Keeping Native Languages Alive: First Nations Invests in 10 Native Language Immersion Programs

LONGMONT, Colorado (March 28, 2023) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) today announced the awarding of 10 grants to Native-led organizations and tribes working to preserve Indigenous languages and cultures throughout the U.S.

The grants mark the sixth year of support through First Nations’ Native Language Immersion Initiative (NLII), which launched in 2017 to support new generations of Native American language speakers, and help Native communities establish infrastructure and models for Native language immersion programs that may be replicated throughout Indian Country.

Since its launch, NLII has made a notable impact throughout Indian Country, awarding 62 grants totaling over $5 million to grow and strengthen 39 Native language immersion programs.

The recent funding is in line with the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032, which calls attention to the critical situation of Indigenous languages across the globe. The Language Conservancy estimates that 41% of the 7,000 languages currently spoken are endangered and that, without intervention, 90% will be extinct within 100 years, including the remaining 175 Indigenous languages in the U.S.

First Nations Senior Program Officer for NLII, Kendall Tallmadge, said Native languages strengthen the identity, resilience, and health of Native communities. “Language learning gives rise to many positive social, cultural and economic impacts and, further, it can be life transforming, promote individual healing, and lead to cultural revitalization through the transmission of cultural values and knowledge that cannot be taught otherwise,” she said.

Congratulations to these 2023 NLII Grantees:

ANC Childcare and Education Center, DBA Life’s Language Lodge, Hayes, Montana: $75,000

This project aims to translate traditional stories captured in English back to the Aaniih and Nakoda languages and transcribe oral stories into standardized orthography with the goal of developing materials for increasing language literacy. The project will help Aaniiih and Nakoda People retain their traditional stories in their own voices and control the narrative of their stories.

Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, Oklahoma: $75,000

Through this project, Cherokee Nation will create a dedicated staff position to develop a Language Arts curricula and workbooks for seventh and eighth grade students at Cherokee Immersion Charter School to improve reading literacy and better prepare students for state standardized testing.

Euchee Yuchi Language Project, Inc., Sapulpa, Oklahoma: $75,000

This project represents the critical next step in the process of Yuchi language revitalization. The project will support early childhood and adult learners, curricula development, and language instructor certification to create new mother-tongue speakers of Yuchi by reconnecting to the land using nature-based education.

Fond Du Lac Tribal College, Cloquet, Minnesota: $75,000

Through the Strengthening Grandma’s House project, the Fond du Lac Tribal College will create a full-time position for a licensed Ojibwe-speaking teacher to increase educational success, use space more effectively, expand participation capacity, augment curriculum, and obtain licensing to leverage additional educational and financial resources.

Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, Juneau, Alaska: $50,000

This project will increase the capacity of the foundation by creating Lingit Yoo X’atángi curriculum and resources for preschool to fifth-grade students, along with monthly opportunities for intergenerational language transmission.

Hualapai Tribe, Peach Springs, Arizona: $50,000

This project will sustain a language immersion program in which fluent Hualapai language consultants conduct language immersion programming in each of the four head-start classrooms for the regular school year, continuing successes gained over the last three years.

Keres Children’s Learning Center, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico: $75,000

KCLC will increase its class capacities by supporting teachers to be more consistent in their use of best language, immersion, and Montessori practices to better nurture and revitalize the Keres language culture and traditions.

Salish School of Spokane, Spokane, Washington: $75,000

The school will lead a project to increase overall community Salish language capacity by expanding a program to train 30 adult speakers of Colville Salish who have strong relationships with the community. These new speakers will be teachers, mentors, advocates, and role models for intergenerational learning and transmission of the critically endangered language.

Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians, Anza, California: $50,000

With this support, the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians will utilize and expand its language curriculum to teach 5- to 12-year old children the Cahuilla language at an existing afterschool program. This will ensure the Cahuilla language is retained.

Sicangu Community Development Corporation, Mission, South Dakota: $75,000

The Cultivating Lakota Language Immersion at Wakanyeja Tokeyahci project will strengthen the capacity and operations of Wakanyeja Tokeyahci through curriculum development and improvement and opportunities for teachers and youth. This will create a deeper, richer Lakota language immersion school that will uplift and empower the next generations of Sicangu Lakota.

To learn more about the Native Language Immersion Initiative, visit

About First Nations Development Institute

For 42 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit