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MISSOULA — A St. Ignatius man who wants to help keep American Indian languages alive has been chosen for a program that helps develop young Indian leaders.

Joshua Brown, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, is one of 18 individuals picked to participate in the American Indian Ambassadors Program, which draws upon traditional indigenous values to empower new generations of Indian leaders.

Brown, 31, holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Montana, is co-founder of the Salish Language Immersion School, and works at Salish Kootenai College designing a language teacher training program.

Brown said he is honored by the recognition, and looks forward to meeting and working with like-minded individuals.

"I'm really excited about this," he said. "For me, it is an opportunity to network and hopefully develop more of my skills to do my job much better.

"Each ambassador has to have some kind of community initiative, and part of what the program does is to help make it happen — to help with the follow-through," he said.

Brown wants to develop a program that instructs educators on how to teach American Indian languages.

"In order to revitalize a language, you have to have highly qualified teachers who can teach in the language," Brown said. "I want to focus on helping to improve their teaching skills — teach them how to apply methodology and develop curriculum."

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The American Indian Ambassadors Program, which started in 1993, is a two-year commitment. During that time the ambassadors will attend four weeklong gatherings in New Mexico, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, and Bolivia, where they will meet with leading Indian decision-makers, national policymakers and international dignitaries.

Brown said he looks forward to the trip to Washington, D.C., where he and his fellow ambassadors will lobby Congress on Indian issues.

"For me that's really exciting — to take my message to our country's leaders," he said.

LaDona Harris, president of the Americans for Indian Opportunity, which helped create the ambassadors program, said it "aims to further strengthen their talents by reaffirming their cultural values, cultivating their community organizing skills, and build a network of people and resources they can utilize throughout their careers."

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