Over $1 Million in Grants Awarded in Third Year of Native Language Immersion Initiative

Over $1 Million in Grants Awarded in Third Year of Native Language Immersion Initiative

LONGMONT, Colorado (January 9, 2020) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) announced twelve new grantees under the third year of its Native Language Immersion Initiative (NLII). First Nations launched the initiative in 2017 as a three-year project to support Native nations and organizations actively working to stem the loss of Indigenous languages and cultures through Native language immersion.  The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) provided a $2.1 million challenge grant, which First Nations was required to match with $700,000 of additional funding each year over the three-year period. For the third and final year of this project, First Nations received commitments to support from the Lannan Foundation, NoVo Foundation, Kalliopeia Foundation, Wells Fargo, and many individual donors across the U.S.  

“First Nations is proud to continue facilitating and supporting Indigenous language work in Indian Country and Alaska Native Villages,” said Michael Roberts, president and CEO of First Nations Development Institute. “Native languages are critical to helping our youth and our Tribes maintain their culture and pride by letting them express who they are in their own words. These programs are truly paving the way to success and reinforcing our sovereignty.”

The following twelve grantees were awarded up to $90,000 each in the third year of the NLII program to build the capacity of and directly support their Native language immersion programs:

  1. The Aha Kane Foundation for the Advancement of Native Hawaiian Males will use $89,957 to increase Hawaiian language acquisition primarily among college students who are semi-proficient. They will graduate ten young Native Hawaiians who can perform the roles of ceremonial leaders, orators, storytellers and work to shift from a Western-based perspective of learning to a Native Hawaiian perspective.

  2. Bdote Learning Center of Minnesota was awarded $90,000 to increase Ojibwe and Dakota language use and proficiency for students and families and build the capacity of the Bdote Learning Center to continue to deliver high-quality immersion curriculum.

  3. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma was awarded $90,000 to provide two Master Speaker Internships to prepare recent graduates from the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program (CLMAP). This opportunity will enable the interns to continue increasing their language fluency so interns can teach Cherokee Language classes at the conclusion of their internships. These Internships will provide an additional 2,080 hours of learning and teaching experience.

  4. The Crow Language Consortium will use its $90,000 grant award to create a picture book series about the Natural World to meet the curricular needs of the Chickadee Lodge and other partial Crow immersion programs in Montana. Grant funds will also support language teacher’s attendance and participation in the Crow Summer Institute to improve their second language teaching skills in addition to drafting and developing new curricula for their programs.

  5. Euchee Yuchi Language Project of Oklahoma will use its $90,000 grant to develop and implement a Yuchi immersion curriculum designed to connect children to the Yuchi Butterfly Farm and endangered ecosystems. They will implement immersion programming for students to advance their Yuchi language proficiency and train youth interns as apprentice teachers through a Master-apprentice program.

  6. Hearts Gathered of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation was awarded a $90,000 grant to provide professional development to their key teaching staff, refresh their classrooms with expanded language materials and equipment, and promote the sustainability of their mission through community engagement, improved organizational transparency, and an updated strategic plan.

  7. The Hoopa Valley Tribe of California was awarded $90,000 to bring together a cohort of 10 adult learners/teachers to complete 60 hours of Hupa language classes and develop eight units of curriculum to implement Hupa Language Immersion with youth involved in the Hoopa Tribal Education Association (HTEA). Programming includes in-school, afterschool and center-based programs, Immersion Camps and an Immersion Summer School Program.

  8. The Keres Children’s Learning Center of New Mexico was awarded $64,886 to support their students in developing Keres fluency. Elementary-aged children will be given lessons, as well as upgraded materials, demonstrated storytelling and performing arts opportunities, and expanded content through outdoor classroom lessons and materials.

  9. Nkwusm of Montana was awarded $89,520 to produce a stakeholder matrix through a workshop with Nkwusm staff and board of directors, improve the school’s management structure where needed, present information at the 2020 Celebrating Salish Conference, and host a Salish language community summit.

  10. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians of Minnesota will use their grant totaling $89,957 to protect, retain and preserve the Ojibwe language for the next generation of leaders (the youth). They will create four seasonal lesson plan books developed by teachers and elders. The project will also generate two Child Development Associate (CDA)-credentialed teachers for the Immersion Program.

  11. Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe of South Dakota will focus on the development of innovative curriculum in the Dakotah language targeting grades K-2 with their $90,000 grant. This project is in line with its overall strategic plan to increase the number of fluent Dakotah speakers.

  12. The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project of Massachusetts will use its $90,000 grant to hire an additional teacher and a translator/fluency coach to teach first and second-grade students. They will host 4 family immersion camps in each of the four-member tribal communities with an overnight retreat.

Proven Programs 
Several programs funded with the NLII grants have already resulted in “Fluent Speakers, Sovereign Thinkers,” as the Lakota Language Nest (Lakhol’iyapi Wahopi) promotes. Waadookodaading Inc. is teaching Ojibwe students to speak, read and write in Ojibwemowin,  the Ya Ne Dah Ah School is preserving language using the Traditional Physical Response (TPR) method, and the Wampanoag Nation is one of the first to reclaim an Indigenous language with no living speakers. There are currently about 150 Native languages spoken in the U.S., many of them spoken only by a small number of elders. Native communities are at a critical juncture when it comes to the retention and perpetuation of their languages, and some suggest that without targeted language preservation and restoration efforts, there may only be 20 Native languages spoken by 2050.  

About First Nations Development Institute  For 39 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


PROGRAM CONTACT: Kendall Tallmadge, Senior Program Officer
(303) 774-7836 x216 or

COMMUNICATIONS CONTACT: Jennifer Churchill, Senior Communications Officer
303-774-7835 x 213 or