Native American Heritage Month 2018


Q&A with First Nations Board Chair Benny Shendo, Jr.

Why is language so important to Indian people and communities?

Language is a core part of who we are as Indian people. Each of us have our respective languages that connect us to our place of birth, teaches us how to pray, and shows us who we are as Indian people.

Language is sacred. For many of us the only way for our languages and ceremonies to survive was to take them underground. To this day, there are some of us who won’t even allow our languages to be written down. Each tribe has their own approach to preserving and protecting the language.

What impact will the First Nations language initiative have on tribal children and families?

Across the country, we’re seeing a renaissance of Indigenous languages. In our community, Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, we established one of the first tribal Head Start programs in the country and it changed the entire dynamic of our community. Grandparents were able to talk to their grandchildren in their own language, which is something that many of them haven’t been able to do for a long time.

What can individuals do to better support these efforts?

Support them in ways that allow the community  to do what they need to do. At the end of the day, the communities are the ones who have the answers. They have the knowledge needed to help their communities flourish.

What should donors know about supporting Native language revitalization?

Respect tribes and tribal communities. Each tribe and language is different. It’s important to respect those differences and the different ways they choose to revitalize languages.


Benny Shendo, Jr. is a member of the Jemez Pueblo Tribe and a member of the New Mexico Senate since 2013. He was elected Chairman of the Board of First Nations Development Institute in June 2016 after serving many years as a Board member.


Help Us Meet Our Matching Challenge Goal of $50,000 to Support Language Programs



November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States. We are excited to share more information about First Nations Development Institute's Native Language Immersion Initiative, which was launched in 2017 to build on our longtime efforts to support the revitalization and perpetuation of Native languages. We are pleased to share some these efforts in the stories below and provide you with an opportunity to make twice the difference in supporting this important work.

Our Native Language Immersion Initiative is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and other committed foundations. NEH has provided a generous matching grant to support grassroots initiatives in Native communities. So, in honor of Native American Heritage Month this year, we’re asking good friends like you to help us maximize this opportunity by raising $50,000 for this special initiative before December 15, 2018. And because we have matching funds, your gift will double in value and have twice the impact.





Click here to view and print a four-page document detailing First Nations Development Institute's Language Immersion Initiative. We hope you will share this with your friends, family and local schools.

Read our stories about language preservation efforts at the links below:


Click here to find a list of our current 12 grantees under our Native Language Immersion Initiative.