An ongoing Tlingit language immersion effort run by a Juneau-based nonprofit group has won another large federal grant.
The Sealaska Heritage Institute program is receiving $864,000 from the U.S. Department of Education's Alaska Native Education Program. The institute was awarded a $446,000 grant from the federal Administration for Native Americans in September.
The new grant, which covers three years, funds development of Tlingit immersion curriculum for kindergarten through second grade and to teach instructors to use the new materials. The earlier grant covered Tlingit immersion camps aimed at increasing fluency in adult students and aspiring Native language teachers.
Institute President Rosita Worl said the long-term goal is to sponsor language immersion programs in communities across Southeast Alaska. The grant will allow the institute to lay the groundwork for such work, she said.
"SHI over the past several years has focused on training Native people to speak and teach Tlingit, an essential first step to revitalize the language," Worl said in a press release. "This grant allows us to tackle the problem of language loss on a new level."
Worl said language immersion is the most effective technique for teaching Native languages to children.
Institute Sociolinguist Roy Iutzi-Mitchell said Tlingit language immersion will help students meet state academic standards.
"This grant for the first time will allow us to develop the materials to teach children directly through Tlingit in ways that allow them to understand the content and learn the Tlingit language at the same time," Iutzi-Mitchell said.
The earlier grant will help fund 10-day immersion camps in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The federal funding was matched in part with $160,890 in donations from Southeast Alaska Native organizations.