Teacher Credentialing in Native American Languages: State Policies and Implications for Language Survival


  • Lajos Szoboszlai University of California at Davis, Linguistics Department, Davis


Many Native American groups in the United States are working to revitalize their languages (Hinton 2008). Native American communities have had a subordinate relationship with the US Government since the earliest days of its existence. US policy and its colonializing pressure on Native Americans have had a devastating effect on the languages and cultures, leading in many cases to their demise (Churchill 2004). Explicit and de facto language policies have contributed in large part to the impoverished current state of Native American languages. Outside of outright slaughter of Native Americans, educational policies specifically have been the most powerful tools used for eradication of the culture and language of Native Americans (Tinker 2004).

This paper examines the teacher credentialing of Native American language speakers in 9 states. The degree to which policies remedy or perpetuate historical patterns is explored. Intent and implications of these policies is analyzed in terms of real world applicability. Some policies exclude the very groups they purport to help. California AB544, for example, allows only federally recognized Native American groups to credential teachers of their languages. The credentialing process may thus remain inaccessible to Native Americans whose languages have few remaining speakers. These and other policy points are evidence of a failure to adequately address the needs of many Native American communities struggling to maintain their languages. This paper concludes with a discussion of an alternative approach to the credentialing process found in Canada.