Why is Dakota Ojibwe Language Revitalization Important?

Language Immersion for the Native American community is a powerful school readiness strategy.

With school drop out rates of more than 57% for Native American Students in Minnesota, Dakota and Ojibwe language immersion programs are an important strategy for success.

National studies from both the public and private sector emphasize the positive impact of language studies on educational achievement (a profile of SAT and Achievement Test takers, the Educational Resource Information Center of the U.S. Department of Education, The Northwest Regional Laboratory and others).  These finding include information from immersion and bilingual classrooms.

  • Improves overall school performanceElder with two children
  • Stimulates superior complex problem solving.
  • Shows increased student self-esteem, less anxiety, and greater self-efficiency.
  • Improves student creativity levels.
  • Encourages parent participation in school activities and goals.
  • Connects young people with elders.

The Native Hawaiian Language Immersion experience increased the 5%-15% pass rate in the education system to a 75% pass rate with a higher percentage of students continuing on into the higher education system.  Similar statistics are found from the Maori Language Immersion experience and the Piegan Institute in Montana with Blackfeet language.

Other world languages like Gaelic, Welsh, and Hebrew have been brought back from the brink of extinction as a spoken language by language immersion and bilingual educational investments.  The Canadian Government and the church community have put together extensive resources for native language revitalization.

What are strategies to revitalize languages?
Many strategies have been developed and are time tested. Programs that begin with the youngest children provide the quickest results and greatest language mastery. Young children’s brains are wired to absorb language. Strategies include: Immersion Education, Language Nests, Language from the Breast, Master-Apprentice Programs, Total Physical Response (TPR), The Silent Way, Immersion Camps, and other informal strategies like language tables.

Who is working on this strategy?
Members from all eleven tribes located in Minnesota have been working together on this issue.  Dakota and Ojibwe living on the reservations and in urban areas, Native early childhood professionals, professors, teachers, education professionals, elders, spiritual leaders, community members and advocates have been working together and recognize the importance of revitalizing the Dakota and Ojibwe languages.

As Minnesota’s first languages, Dakota and Ojibwe are important assets to Minnesota and to the world’s linguistic resources.  The complexity and unique aspects of Ojibwe and Dakota languages provide important worldviews and concepts that can enrich all Minnesotans.

There is no time to waste.  Few fully fluent speakers are left.  There are less than 13 fluent Dakota speakers and between 100-300 Ojibwe speakers left in Minnesota. Now is the time for the state to partner with the tribes, the foundation community and federal government to provide resources to revitalize this important Minnesota resource.

For Information, call 612-72-4246 ext. 155