English, yes — Navajo, no

On election day, Arizona voters resoundingly passed an Engish-only ballot initiative that’s meant to kill bilingual education for the state’s many Latino schoolchildren. But the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that the California millionaire who brought that state’s successful English-only initiative to Arizona, didn’t think about the consequences for Arizona’s large population of Native Americans.

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The tiny fraction of Indian children who attend tribal schools won’t be affected, but the vast majority are in public schools. Some public elementary schools in Indian communities teach early grades in both English and the local Native American language to help kids become proficient in the native language, then phase into all English in higher grades. It’s an effort to protect and preserve Indian languages, some of which are in danger of vanishing entirely.

For some Arizona Indians, the passage of the initiative brings back memories of the time from the 1860s through the 1960s when Indian children were sent to government-run boarding schools and punished for speaking their native languages. “This is like history repeating itself,” said one Indian official.


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