McCarty (2013). Native American Languages In and Out of the Safety Zone, 1492-2012.

McCarty, T. L. (2013). Native American Languages In and Out of the Safety Zone, 1492-2012. In Language Planning and Policy in Native America: History, Theory, Praxis (pp. 46–64). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

“… there is strong evidence, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous accounts, that many (even most) Native American languages were still a regular part of daily life, actively transmitted by adults and naturally acquired by children. The linguist Wallace Chafe estimated in 1962 that, of 206 Native American languages spoken at the time, more than 150 had speakers representing multiple generations, including young children (Chafe, 1962, 1965).” (p 46)

“Implicit in these statements are strongly held ideologies about language that valorize the spoken word — oral tradition — as the binding knot of a shared sense of place, community and self.” (p 47)

“‘It is the language that conveys a sense of places considered home.'” (p 47)

[Above quote is from Fishman (2001), p 205.]

[“Print Literacy as a Colonizing Tool” (p 48) …]

“The fundamental change introduced by the missionaries ‘was summed up in the conception of `reduction`’: forced settlement in compact villages where Native people presumably would be more susceptible to social manipulation and ideological management (Spicer, 1962: 288).” (p 49)

“Alphabetic literacy in both Spanish and Indigenous languages was a primary ‘tool of conquest’.” (p 49)

“‘It is a mere waste of time to [page break] attempt to teach the average adult Indian the ways of the white man’, a federal agent to the Lakota reflected; ‘our main hope lies with the youthful generations who are still measurably plastic’, another federal official stated at the time (cited in Adams, 1995: 18-19).” (p 51-52)

“The following statement, recorded by Lomawaima at the Yakima Indian National Cultural Center in Toppenish, Washington, captures the goal of these schools from a Native perspective:

“‘The purpose of these schools was:
To break down our family ties.
To steal our children’s hearts and minds.
To train our children to a life of servitude and trade.’ (Lomawaima, 1994: 80)” (p 52)

“The English-only curriculum fitted hand-in-glove with manual training intended to produce docile, low-wage laborers.” (p 53)

“… the Meriam team took the then-unprecedented position of advocating the right of Indigenous education _choice_:

“… ‘He who wants to remain an Indian and live according to his old culture should be aided in doing so. (Meriam et al., 1928: 86)'” (p 55)

[“Subverting the Safety Zone” (p 56) …]

“One unintended consequence of the boarding school policy was the coalescence of an alliance of Native people from diverse tribes who grew up together in the schools, and who shared the sentiments espoused by Galena [page break] Sells Dick and Esther Burnett Horne. In the context of the Civil Rights Movement and liberal Democratic Party reforms, these experiences and sentiments found expression in a growing movement for Indigenous self-determination.” (p 56-57)

[“Prying open policy-making windows of opportunity” (p 57)]

[“Policy Turnabout: ‘To Preserve, Protect, and Promote Native American Languages'” (p 60) …]

“This situation has given rise to a widespread language revitalization movement, represented in the grass roots projects explored in Chapter 5 and in two recent federal language policies.” (p 61)

“… efforts eventually came to fruition in December 2006 with the passage of the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act (EM-NALPA)…

“(1) Native American language nests (site-based Native-language immersion programs for children under age 7);

(2) language classes for parents,

(3) language survival schools for school-age children to promote fluency in the Native American language as well as academic proficiency in mathematics, reading/language arts and science; and

(4) Native American language restoration programs that offer training for teachers of Native American languages, develop instructional materials and ‘work toward a goal of increasing proficiency and fluency in at least 1 Native American language’ …” (p 62)

“In 2007, also through the efforts of a coalition of tribal representatives and language activists, Congress authorized an additional $3 million for the implementation of EM-NALPA and NALA. These new funds brought total federal funding for Native American language programs to an unprecedented $7 million — a tiny fraction of the federal budget, but a significant political and financial victory nonetheless. ‘This day may well mark the turning point in our efforts to halt the dramatic decline in Native languages’, Ryan Wilson, president of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages, stated …. ‘This is only the beginning’, he continued; ‘Indian Country has been united in this effort, [and] if we remain united, we shall succeed’ (National Alliance to Save Native Languages, 2007: 2).” (p 62)

[Note: Square brackets in passage above were in the original.]

[“Repatriating the Spoken Word” (p 62) …]

“For many Native educators and language planners, the importance of these policy initiatives is the opportunity to repatriate the spoken word that has been the primary means of socializing new generations, and to advance the use and development of Indigenous languages in concrete new spaces and places, including schools (McCarty et al., 2012).” (p 63)

“… the most pressing charge is ensuring that Indigenous-community languages are remembered not only in the pages of books, but in the minds, hearts and tongues of younger generations.” (p 63)

Selected References

  • Adams, D. W. (1995). Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
  • Chafe, W. L. (1962). Estimates regarding the present speakers of North American Indian languages. International Journal of American Linguistics, 28(3), 162-171.
  • Chafe, W. L. (1965). Corrected estimates regarding speakers of Indian languages. International Journal of American Linguistics, 31(4), 345-346.
  • Fishman, J. A. (2001). Handbook of Language and Ethnic Identity. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Lomawaima, K. T. (1995). They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian school. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
  • McCarty, T. L., Nicholas, S. E., and Wyman, L. T. (2012). Re-emplacing place in the “global here and now” — critical ethnographic case studies of Native American language planning and policy. International Multilingual Research Journal, 6(1), 50-63.
  • Meriam, L., Brown, R. A., Roe Cloud, H., Dale, E. E., Duke, E., Edwards, H. R., McKenzie, F. A., Mark, M. L., Ryan, W. C., and Spillman, W. J. (1928). The Problem of Indian Administration. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press for the Institute for Government Research.
  • National Alliance to Save Native Languages (2007). [See]
  • Spicer, E. H. (1962). Cycles of conquest: the impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.


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