The Crow Nation has been awarded a three-year grant to help it preserve its language among the youngest members of the tribe.
The tribe received word Monday that it is a recipient of a Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance grant from the Administration for Native Americans of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The money, which could total nearly $877,000 over three years, will fund the Crow Nation Apsaalooke Preschool Language Immersion Project. The goal will be to boost language fluency among 340 students at the Crow Head Start program and two Songbird daycare centers.
Parents of the children also must agree to enroll in a series of Crow language and culture seminars through Little Big Horn College to solidify family-based language use. Eighteen Crow-speaking teachers and providers will phase in Crow language learning modules that by the end of the third year will encompass 60 percent of each school day.
The tribe will get $282,170 the first year, and subsequent funding will be awarded based on satisfactory program progress, according to Dr. Janine Pease, the tribe’s cabinet head for education. If all goes well, the project will be awarded $294,740 in the second year and $300,000 in the third year.
The tribe will supplement the first-year money with $70,542, and contribute $73,685 in the second year and $75,000 in the third.
“We’re just totally excited about the prospect of getting started with this grant,” Pease said on Wednesday. “It’s something that’s been talked about for so long.”
The immersion project is much more than a language program, Pease said. It’s a way of bringing together the language and the culture so that children get a real sense of who they are.
The project will be a joint effort of all of the grant's partners, the Education Department, the college, Head Start and the preschool centers. And unrolling the program over three years will keep it from being overwhelming for the staff that will implement it, Pease said.
“It’s much more manageable and realistic,” she said.
While Crow language fluency remains at about 85 percent, it has decreased among youngsters to about 3 percent. The fear is that if nothing is done, within 20 years no Crow children will speak the language.