Preserving the Mother Tongue

Navajo Language & Culture: Arizona's Navajo Language Immersion School draws on tradition to spur its students to high achievement. | View multimedia presentation.


Many Native American communities in the United States have lost, or nearly lost, their indigenous languages. And little is happening in most public schools—or in Native American homes—to bring those languages back.

A recent U.S. Department of Education survey found, for instance, that 39 percent of 4th graders and 40 percent of 8th graders who consider themselves to be Native Americans receive no exposure to a language other than English at home, and 3 percent or less of such students have teachers who report frequently using a Native American or Alaska Native language to teach core subjects.

Still, some Native Americans are fighting to preserve the vitality of Native languages. has pulled together a collection of articles exploring those efforts.

New Mexico officials say the state is the first to adopt a Navajo textbook, Dine Bizaad Binahoo'ahh, or Rediscovering the Navajo Language, for use in the public education system.
January 1, 2008 – AP

A new federal study finds that most American Indian students know little about their own culture and receive no exposure to their native language at home or in school.
June 25, 2008 – Education Week (Web)

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A rigorous Navajo-immersion program draws on both tradition and modern accountability tools to improve student achievement.
March 21, 2007 – Education Week

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