Collaborative to fund Native language immersion programs

11/09/2017 04:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – On Nov. 1, as Native American Heritage Month began across the United States, First Nations Development Institute officials acknowledged the Kalliopeia, Lannan and NoVo foundations as three additional underwriters for its recently announced project to revitalize Native American languages.

In August, First Nations announced a three-year project to support language immersion education programs in tribal communities. This three-year, $4.2 million project aims to leverage a $2.1 million National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant with an additional $2.1 million in support from other private funding sources.

First Nations officials said they were “thrilled” to receive $700,000 in matching funds for year one of this project from the three foundations.

“We are thrilled that these visionary organizations have stepped up in a big way to make this project happen, and we’re sincerely grateful for their support in helping retain and revitalize Native languages,” Raymond Foxworth, First Nations vice president of grantmaking, development and communications, said.

With the funding partners matching the NEH’s contribution, First Nations officials will kick off the first year of the project in 2018, offering nearly $1 million in direct grants to Native communities actively engaged in language immersion efforts.

“Language is a vital asset for Native people and communities,” Foxworth said. “It defines who we are, where we come from, and value systems that, in many ways, cannot be translated into English. Besides these generous supporters, we welcome additional funding partners to join us in protecting languages as a vital asset.”

Sohrob Nabatian, Kalliopeia Foundation program officer, said the Kalliopeia Foundation has worked with First Nations for 15 years with its Native Youth and Culture Fund and that the new collaboration presents an opportunity to deepen the foundation’s commitment to language immersion.

“Native languages are powerful agents of cultural, spiritual and ecological renewal, and we consider it a true privilege to contribute to their revitalization,” Nabatian said.

First Nations officials said there are about 150 Native languages spoken in the United States, many of them spoken only by a small number of elders. Without intervention, many of these languages are expected to become extinct within the next 50 to 100 years, which means a significant loss of cultural heritage.

Under the project, First Nations will provide grant support for curriculum development, technology access and recruitment and training of teachers for 12 Native language immersion programs a year during the three-year project period.

Language retention and revitalization programs have been recognized as providing key benefits to Native American communities by boosting educational achievement and student retention rates. According to First Nations, they also support community identity; Native systems of kinship; and management of community, cultural and natural resources. ??

Through the this initiative, First Nations officials seek to stem the loss of Indigenous languages and cultures by supporting new generations of Native American language speakers and establishing infrastructure and models for Native language immersion programs that may be replicated in other communities.

For more information, call Raymond Foxworth at 303-774-7836, ext. 207 or email

Websites for grant underwriters

• Kalliopeia Foundation

• Lannan Foundation

• NoVo Foundation


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