$ 248,000 in US bailout funding for Native American community services in Erie and Niagara counties

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Tue, Oct 12, 2021 9:20 AM

Funding supports preservation of Indigenous languages

Congressman Brian Higgins announced a federal grant totaling $ 248,077 to Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties Inc. (NACS). Funded by the American Rescue Plan and awarded by the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), the grant supports tribes and organizations seeking to ensure the survival and vitality of Native American languages.

“When a language dies, communities often leave behind scientific, cultural, traditional and ceremonial knowledge developed by their ancestors,” Higgins said. “During the pandemic, indigenous communities are more vulnerable than ever. This funding supports the well-being within these communities in order to ensure the health of cultural teachers in order to perpetuate traditions and impart knowledge through the mother tongue.

The grant will be used to fund the Support Education and Empowerment through the Development of Language Initiatives Needed for Growth and Sustainability (SEEDLINGS) program.

NACS Educational Success Coordinator Amy Huff said, “The goal of the SEEDLINGS program is to increase the language skills of young Haudenosaunee speakers in the Buffalo Public School District and to initiate a path to mastery of language. It is not just a project on selected activities, it is the recognition that culture and tradition – especially as regards children – is the first consideration when developing an initiative. linguistic. Relate words and their meanings to the natural world and to emotions. Give the child a sense of security, belonging and joy. These freedoms have been taken away from our children, and the loss of the language is a direct result of the atrocities committed against Indigenous children, their families and our way of life.

Focused on children, the School Success Stream of NACS will provide over 1,500 hours of language learning primarily at the Native American Magnet School (NAMS) during extracurricular hours for 40 weeks (school year) and six weeks in the summer. To encompass a complete learning concept for the child, an additional 40 hours of community language events are included. This will increase the number of intergenerational exchanges, keep the community informed and engaged, support learners and encourage change. Language learning will be transferred among the Haudenosaunee and across generations, thus increasing the number of Haudenosaunee speakers.

The grant includes a language coach and a digital learning specialist. These two positions complement each other. The role of the coach is to facilitate language learning, while the digital learning specialist enhances and captures this facilitation.

The Higgins team said: “Coaches foster the connections between culture and language because the two go hand in hand. Coaches don’t just teach vocabulary; they cultivate ways to express gratitude, embrace feelings and recognize tradition. By following programs and allowing laughter, the coach stimulates learning using a technique called total physical response. TPR is a language teaching method built around the coordination of speech and action; he tries to teach language through motor activity. When the trainer provides multisensory prompts, the child’s brain makes several associations and the words begin to have a feeling instead of just a meaning. It is the connection to the Earth and to each other. This will be recreated in the language learning classroom and extended to the community by participants and through community events.

NACS Executive Director Michael Martin added, “There is a beauty embedded in our Indigenous languages, as well as connections that get lost in translation. Giving young people the opportunity to learn and improve their language skills is a path to healing the intergenerational trauma that our Indigenous peoples have endured. As many say, we have not lost our languages, they have been taken from us by residential schools / boarding schools and their intergenerational legacy. Before these traumas, we had a culture of health, and now our people are returning to our traditional teachings and perspectives that have always been intended to keep us in peace and well-being – individually and collectively. Our language efforts are a direct response to help our community meet this desire. “

Huff also noted, “Staff will recognize the child’s effort without revealing a numerical score. This does not dilute the score or the results of the program. It retains EA’s core philosophy that children should not be labeled with a number on a proficiency scale. This is an essential part of creating an environment conducive to language learning and acquisition. The child needs to be recognized for his efforts, not to tell him that he has not “met a standard”. “

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, tribal governments and indigenous communities recognized that elders and language speakers were among the populations most vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Higgins team said: “Many have quickly implemented health and wellness efforts to help them socially distance themselves and receive priority COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to the safety measures in place. by governments like mask warrants and travel restrictions. Despite their efforts, many language speakers still succumbed to the virus. In some indigenous communities, these losses have brought their native languages ​​to the brink of extinction. “

Each year, ANA provides $ 13 million in funding for 50 community language projects. This year, an additional $ 19 million has been allocated under the American Rescue Plan, which more than doubles the funding available. It allows ANA to reach a greater number of communities whose work to preserve indigenous languages ​​has been impacted by the pandemic.

Native American Services is a non-profit organization that primarily serves the Indigenous population living in the territories of Indigenous Nations in 17 counties in upstate New York. It works to strengthen individuals and families mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually by providing programs for economic self-sufficiency, family, health and wellness services, and community and cultural services. To learn more, visit www.nacswny.org.


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