Masters Thesis

Resisting linguistic genocide: language revitalization and immersion schools in Lingít Aaní, Southeast Alaska

The issue of language revitalization is central to the viability of Alaska Native communities. In order to resist language loss and ensure that languages are transmitted to younger generations, immense social efforts are required. Immersion schools have the potential to create more self-determined educational paradigms that are defined by internal cultural values rather than external western ideals, while simultaneously working to create a new generation of fluent speakers. However, immersion education is hindered by state and federally-sanctioned requirements that reduce communities’ abilities to sustain immersion schools, which this thesis argues is an issue of social justice. These state and federal requirements are in conflict with international and national laws and agreements that guarantee Indigenous groups the right to self-determined educational paradigms in the language of their choosing. In 2015, legislation was introduced to support the creation of immersion charter schools in the State of Alaska. With Alaska’s assimilationist history, the very creation of such legislation signals a shift in Alaskan politics. Through interviews, textual and content analysis, participation observation, community action research, and grounded theory methodologies, I find that Tlingit efforts to establish immersion schools are hindered especially by: 1) dominant culture teacher certification, and 2) required monolingual standardized testing.

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