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).