Thursday, July 13, 2006

Another Northwest Native American Language At Risk

In Nanwalek up in Alaska, the last fluent speakers of the Northwest Native American language Sugt'stun want the school district to give academic credit to students for studying the dying language. But Kenai Peninsula school officials point to budget cuts, federal education standards, Nanwalek's low student test scores and say students must focus on academics such as English and math. "If we add something somewhere, we have to cut somewhere else," said Norma Holmgaard, a district director. "Personally, I think it's really important, but professionally, I can say, is it the responsibility of the School District, or is it the responsibility of Nanwalek?"

Members of the 230-person Northwest Native American community say the Sugt'stun language will disappear if it isn't passed down to their children. "Kenai Peninsula is the Sugpiaq homeland. We are the last band of survivors of the Sugpiaq people," said former bilingual aide Sally Ash. "We consider it an insult that we have no say about how our village school is run." School officials suggest Nanwalek students wanting language credits could take an online Spanish course.

See Free Spirit Gallery for Northwest Native American Art Carvings

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