Finding Advanced Study Programs in Native American Languages

Self-study, CDs, and textbooks? Oh my! If you live in or near a college town, there’s a good chance you can take a formal study program in a Native American language – or even get a full-blown degree.

courtesy of University of Arizona

photo courtesy of University of Arizona

The University of Arizona recently took the step of turning its American Indian Studies Program into a complete Department, creating a Bachelor’s Degree in the subject.

Colleges – especially tribal colleges — and universities are the most likely to offer advanced study in Native languages, usually through their departments for Linguistics, Anthropology, or specialized institutes for study of Indigenous cultures and issues.

If you’re ready to pursue a degree, there are abundant resources for finding your program. The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) posts a list of Native American study programs, most of which include language study.

The web site not only posts a similar list, it also includes suggestions for how to build a career on your studies. Another wide-ranging list of degree programs is found at Indigenous Peoples Issues.

If you want to concentrate just on the language, this college-search portal lists five colleges that offer such a language major. Two of the colleges are tribal institutions.

Just to keep endangered-language study in perspective, find out what an academic linguist discovered when she dove into documenting an “extinct” California language: Tongva … and then met with ethnic Tongva Natives who wanted to learn it.

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