Alaska Receives Two Native Language Education Grants

Program Created by Murkowski, Franken

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) yesterday welcomed the announcement that Anchorage School District and Yukon-Koyukuk School District have been awarded two out of the five first-ever Native American Language program grants, funded by a program created by Senators Murkowski and Franken (D-MN) as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The newly developed, “Native American and Alaska Native Language Immersion Schools and Program,” is intended to help schools, tribes, and Native organizations create or expand language immersion programs in which academic instruction is provided in the local Native language; maintain and promote indigenous peoples’ right to practice and revitalize their languages and cultures; and improve students’ educational opportunities and outcomes.

“Native languages are the common thread that binds all indigenous peoples’ present to their past, to their culture, stories, dance, and ways of knowing.  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.  I am also pleased to see the strong and innovative partnerships between these school districts, tribal leaders, and Native organizations and look forward to seeing the results of these grant funds in action.” 

Background: 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.  

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska