Current Projects

Native Language Immersion Initiative 2018-2020

Native Language Immersion Initiative

Four Years of Strengthening Native Language

Through this Initiative, First Nations seeks to stem the loss of Indigenous languages and cultures by supporting new generations of Native American language speakers, and helping Native communities establish infrastructure and models for Native language immersion programs that may be replicated throughout Indian Country.

During the initial four-year investment, more than 30 Native organizations and tribes received over $4 million in funding to build the capacity of and directly support their Native language immersion programs. In the first two years of the Initiative alone, First Nations provided 25 grants totaling more than $2.1 million to Native language immersion programs.

Scroll down to learn about grant recipients in each round of funding under the original four-year period.

2020 Grantees

Ke Kula ‘O Pi’ilani, Wailuku, Hawaii, $90,000

The goal of Ke Kula ‘O Pi’ilani is to increase language acquisition, literacy, and fluency by implementing a tutoring program and resources. The program will also conduct professional development trainings, Hānai ʻAi workshops to produce traditional food-making implements to learn, practice, and utilize the language, along with Ka Piko Kaiao program classes to increase language and cultural fluency.

Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Baraga, Michigan, $90,000

Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College will develop and implement permanent signage, obtain resources for all facilities, and complete 16 teach-the-teacher training sessions for faculty and staff. The college will also implement weekly Nookomis/Mishomis teachings, develop and implement curriculum, and incorporate language use into community programs.

Kulaniakea, Honolulu, Hawaii, $90,000

The project team for Kulaniakea will create a comprehensive curriculum plan and corresponding educational materials. They will produce three prototypes of educational materials and accompanying lesson plans. They will then pilot-test and evaluate the lesson plans and educational materials with preschool-aged children and parents.


Lakota Waldorf Society, Kyle, South Dakota, $90,000

The Lakota Waldorf Society will continue work to ensure that all students receive Lakota language instruction, not counting daily conversational interactions during lunches, recesses, and other situations. They will also ensure that every student participates in a play, knows four songs, and can demonstrate familiarity with the stories of the plays and that all teachers and staff attend weekly Lakota language workshops.


Lower Sioux Indian Community, Morton, Minnesota, $90,000

With this funding, the community will increase language instruction for teachers and staff, hire a Language Teacher Apprentice to increase the number of language teachers, and create and record family language materials to increase parent and community language acquisition. The community will also expand total immersion instruction at the Cansayapi Wakanyeza Owayawa Oti School.

Northern Arapaho Tribe, Ft. Washakie, Wyoming, $90,000

The tribe will continue with the Arapaho Language acquisition project and will recruit three more apprentices. All apprentices will be assigned a master teacher to learn the language, speak Arapaho, and understand its importance to the Arapaho. Project participants will speak the language by teaching students using lessons developed through the project term.

Oneida Nation, Oneida, Wisconsin, $90,000

Through this project, two contracted immersion trainees will achieve second-level speaking ability and comprehend all Oneida language vocabulary, and language nest students will increase their proficiency of the Oneida Language. Further, an outdoor learning classroom will be installed for students to foster connections to land, develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and increase language retention as assessed by staff observations.

Pueblo of Sandia, Bernalillo, New Mexico, $90,000

Through the Tiwa Language Program, this organization will provide instruction to children and adults, and develop electronic resources and hand-made materials to utilize in language learning. Materials will be catalogued and made available by check out or via the intranet. In addition, six tribal members will complete the Philosophy of Indigenous course online through the Indigenous Montessori Institute.

Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, Porcupine, South Dakota, $90,000

This organization will create a Lakȟóta Montessori-themed preschool curriculum and will design 20 authentic Lakȟóta stories that will be used in all classrooms and instruction. The organization will also launch the “Unci Stories” mobile application, and will redesign and rebrand their current Montessori through Adult curriculum.

2019 Grantees (Round 2)

Aha Kane Foundation for the Advancement of Native Hawaiian Males, $89,957

The project’s goal is to increase Hawaiian language acquisition primarily among college students who are semi-proficient. The Aha Kane Foundation 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.

Bdote Learning Center of Minnesota, $90,000

This project will 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.

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, $90,000

This project will 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.

The Crow Language Consortium of Montana, $90,000

This project will help 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.

Euchee Language Project of Oklahoma, $90,000

This project will develop and implement a Yuchi immersion curriculum designed to connect children to the Yuchi Butterfly Farm and endangered ecosystems. The  will implement immersion programming for students to advance their Yuchi language proficiency and train youth interns as apprentice teachers through a Master-apprentice program.

Hearts Gathered of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, $90,000

This project will 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.

The Hoopa Valley Tribe of California, $90,000

This project will 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.

The Keres Learning Center of New Mexico, $64,886

The project will 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.

Nkwusm of Montana, $89,520

This project will 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.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, $89,957

This project will 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.

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe of South Dakota, $90,000

This project will focus on the development of innovative curriculum in the Dakotah language targeting grades K-2 . It is in line with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe’s overall strategic plan to increase the number of fluent Dakotah speakers.

Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project of Massachusetts, $90,000

This project will help to hire an additional teacher and a translator/fluency coach to teach first and second-grade students. The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project will host 4 family immersion camps in each of the four-member tribal communities with an overnight retreat.

2019 Grantees (Round 1)

Chickaloon Village Traditional Council, Chickaloon, Alaska, $90,000

This project will expand upon current efforts to revitalize the Ahtna language at the Ya Ne Dah Ah or “Ancient Teachings” Tribal School. With this grant, the tribe will create new culture and language curriculum to meet Alaska’s requirements in the areas of history, science and social studies.

Euchee Yuchi Language Project, Inc., Sapulpa, Oklahoma, $90,000

The project will restore the vitality of the Yuchi language through The Yuchi House, a year-round language-immersion program for students grades K-12. Additionally, this grant will be used to produce an archive of Yuchi language videos and assist with tribal language instructor certification.

Friends of the Akwesasne Freedom School, Rooseveltown, New York, $89,320

This teacher training program will increase the capacity of current and new teachers of the K’anienkeha (Mohawk) language. Master language educators will develop a training program for 10 new elementary school teachers and teacher aides that focuses on the Akwesasne Freedom School’s unique language curriculum.

Keres Children’s Learning Center, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, $90,000

Keres Children’s Learning Center, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, $90,000 – This project will provide expansive professional development to nine teachers through one-on-one and group training sessions on language acquisition, language immersion, cultural knowledge and advocacy. Additionally, this funding will be used to purchase supplies and other materials for elementary classrooms that have recently doubled in size.

Nisqually Indian Tribe, Olympia, Washington, $70,836

This project will help preserve and promote tribal traditions through the development of a Nisqually Lushootseed-specific language curriculum. With this grant, the tribe will develop and publish 200 new resources, including Lushootseed alphabet and language books. Additionally, the tribe will train up to four more Lushootseed language teachers and create a Lushootseed font application.

Northern Arapaho Tribe, Fort Washakie, Wyoming, $90,000

This project will support the development of a master-apprentice language program to educate and empower Northern Arapaho tribal members. Tribal elders will develop Arapaho language curriculum (i.e., Arapaho words, phrases, stories, history and conversational pieces) that they will share with prospective Arapaho language teachers who will, in turn, share that knowledge with students.

Oneida Nation, Oneida, Wisconsin, $89,954

This project will increase the number of proficient first-language speakers within the Oneida community by creating an immersion-only classroom that utilizes the current On^yote’aka Tsi Nitwaw^not^ and Head Start “As it Happens” curriculum. Twenty students will participate in this language program. Their parents are also required to attend bi-monthly classes and pass a basic assessment to foster an at-home language environment for their children.

Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, $90,000

This project will build the organizational and professional capacity of the Yaqui Language Immersion Program. Eleven teachers will engage in the study and practicum for their professional development as language instructors.

Salish School of Spokane, Spokane, Washington, $90,000

This project will provide Salish training to four interns recruited and hired from among parents of current students at the Salish School of Spokane. Interns will participate in 60 hours of evening/weekend Salish classes per year, with the goal of eventually hiring them as Salish immersion instructors.

Standing Rock Community Development Corporation, Fort Yates, South Dakota, $90,000

The project will utilize the newly created immersion curriculum to pilot educational best practices in the classroom, create an immersion teacher training strategy, increase access to high-quality professional development, and leverage existing staff and resources to transition from a program of Sitting Bull College to a community serving school through the Standing Rock Community Development Corporation.

Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, Porcupine, South Dakota, $90,000

This project will provide 26 language instructors with professional development training. Additionally, this grant will be used to open a second Lakota Immersion Childcare Center to provide immersion education to 15 more Lakota students.

Wolakota Waldorf Society, Kyle, South Dakota, $86,174

This project will utilize new and existing resources to provide language immersion to 50 to 60 children in grades K-8. With this grant, it will set up an outdoor classroom to introduce students to indigenous plants. It will develop curriculum to teach words and phrases about traditional plants, fruits, tools and ecology. It will also be used to provide professional development training, and encourage parent and community engagement.

Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, Mashpee, Massachusetts, $90,000

This project lays the groundwork to expand the Wôpanâak’s language immersion school to the 8th grade. The school currently serves students from pre-K through 4th grade. With this grant, the school will partner with five regional colleges and universities to provide comprehensive state and tribal language teacher certification. This will allow the school to recruit and hire new language teachers.

2018 Grantees

Chickaloon Native Village, Chickaloon, Alaska, $90,000

The Ahtna Nekenaege’ Ugheldze’ Ghitnaa Pilot Project will serve Pre-K-8 students of the Ya Ne Dah Ah Tribal School. After the passing of the last fluent language speaker/teacher, the Chickaloon Village Tribal Council prioritized the preservation of cultural lifeways through the implementation of a curriculum and testing assessment standards developed over the past three years for Ahtna culture and language immersion instruction.

Kama’aha Education Initiative, Hilo, Hawaiʻi, $90,000

The project will be guided by the rediscovery of Hawaiian scientific terminology and concepts found in ancestral texts and their integration into Pre-K-12 school curriculum, online resources and training for Hawaiian language immersion teachers. The goal is to provide culturally-responsive teaching grounded in Hawaiian knowledge in order to better support student learning in the subject areas of language, math and science.

Keres Children’s Learning Center, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, $90,000

The goal is to expand and increase the capacity of staff to develop children, ages 2.5 to 6, into healthy, responsible, Keres-speaking adults in the primary Keres immersion classroom. Training will be provided in best language immersion and Montessori practices and by refreshing the classroom materials and equipment to better nurture and revitalize the Keres language, culture and traditions.

Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Baraga, Michigan, $90,000

The project, Indooziitaamin, will primarily focus on the Migiziinsag preschool program. It will strengthen the current program through increased use of language and cultural activities, and will prepare teachers to encourage more frequent Ojibwe language use by providing recurring training, evaluation and a curriculum. Additionally, family-oriented events will be held to promote language use between community members and increase cultural awareness.

Nez Perce Tribe, Lapwai, Idaho, $90,000

The project will create a formal immersion training program for future Nez Perce language teachers, who will serve students in preschool through college in the three main on-reservation communities of Lapwai, Orofino and Kamiah/Kooskia. The key points of this project are mentoring, job and life shadowing, curriculum methodology, curriculum development, and professional development training.

Ohkay Owingeh, Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico, $90,000

The project offers an additional opportunity for tribal members age 6-17 in the public and tribal schools’ current language immersion programs to continue Tewa immersion through after-school programs. Programs include connecting with tribal elders through mentoring activities, community service, and cultural-retention activities. Language immersion will be provided by community members who have obtained the tribe’s certification as Tewa teachers.

Oneida Nation, Oneida, Wisconsin, $90,000

The tribal language department will expand the Oneida immersion program to include the 10-16 students in the Oneida Head Start. This class will be structured to utilize On^yote’aka Tsi Nitwaw^not^ and Head Start “as it happens” curriculum objectives, along with additional cultural components, and to serve children in a setting where Oneida is the first language they learn.

Salish School of Spokane, Spokane, Washington, $90,000

This project will increase intergenerational use and transmission of Salish language. This will be achieved by expanding the Salish immersion school programming from K-5 to include grades 6 and 7, deepening and expanding the Salish immersion teacher training program, sustaining the Salish language training program for parents and community members, and creating new Salish language math, science and literacy materials.

STAR School (Painted Desert Demonstration Project), Flagstaff, Arizona, $90,000

The project will intensify the Navajo language immersion efforts in early childhood (ages 3, 4 and 5). The Alchini Bighan (children’s house) serves 36 Navajo children and follows the Montessori model of “learn by doing” with the language immersion approach that entails conversational learning rather than direct instruction. In addition, the project will provide a six-day Diné language immersion camp for students in grades 1-8 that will focus on plant knowledge and traditional food.

Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, North Dakota, $90,000

The project will create a comprehensive, coherent Pre-K immersion curriculum based on Dakota/Lakota immersion activities and materials developed since 2012, The curriculum will serve teachers and students at Lakho’iyapi Wahohpi orany D/Lakota preschool or daycare centers interested in creating an immersion environment, along with parents and community members who want to support language learning in the home.

Waadookodaading, Inc., Hayward, Wisconsin, $90,000

The Agindamaadidaa! (“Let’s Read!”) project will develop a sequence of Ojibwemowin leveled reading books that will align with new Ojibwe literacy assessments being developed. Leveled readers match a student’s reading ability level, or “lexile,” with texts written at that level. Although these are commonly available for reading series in English, this will be the first series in Ojibwe. The focus of the first readers will be sets for students in K-1, 2-3 and 4-5.

Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, Mashpee, Massachusetts, $90,000

Mukayuhsak Weekuw Wôpanâôt8ây Pâhshaneekamuq supports expansion of the Wôpanâak immersion language nest (preschool/kindergarten) to serve lower elementary students (grades 2-4) through teacher certification and fluency training, parent literacy development, and comprehensive planning to ensure a family and community-driven school design grounded in Wampanoag culture. Community planning will engage all four Wampanoag tribes and governing councils who contribute to the vitality of WLRP’s immersion and other instructional programs serving 4,000 citizens among the greater Wampanoag Nation in southeastern Massachusetts.