More than $ 300,000 is being granted to two San Diego County tribes from the Department of the Interior to support tribal language preservation efforts, the department announced Wednesday.
With its Living Languages Grant Program, the Indian Affairs Office of Indian Economic Development awarded $ 7 million in grants to 45 tribes across the country to teach and preserve their languages, many of which are at risk of extinction. In San Diego, the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in East County will receive $ 129,337, and the Pala Band of Mission Indians in North County will receive $ 192,461.
“Native preservation and language revitalization is a critical priority because languages go to the heart of a tribe’s unique cultural identities, traditions, spiritual beliefs and self-governance,” Bryan Newland said.
Newland is assistant secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Ojibwe from the Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan.
Through decades of forced assimilation efforts in the 1800s, many Indigenous languages were pushed to the brink of extinction over the past two centuries. The Civilization Fund Act of 1819 in particular had a strong impact on traditional dialects, which provided funds to missionaries and church leaders to teach Indigenous students English and Christianity as replacements to their cultural practices.
It wasn’t until the Native American Languages Act was passed in 1990 that Indigenous languages were encouraged to be taught in tribal schools.
For the past six months, the Pala reservation has hosted nearly a dozen lessons each week for the tribe’s native language of Cupeño, which students can participate in virtually via Zoom, said Sierra Kriss, Pala Learning Center project manager.
Traditionally known as Pa’enixily, the language is considered dormant as the last native speaker and author of the “Mulu’wetam: The First People” Cupeño oral history and language book, Rosinda Nolasquez, died in 1987.
Funding from this grant will be used to continue paying Pala’s four language instructors, and to provide instructional materials like flash cards and games to tribal members that will encourage families to learn together. Having tools for family members to study with one another is an important aspect of language revitalization.
“Being on a reservation has its differences from urban life,” Kriss said. “Most importantly for the kids, these classes give them a sense of belonging and a feeling that ‘I am a native and I do have a right to know my native tongue.’ To be able to have that exposure to what their grandparents or great grandparents spoke, it adds an extra sense of belonging in a world where they may not always feel they belong. ”
A total of $ 835,545 is being granted to another five tribes in California. They are Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians in Riverside County, North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California in Madera County, the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria in Sonoma County, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California near Lake Tahoe and Wiyot Tribe in Humboldt County.