Indigenous Heritage Languages: Native Americans

As many people know, November is Native American Heritage. This started as an effort to raise recognition for the contributions Native Americans made in the establishment of the United States (“About Native American…”). You can learn more about Native American Heritage Month by clicking here.

According to this article by Erin Haynes, “Indigenous heritage languages are spoken by people whose ancestors originally inhabited the area that is not the United States…” which would be Native Americans. These Native American languages receive protection from the United States, but at the same time are at risk of dying out if they are not learned by upcoming generations. Since Native Americans spoke languages that originated in the United States, if they are not continued to be spoken today, they may not be spoken at all in the future. According to Haynes, a significant majority of the 175 remaining Native American languages are in danger of losing all of their speakers, largely due in part by colonization and assimilation from the past three centuries.

Due to the assimilation of Native Americans into an “American” way of life, many children were severely punished for using their own languages instead of English in schools. This in turn influenced many Native Americans to not teach their child to speak their native languages. This changed significantly when in 1990 the United States Congress passed the Native American Languages Act in order to protect the many Native American languages. This act aims to protect the Native Americans so that they will not be restricted from public places such as classrooms and promised to “preserve, protect, and promote” the right of Native Americans to use their indigenous languages where they please (Klug).

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17 Responses to Indigenous Heritage Languages: Native Americans

  1. That’s good that they were able to fix what they started damaging! Either wise, they Native languages would probably be lost already.

  2. dvelazquez2 says:

    I agree with Amanda’s comment, because it would be a shame to lose all intangible Native American heritage. Thankfully, the change came about in 1990 and I hope this is something that society learns from, and now we try to preserve all other ancient cultures.

  3. danalba2 says:

    You can also compare this to the struggles of early Mexican-American generations within the U.S. for many decades they were also punished and shunned whenever they would speak Spanish in school… sad to see it isn’t really a new concept.

  4. Pingback: November Is Native American Heritage Month | Dispensable Thoughts

  5. btungumurhan says:

    Thank you for reminding me it Native American Heritage Month!

  6. brodrigues2 says:

    good post, I like how you brought up new points that I never knew or learned in school such as the students being punished for speaking a language different than English in school. im glad that the act was passed to help preserve the native American language.

  7. mbrooks8 says:

    A nice easy to read post on Native American heritage; the amount of Native American languages is impressive!

  8. mbrooks8 says:

    Oh and by the way, it was clever of you to post a link to learn more information on our own. It’s a great way that we can further educate ourselves 🙂

  9. dchouu says:

    I appreciate the reminder of it being Native American Heritage Month. It’s unfortunately very sad to know that the Native Americans were punished for speaking their own language.

  10. nlenriquez says:

    I had no idea it was Native American Heritage Month. And its refreshing to hear that people are taking actions to preserve, protect and promote their rights.

  11. mflores53 says:

    I totally agree with Daniel! Mexican-American students were also punished for speaking Spanish in school. Fortunately, theses cases lead to bilingual education in states like California and Texas.

  12. anunez35 says:

    I did know that November is Native Indian Month, so I really enjoyed learning more about it. And its interesting how you mention that they were punish for not speaking english. Once in my elementary school a kid was called out for speaking spanish. This kid actually wasn’t fluent in english and the teacher will set more apart from the class at times, and ask me to teach him.

  13. rgodinez2 says:

    I enjoyed reading your post and it is very interesting. Native American culture is very unqie and fascinating but some of it, as you pointed out was lost because of assimilation. Thanks for your post.

  14. jortega95 says:

    I learned a lot from reading this article. I actually did not have much knowledge behind the fact November is a month dedicated to Native Americans. That being said, that even though there have been acts passed and such, Native Americans are still overlooked. It is important that we are educated of a culture and communities of people who contributed so much to this country.

  15. mgoldberg4 says:

    Although it was a bit short, I still thought it was a pretty good post in regards to a highly disputed conflict in the origins of North America.

  16. rashedaak says:

    It is good to know that things from the past are being preserved for the future generations.

  17. yjain916 says:

    This article was really informative for how short it was. I think it’s crazy how Indians(before the act) were punished for using their own language in public places. It’s a good thing we realized what was happening before it was almost to late and all native american languages died out.

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