natives. It was believed that schooling at the hand of white missionaries could civilize the tribes to make them more European; Congress passed the civilization Fund Act that ultimately provided the necessary resources for schools willing to promote cultural transformation programs in order to convert the Native Americans to Christianity and Western lifestyles.5 Providing a sum of $10,000 dollars a year to fund additional schools, the establishment of schools were concentrated in areas where the tribes were closest to the frontier.6 Once these efforts appeared to have failed in the frontier efforts, McKenney then suggested that to achieve deculturalization the United States relocate the tribes further west away from the frontier areas in order to remove them from their environment 3

Joel Spring, “Native Americans: Deculturalization and Schooling”, Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality, (New Cork: McGraw Hill Company, 2006), 17. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid, 18. 6 Ibid.

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and “protect� them. This also led to the infamous boarding schools to which American Indian students were shipped to learn and adopt European ways.

1823: First Native American Newspaper Although Native American languages have an oral tradition, the establishment of the written Cherokee language in the early 1800s increased basic literacy. A Cherokee Indian named Sequoyah initially created the Cherokee alphabet in order to help preserve the language and culture by creating characters to represent the different sounds.7 Christian missionaries attempted to capitalize on the new written language in order to easily distribute religious material, but were unsuccessful in understanding it, because the written language was constructed in a way that only native speakers could comprehend.8 This allowed them to use their new written language without the influence of deculturalization efforts, allowing for the first Native American newspaper.


bilingual paper increased literacy both in English and in Cherokee, although the white population at the time feared that if Cherokees learned their own language they would have little incentive to learn English.9 The paper created an opportunity for the Cherokee to reach other tribe members about issues facing the community, and to share experiences through written language. While many indigenous languages have some written form, most are not welldocumented or used in the publication and distribution of media materials such as newspapers, books, textbooks, etc. Websites and online blogs have become a means for American Indians to spread information and sentiment, but they are written and accessed entirely in English. Access to computers and computer literacy have become additional obstacles for many living on the reservation. These methods, while they might help promote issue and cultural awareness, do not help increase language use on a wide enough scale.


Spring, 22. Ibid. 9 Ibid. 8

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1878: Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 This federal law is an attempt to keep Indian children with Indian families. In a 1976 the Association on American Indian Affairs conducted a study that concluded that twenty five to thirty per cent of Indian children were being removed from their homes often ending up in foster homes and orphanages.10 In response to a high number of Indian children being taken from their homes by both non-Indian public and private groups, the act makes it so that these children must remain with Indian families from the same tribe. It makes adoption of Indian children by Anglo-Americans difficult and sets rigid custody standards.11 In many cases, even with the permission of the tribal courts, adoption may be impossible. By creating standards that help Indian children remain with Indian parents or guardians, this act provides a form of protection of culture and language by helping to avoid the unnecessary diaspora of people. By helping to ensure that Indian children remain with Indian parents, the culture and languages can then be more easily passed down through generations.

1990: Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 This act prohibits misleading marketing on fraudulent American Indian arts and crafts. In an attempt to eradicate false representations, it prohibits erroneous labeling of products that have not been made by one of the United States’ federally recognized tribes.12 Each item must also be specifically labeled with a tribal affiliation to maintain a direct connection between the tribes and their products. It is therefore illegal for to market the products as affiliated with a tribe if it was not indeed produced by a tribal member.13 The law applies to all Indian-style traditional and contemporary art produced after 1935, allowing inclusion of more than stereotypical souvenirs.14 By implementing 10

“Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Compliance”, National Indian Child Welfare Association, (accessed June 22, 2009). 11

Ibid. Indian Arts and Crafts Board, “Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990”, U.S. Department of the Interior,, (Date accessed: December 19, 2009). 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid. 12

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strict punishments for violations, the law attempts to secure an important means of income for tribes, as well as protect the markets from being flooded with fake materials that could replace traditional and contemporary Native American arts and crafts.

1990 and 1992: Native American Language Acts To revitalize and secure the use of Native American languages both the 1990 and 1992 acts aimed to encourage the learning of traditional languages. The 1992 Native American Language Act serves as an expansion of the legislation by the same name that was produced in 1990. The first act had three distinct goals. The first was to promote Indian self-determination, meaning the right to exercise their culture and political life freely.15 The second was to reverse the historical policies of suppressing native languages for assimilation purposes, and the third was a reaction to the attempt to make English the official language of the United States.16 The combined efforts of these two acts essentially produced a set of standards and expectations in educational systems that include the creation of community language groups and minority language education incentives for teachers and schools. Some incentives include the waiving of teacher certification requirements in order to allow the employment of qualified Native American language teachers. It also stresses the need for protecting and preserving the rights of Native Americans to practice their language through after-school activities. Because these acts are a push for bilingual education they were met with much resistance from “English Only� groups and state laws that ban bilingual education. Regardless of these steps, American Indian languages continue to be in as much danger of extinction, because they have been difficult to enforce in individual schools and districts and because these measures are seen as secondary in already struggling schools.17 Although a few different Senators have introduced stronger amendments to the committee, they have not passed through the Senate to become law. 15

Jon Reyner and Jeanne Eder, American Indian Education: A History, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), 309. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid.

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Possible Causes Changes in Environment The growth of industrialization contains strong parallels with the extinction of native languages due to changes in the environment. Considering American Indian cultures are centrally focused on nature, the reduction of land and destruction of the environment causes an intrinsic loss of traditional cultural values. The destruction of land can cause the disappearance of plants and other species. Such plants and animals often play a large role in traditional culture, including cooking, ceremonial practices, and artwork, that with the changing environment towards modernization become threatened. This also affects the use of language because these languages have is basic foundations in the surrounding nature. Through the destruction of important elements of nature, specific cultural values and concepts get lost over time because the language, which supports and communicates these values, becomes irrelevant.18 Spirituality is also often heavily embedded in physical locations and land formations that have a specific meaning or use value. An example may be a particular mountain or field.19 With relocation, or even plant extinction, important elements of spirituality are lost, and with it the language framework that explains its significance. Historically the American Indians have undergone drastic changes in land and environment from the changing of location of assigned reservations and the shrinking of protected lands due to modernization trends to build cities and create commercial farms. Although this explains some of the loss of language, more recently younger generations have been attempting to adapt to modern lifestyles corresponding to those outside the reservations. This gives them a compelling interest in speaking English as a native language instead of their traditional languages.

18 19

Keith Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places, (Santa Fe: University of New Mexico Press, 1996). Ibid.

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Acculturation and Assimilation Beginning in the 1790s up through the mid-1900s, American Indians have often been forced into assimilation programs and boarding schools that aimed to teach them to be more "American." These programs forbade the use of native language and discouraged all forms of Indian culture that were seen as "uncivilized" or not compatible with European culture. Over time, these programs have played a tremendous role in creating a sense of inferiority among Native Americans.20

Marginalizing an entire people by

attempting to transform it from an alleged inadequate way of life, there is less of a desire to preserve said lifestyle in the future. It psychologically creates a stigma of inadequacy that can often eliminate a sense of pride through generations.21 The lack of pride and validation can lead to a lack of enthusiasm towards learning the traditions of a particular heritage. It also encourages younger generations to abandon the lifestyle so that they will be able to assimilate into mainstream culture and avoid racism and poverty by participating in markets, or finding gainful employment off the reservation. Regardless of the long extent of these programs, there exist a variety of problems and differences that arise with assimilation. Attempted assimilation is more often than not unsuccessful because of the vast differences in basic values and understanding between the reservations and the outside cultures. Indian cultures are heavily based in nature and include a strong sense of community that cannot be entirely translated into American culture. The concept of time is one example. As where in Anglo American culture time is concisely measured and dominates life due to a protestant work ethic, in general, Native American culture's traditional concept of time is influenced by seasons, the sun, traditional ceremonies, and other facets and its precise measurement for efficiency and use is not found in fundamental principles of tradition or philosophy.22


Reyhner and Eder. Ibid, 22 Basso, 38. 21

Native American efforts to adapt to mainstream time measurement

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provides an example of how a particular philosophy disappears in exchange for a modernized way of life. In conjunction with formal assimilation programs, which are now outdated, is the ethnocentric approach to education received both on and off the reservations. In 1973 the Civil Rights Commission conducted a study on education on the Navajo reservation, which concluded that out of 2,800 teachers only 188 were Navajo. In addition, although the kindergarten students’ dominant language was Navajo, Arizona law required all classes and instruction to be conducted in English.23

Death and Shrinking Populations From the arrival of the Europeans, Indian populations have been shrinking. Due to violence and genocide against the native people and the introduction of foreign disease, the American Indian population drastically decreased in the first few centuries. Although more recently native populations are not decreasing at the same rates, there are still circumstances that cause the populations to shrink.

These circumstances include

previously mentioned assimilation, poverty and poor health, and associated conditions. The sense of urgency to assimilate, seen in younger generations, causes individuals to move off the reservation and attempt to adopt western lifestyles. Although in this circumstance the population is not decreasing there is often a break with traditional culture and children of parents who have moved off the reservation are less likely to move back onto the reservation and therefore no longer actively participate in their cultural heritage. Intermarriage can also have the same effects as the population slowly becomes removed from their tribe's location and removed from the cultural practices. Poverty and poor health also contribute to shrinking populations.

Because of the

impoverished conditions on the reservation and a widespread habit of ‘espapism,’ alcoholism is rampant. Due to the rampant alcoholism on the reservation, fetal alcohol syndrome is not entirely uncommon. These poor health conditions result in a higher 23

Jon Reyhner, “American Indian Language Policy and School Success”, 1993 (date accessed: December 22, 2009).

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infant mortality rate on the reservation than the average American statistics that can affect cultural survival through younger generations.24

Actors and Interests Bureau of Indian Affairs The oldest bureau in the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has the responsibility of providing services either through contracts or grants to American Indians that reside in federally entrusted land.25 They are also responsible for the administration and management on the reservation. In conjunction with several subsets such as the Bureau of Indian Education, it is also responsible for providing educational facilities on federally entrusted land.

It also manages

administrative tasks, including land, services, and lawsuits. Historically the bureau has been the key player in the relationship between the American Indian tribes. While it has the task of negotiating treaties, it represents mostly the mentality of the current U.S. policies and attitudes. Having experienced a shift from pushing assimilation programs, to efforts at providing sufficient resources and opportunities for self-determination and governance, the BIA has been responsible for implementing the current U.S. legislation and policy.26 It currently attempts to support efforts at sustaining higher standards of living by attempting to provide economic and social opportunities. It sees development on the reservations as a priority, and recognizes culture as a key component of American Indian lifestyles. The extent to which it carries out its responsibilities is highly dependent on federal policies, funds, and ability to compatibly work with the reservations and the states in which the tribes reside. As both the states and the tribes exercise their own autonomy, the interests of the BIA can and often do come into conflict with state laws and tribal 24

Harvard Project on American Indian Development, The State of Native Nations: Conditions Under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 5. 25 “Who Are We?�, Bureau of Indian Affairs,, (date accessed: December 19, 2009). 26 Ibid.

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This can cause policies to be rejected or ignored, depending on the

particular circumstance and interests of all involved.

The Hopi Tribe The Hopi tribe in Arizona is one of the tribes in the most danger of losing their language and becoming extinct. With only 6,500 members living on the reservation, the tribe’s culture will inevitably disappear without the intervention of drastic preservation efforts. The last study on the loss of the Hopi language, conducted in 1998, found that approximately one hundred per cent of elders over 60 years of age were fluent. Fluency was eighty-four per cent in adults ages forty through fifty-nine, fifty per cent in young adults, and five per cent in children.27 Although they have not conducted another study, it has been assumed by non-profit organizations working on restoration projects that the figures are currently much lower. Some of the tribe’s main goals in order to help preserve and restore language are to create and Hopi learning materials for Hopi people on the reservation to use in schools and to train educators to use these Hopi materials in promoting language diversity.28 The ability of these efforts to revitalize the language is uncertain because of its already desperate condition. As a culture that is predicted to be unable to survive without serious intervention, the Hopi have made efforts at contributing information to museums on American Indians so that it is not lost entirely if not used.29

Although museum displays are not an

alternative to providing revitalization efforts, they can preserve the tribe’s heritage and connection through history.

The Navajo Tribe The Navajo tribe is the largest in the United States and is in the least danger of losing its language and culture. After a series of revitalization efforts during and after the Second World War, the Navajo language is the only one to be experiencing increased 27

Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (HCPO), Hopi Language Education and Preservation Plan, Kykotsmovi, Arizona, 1998. 28 “Mesamedia Project”,, (accessed December 20, 2009). 29 Ibid.

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The Navajo language’s legitimacy increased as a result of the Navajo Code

Talkers project, in which members of the tribe in the U.S. military were asked to create a code based in the Navajo language in order to communicate via radio.31 This was a successful attempt in creating a code that the Japanese and German were unable to break. The United States government heavily funded the project, and as a result the language was seen as a real asset to the war because of its uniqueness and complexities. The project instilled large amounts of pride among the Navajo tribe and as a result enthusiasm to learn it increased. Once a dying language, it is now healthy and under no immediate threat of extinction. Although difficult to accomplish, cultural pride among younger generations can help increase motivation to learn the native language, but this does not necessarily mean that the resources to do so are widely available.

Anthropologists Anthropologists and academics from across the country have taken a special interest in studying the loss of language and culture among Native American tribes. State universities in states with Indian reservations are increasingly developing projects and programs centered on American Indians. They have been the forefront researchers on the issue of dying language and culture, and have worked in conjunction with the tribes to help with documentation and preservation. Although most anthropologists have not been activists on the issue, their research methods and documentation skills have allowed for increased awareness and through the publishing of books have created an opening for dialogue.

In addition to fieldwork, anthropologists across the country have helped

establish information networks. Northern Arizona University in conjunction with the Museum of Northern Arizona, for example, holds four festivals a year in which members of the highlighted tribe showcase their artwork and hold talks and information sessions.32 In addition, the University of Arizona has also established the American Indian Language 30

“Endangered languages: Revival and Revitalization�, Native Languages of the Americas, (date accessed December 22, 2009). 31 Ibid.

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Development Institute, designed to promote Indian language use through training and school outreaches.33 These types of academic programs and projects designed to promote awareness are somewhat restricted to small audience of other anthropologists and populations immediately surrounding the reservations or universities. Much like most non-profits, these organizations do not have much access to sufficient resources to affect larger areas and a wider variety of tribes.

They are,

however, and important part of conducting fieldwork, gathering information, and providing grassroots initiatives to document and revitalize dying cultures.


sustainable support and resources, especially when state budgets for universities across the country are cut, these organizations may not be able to continue their projects, let alone expand them to include more efforts at language restoration.

Individual States As education is a responsibility left up to the individual states, state laws or budgets can outwardly prohibit or discourage bilingual and multicultural education. English-only ballot initiatives that have passed in states such as Arizona discourage the possibility of developing programs or expanding efforts to help students learn subject material in languages other than English. Bilingual education initiatives have the ability to increase fluency in Indian languages, but have not been a widely used tool in public, non BIA-run schools. Bilingual education also has the potential to limit the pressures to adopt English as the one and only language and can help send the message that Indian languages and culture are validated. As immigration becomes more of a political issue, English-only attitudes have limited schools’ abilities to adopt multicultural programs, and this has had a large impact on American Indian education, which has already been largely ignored.34 Even in light of 32

“Heritage Program”, Museum of Northern Arizona, (date accessed: December 22, 2009). 33 “About Us”, American Indian Language Development Institute, (date accessed December 22, 2009). 34 Jon Reyhner, “American Indian Language Policy and School Success”, 1993 (date accessed: December 22, 2009).

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the Native American Language Acts, states still have little incentive to include linguistic and cultural education because they can be expensive in already desperate education budgets, and may not be supported by the states’ voting constituents.35 There also exists the concern that the materials in both public and BIA schools are largely ethnocentric towards white mainstream culture, inherently exasperating an already present sense of inferiority among American Indians. Without multicultural approaches to education, or respect for self-determined education, it is normal for younger generations to not be able to associate or connect with tribe members. Although self-determined education, meaning education regulated and managed by the tribes, has been suggested as an alternative, there have still been problems with ensuring that American Indians learn basic material related to the United States. Because American Indians have been largely ignored by the individual states that regulate their education, the balance between two different kinds of socialization has not been adequately met. In addition, states are major players in the land administration of the reservations and have the legal ability to provide additional services to its inhabitants, but often only engage in property and land management.36

Through state involvement in the

fragmentation of land ownership, tribes are not granted the territorial sovereignty they legally have under the federal government. Due to poverty, divisions in territory and disjunction between members, reservations have had a difficult time reestablishing their own authority. This results in tribal inability to work toward self-determined education or develop community activities because the space becomes limited as private owners are increasingly given more land, leaving less publicly owned land available for public infrastructure and services.37

Projections and Implications Without continued and more effective efforts at preserving American Indian languages and cultures, most of the languages will become extinct, leaving behind rich 35 36

Ibid. Harvard Project, 98.

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cultural traditions that have formed a part of United States’ history. Native American tribes are not only losing their identity but have been placed in desperate conditions to maintain their heritage, which is fundamental to a particular way of life. Due to the long history of assimilation and deculturalization efforts, Native Americans have experienced a wide range of cultural conflicts with cultures outside of the reservations. Although already marginalized, American Indians continue to lose their language and culture in a way that can result in generations of people who no longer share a common heritage. Because language and culture are fundamental aspects of life, without them there can be a breakdown in communication between children, parents and grandparents. Without a sense of group membership, individuals become lost in a lifestyle with considerably different values. With contemporary problems, such as unemployment, which varies up to eighty per cent, cultural traditions and familial relationships become increasingly important to compensate for desperate conditions.38 Maintaining familial and tribal connections also becomes important to combat increasing psychological problems, such as depression, that occur as people are cut off from their heritage and come into conflict with different world views. Not only does the country face losing many of its tribes, but the social implications that come with those losses are severe; specific groups of people may experience a strong disconnect with society, which will result in continued poverty, mental health issues, crime and violence. Because the problem plays a cyclical role in American Indian lifestyles, it is a symptom of larger economic and social issues, while at the same time helping to fuel the very same conditions. Because of significantly lower socio-economic indicators on the reservations, American Indians have limited access to education that is often adequate to sustain life on the reservation because of the difference in cultural values in combination with the scarce educational resources.39

Furthermore, the

disconnect between American Indian culture and education actually increases the 37

Klaus Frantz, Indian Reservations in the United Status, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 34. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, The State of Native Nations: Conditions Under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 116. 38

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predisposition of students to drop out of school sooner. Since cultural values are not privileged alongside basic education, there is no incentive to continue schooling, leaving the tribes at a greater disadvantage in improving both traditional and modern lifestyles. The availability of education is a fundamental problem to which the loss of language and culture contributes, but is also a symptom of weak literacy and education levels. In addition, as younger generations lose connections to their heritage and tribe members, in combination with poverty, rates of depression on the reservation increase resulting in mental health issues and even violence. On the Pine-Ridge reservation in South Dakota, for example, 5,000 young men are involved in one of the thirty-nine gangs, whose confrontations with each other have resulted in death and drunken suicides.40 Alcoholism and gang-related violence are increasing on the reservations as a result of unemployment, poverty, depression, and lack of adequate education, amongst all of which language and cultural loss play a large role. Without a plausible solution to help preserve the use of these languages and cultures, rather than relegating them to a museum, entire civilizations will be lost forever while leaving their descendants behind and possibly stuck in perpetually impoverished conditions.

39 40


Erik Eckholm, “Gang Violence Grows on an Indian Reservation,� The New York Times, December 14, 2009, sec. US,, (date accessed December 19, 2009).

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Conclusion As a country that prides itself on diversity, the United States is in danger of losing some of its most diverse traditions and populations within the next century, because efforts to sustain these cultures have been unsuccessful, insufficient, or even non-existent. It is important to consider how the United States can work in cooperation with the various American Indian tribes to find a solution that respects traditional heritage over assimilation, and that has the ability to sustain itself through continued development. Because there are conflicts over autonomy and jurisdiction, policies are often ignored, or there is no real incentive to provide services that benefit American Indians. The loss of language and culture is not only detrimental to diversity, but can also have much larger social implications for American Indians who have historically been excluded as they continue to lose their unique lifestyle.

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Discussion Questions • How has a legacy of assimilation attitudes affected the current status of language and culture?

• Are the current policies of self-determination strong enough to counter these legacies, if not, how could they be more efficient?

• To what extent do individual state laws, policies, and budgets have an affect on the Native Americans living in that state?

• What are the incentives for states to take a greater interest in American Indian affairs since Native Americans are tax exempt and largely do not vote?

• What are the conflicts of authority and autonomy that need to be considered when proposing legislation and implementing policy?

• To what extent does racism against American Indians and even against immigrants play in limiting social services and multicultural programs?

• Can a balance between preserving language and culture, while also providing opportunities for sustainable modern development exist? Does one perspective have to be favored over the other?

• Can the resolution of some of the secondary problems such as depression be alleviated through the preservation of language and culture? If so, how?

• How do environmental issues affect American Indian populations and their culture?

• Can basic health care play a role in increasing life expectancy that may allow generations to live longer and preserve tradition?

• What role can NGO’s play? Are they strong enough to be sustainable and provide long-term results?

• What are the consequences of inaction? How should American Indian affairs be validated?

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Bibliography For Further Reading Basso, Keith H. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. University of New Mexico Press, 1996. This book, written by a linguistic anthropologist, provides vivid descriptions of how the language of the Western Apache is tied to the environment and physical locations. It also creatively highlights the danger tribes face with the loss of land in relation to loss of language and culture. A quick read, it can help the reader understand the connection between tribal members, their land, heritage, and how language forms the fundamental building blocks in American Indian spirituality and interpersonal relationships.

Reyhner, Jon. “American Indian Language Policy and School Success”. 1993 This article briefly highlights the circumstances of language in relation to education throughout history since the beginning of assimilation programs. It also deals with contemporary education reforms and the impact of the Native American Language Acts of 1990 and 1992. Through an in-depth analysis on underlying racist attitudes found in state and federal law, he puts the issue into a realistic perspective and provides some solutions for maintaining culture in the future. Krauss, Michael. Statement by Michael E. Krauss, Director Emeritus, Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, July 20, 2000, at Hearing on S.2688, the Native American Languages Act Amendments Act of 2000. A statement by well-known linguistic anthropologist specializing in Native Alaskans, this statement given to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs provides the statistics and basic facts about American Indian languages and their usage across the country. By breaking down statistics by state, this may be helpful in determining individual states’ interests in the issue. It also provides information as to the failures of the Native American Language Acts of 1990 and 1992.

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Works Cited “About Us.” American Indian Language Development Institute. (date accessed: December 22, 2009). Basso, Keith. Wisdom Sits in Places. University of New Mexico Press. 1996. “Committee Background”. United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. (date accessed: December 20, 2009). Eckholm, Erik “Gang Violence Grows on an Indian Reservation”. The New York Times. 14 Dec 2009, sec. US, (date accessed December 19, 2009). “Endangered languages: Revival and Revitalization”. Native Languages of the Americas, (date accessed December 22, 2009). Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. The State of Native Nations: Conditions Under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination. New York: Oxford University Press. 2008. “Heritage Program”. Museum of Northern Arizona. (date accessed: December 22, 2009). Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (HCPO). Hopi Language Education and Preservation Plan. Kykotsmovi, Arizona. 1998. Indian Arts and Crafts Board. “Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990”. U.S. Department of the Interior, (Date accessed: December 19, 2009). “Mesamedia Project”. (Accessed December 20, 2009). Reyhner, Jon. “American Indian Language Policy and School Success”. 1993. (date accessed: December 22, 2009). Reyhner, Jon and Jeanne Eder. American Indian Education: A History. Rowman: University of Oklahoma Press. 2004. Spring, Joel. “Native Americans: Deculturalization and Schooling”. Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality. New York: McGraw Hill Company. 2006.

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Taylor, Janis Swenson. “Through a Critical Lens: Native American Alienation from Higher Education”. Education Informational Resources Center. 2001. sp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED452753&ERICExtSearch _SearchType_0=no&accno=ED452753 (date accessed: November 29, 2009). “Who Are We?”. Bureau of Indian Affairs. (Date Accessed: December 19, 2009).

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Works Consulted “About Us”. American Indian Language Development Institute. (date accessed: December 22, 2009). Basso, Keith. Wisdom Sits in Places. University of New Mexico Press. 1996. “Committee Background”. United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. (date accessed: December 20, 2009). “Corbell Settlement”. 10 December 2009. Eckholm, Erik. “Gang Violence Grows on an Indian Reservation.” The New York Times 14 Dec 2009. Web. 16 Dec 2009. “Endangered languages: Revival and Revitalization”. Native Languages of the Americas, (date accessed December 22, 2009). Fixico, Donald L. American Indians in a Modern World. Lanham, MD: Rowman &Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2008. Frantz, Klaus. Indian Reservations in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1993. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. The State of Native Nations: Conditions Under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008. “Heritage Program”. Museum of Northern Arizona. (date accessed: December 22, 2009). Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (HCPO). Hopi Language Education and Preservation Plan. Kykotsmovi, Arizona. 1998. Indian Arts and Crafts Board. “Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990”. U.S. Department of the Interior, (Date accessed: December 19, 2009). “Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Compliance”. National Indian Child Welfare Association. (accessed June 22, 2009).

Rutgers Model Congress


Krauss, Michael. Statement by Michael E. Krauss, Director Emeritus, Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, July 20, 2000, at Hearing on S.2688, the Native American Languages Act Amendments Act of 2000. Krauss, Michael. “The World’s Languages in Crisis”. Language. 68. 1992. 4-10. Pine Ridge Preservation Project. Village Earth: The Consortium for Sustainable VillageBased Development. /Projects/Pine_Ridge/index.php. December 10, 2009. Reyhner, Jon. “American Indian Language Policy and School Success”. 1993. (date accessed: December 22, 2009). Reyhner, Jon and Jeanne Eder. American Indian Education: A History. Rowman: University of Oklahoma Press. 2004. Ruppel, Kristin T. Unearthing Indian Land: Living With the Legacies of Allotment. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press. 2008. Spring, Joel. “Native Americans: Deculturalization and Schooling”. Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality. New York: McGraw Hill Company. 2006. “Status of Hopi Language”. Mesa Media Inc. 10 December 2009. Taylor, Janis Swenson. “Through a Critical Lens: Native American Alienation from Higher Education”. Education Informational Resources Center, 2001. 29 Nov. 2009. recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED 452753&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED452753. Unger, Steven, ed., The Destruction of American Indian Families, New York: Association on American Indian Affairs, 1977, p.1. “Who Are We?”. Bureau of Indian Affairs. (Date Accessed: December 19, 2009).


Director: Natasha Bennett Preservation of Language and Culture Institute for Domestic & International Affairs, Inc. © 2010 Institute for...

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