By Martin J. Kidston
The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded Stone Child College a $200,000 grant to develop training programs for Native American teachers, Senator Conrad Burns announced Wednesday.
Located on the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation south of Havre, Stone Child College carries an enrollment just under 300 students. But with the number of qualified Cree-speaking teachers dwindling, the college, like other schools on the states seven reservations, is looking to spark bilingual interests in inspiring educators.
Weve been able to maintain a good number of Cree speakers on the reservation, Stone Child President Steve Galbavy said. However, the numbers are dissipating, and the whole idea is to preserve the language while providing qualified teachers.
Galbavy called the Cree language one of the most progressive languages of indigenous people. Based on a Slavic component, he said it has both written and oral traditions, which makes it unique and versatile.
There is a written Slavic component to their language, which comes complete with its own alphabet, he said. The opportunity is here to preserve the written form, along with its oral traditions.
But even with a strong number of Cree-speaking teachers, Galbavy said that efforts must be made today in order to preserve the Cree language for tomorrow. And with the $200,000 grant in place, which will be aimed at promoting bilingual education, Galbavy and like-minded mentors hope to spark interest in future teachers who both know the language and have the qualifications to teach it.
The grant is a Career Ladder program for bilingual education, Galbavy said. Hopefully, the intent will result in building qualified teachers in the area of bilingual and classroom education.
Galbavy said the ultimate goal is to get more Native American instructors into the classroom. And although the Rocky Boy school system has a strong representation of Native American teachers in place, most, Galbavy said, are getting close to retirement.
Theres very few replacements for them on the horizon, he said. A program like this is to spur the interest of young people who would like to get into education. We would like to see them employed in local school districts, with the hope they have a bilingual background. It has a two-fold emphasis, getting both teaching professionals and bilingual capable individuals into the classroom.