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Crossing Mountains

Native American Language Education in Public Schools

Phyllis Ngai

Collaboration among contemporary Native American communities and local public schools is vital for nurturing Native languages. Although public schools cannot bear the entire burden, Native-language education will remain on the margins without their support. Using case studies of school districts on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, Crossing Mountains provides important insights about integrating Native-language learning into public education. Phyllis Ngai argues that carefully designed and inclusive Native-language programs can benefit communities and students regardless of ethnic identity by providing for language-revitalization and promoting intercultural competence. « less more »
AltaMira Press
Pages: 298
978-0-7591-2122-5 • Hardback • March 2012 • $99.00 • (£65.00)
978-0-7591-2124-9 • eBook • March 2012 • $97.99 • (£65.00)
Phyllis Ngai teaches in the Department of Communication Studies at The University of Montana-Missoula. She co-directed primary-school and middle-school Indian Education for All (IEFA) programs in Missoula, Montana.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Context of Native American Language Education in Montana
Chapter 2. How Can Public Schools Help? A Local Inquiry
Chapter 3. Salish Language Education: A Record of Heroic Steps in the Face of Steep Obstacles
Chapter 4. Collaborative Possibilities for Enhancing Native American Language Education: Grassroots Suggestions
Chapter 5. Churchill School District: The Balancing Act
Chapter 6. Elkhorn School District: Leading the Way
Chapter 7. Mountainview School District: Breaking the Barriers
Chapter 8. Building a Bridging Native American Language Curriculum
Chapter 9. Native American Language Learning as Place-based Multicultural Education
Appendix 1
About the Author
Phyllis Ngai carefully and thoughtfully captures the voices of stakeholders in Salish language education. Crossing Mountains demonstrates how an understanding of the relationships between Native and non-Native communities is needed to establish indigenous languages as a vital part of public education. This text is a 'must read' for those interested in indigenous language advocacy.
Dolores Maria Calderon, University of Utah

From the foreword: In this volume, Phyllis Ngai addresses an important question: have educators, Native American community members, and their non-Native neighbors living on this reservation agreed to accept and nurture Native American–language education programs in the public-school system? Phyllis’s research is groundbreaking in the sense that she seeks out the grassroots voices of both Indian and White stakeholders of public education on the reservation. Her study helps bridge the communication gap among groups of people concerning Native-language education issues. The recommendations emerging from Ngai’s synthesis of diverse perspectives hold promise for Native-language education programs in reservation public schools.
Joyce Silverthorne, director, Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education

When English is chosen as the language of instruction in schools, it invariably replaces home languages within a generation or two. Crossing Mountains deals with the political and institutional difficulties public schools face in attempting to teach minority languages. Ngai interviews parents, tribal members, teachers, politicians, and administrators in several Montana schools with mixed populations. The clear, practical advice she offers is crucial to anyone involved in minority language education and, if heeded, could avoid years of frustration and bickering.
Jack Martin, University of Florida