Protecting Native languages important for cultural preservation

President Begaye reinforces the importance of teaching traditional languages to youth

During a recent conference held at the Albuquerque Marriott, President Russell Begaye addressed the issue of keeping tribal languages alive. Photo courtesy of Navajo Nation

During a recent conference held at the Albuquerque Marriott, President Russell Begaye addressed the issue of keeping tribal languages alive. Photo courtesy of Navajo Nation

ALBUQUERQUE — On April 27, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye acknowledged Native American educators as protectors of culture in their efforts to help Native American students retain and revitalize tribal languages.

The president presented the keynote address at the National Johnson O’Malley Association (JOM) conference held April 27 at the Albuquerque Marriott in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“We need to make sure that we protect the JOM programs within schools, as they open the door to language revitalization efforts and place value on our traditional cultures,” Begaye said.

The JOM Act of 1934 authorized contracts for the education of eligible Indian students enrolled in public schools and previously private schools. Local JOM programs contain educational objectives addressing the needs of the eligible American Indian and Alaska Native students.

JOM programs offered to American Indian and Alaskan Native students include programs of culture, language, academics and dropout prevention.

“If you want your child to succeed at the highest level, while they’re young, teach them Navajo and English,” Begaye said. “Our language provides our children a different perspective of the world, which is very different and beneficial.”

Begaye also encouraged public and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools to make sure the meals provided to students are healthy and not fatty. To address this, the president has advocated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist the Navajo Nation in regionalizing food distribution to local schools.

“We need to have the traditional foods we grow integrated into our public school food programs,” he said. “Our schools should have grass fed Navajo sheep on the menus for our school children as well.”

JOM programs in schools on and bordering the Navajo Nation have implement programs like: Navajo Spelling Bee, Navajo Knowledge Bowl and an Integration of Diné Content Standards.

The president thanked the gathered educators for their highlighting traditional cultures into their curriculums.

“We are many nations from across this land. The retention of our languages and our songs defines us as Native peoples,” Begaye said. “We must always fight for what our ancestors stood and fought for.”

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