11 December 2017
Bilingual Education, Oil, & the Hualapai
To Doug Ducey, Governor of Arizona:
Arizona’s language and education policies have come in interference with the literacy of Native Americans in their heritage language. The Hualapai, made up of roughly 2,300 members, are one of numerous tribes in the Yuman language family that reside in Northern Arizona. In 1883, this federally recognized tribe had a 108-mile long reservation established by an executive order that runs along the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. It has been in this tribe’s biggest concern to preserve their traditional language as it poses a threat for endangerment, due to the decline in fluent speakers. With the recent finding of oil reserves in the lands of the Hualapai people, the tribe has proposed for the state to initiate bilingual programs in order to have access to explore the discovered oil reserves. Hualapai people, and other Native American groups in Arizona who are at risk of language loss, critically need extra resources in order to revitalize their native language, while the state needs economic prosperity in locating more energy sources within its borders. Bilingual education programs initiated by the state would not only preserve a native, tribal language from decaying but also permit future exploitation of the oil reserves by the State. However, potential problems may arise from this exchange as other minority groups might get discouraged without the same service in their native language while the “English-only” voters would constitute it as going against Proposition 203. After carefully weighing the costs and benefits of the government intervention, it appears to be a financially optimal agreement for the state to go through with in the long run.
Arizona’s Proposition 203 places restrictions on bilingual and English as a second language programs, essentiality mandating English-only education for English. The passing of this legislation negates the beautiful language of the Native Americans. Tens of thousands of Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Paiute students faced the loss of valuable bilingual tools in their transition to English. As a result, children arrived to school with no strong foundation in either language which ultimately played a toll on their education. Since there is a lack in fluent Hualapai speakers, urgent attention is needed on this issue before the language goes extinct. Written documentation is one method in preventing the language from going entirely moribund.
As the state governor, it is in your power to lead this country towards economic wealth by forming allies and building relationships with neighbors who need our help just as much as we need theirs. Based on the limited governance, Arizona is depending on the aid from the US to preserve the quickly eroding languages. Since Arizona has something of much value to offer in return, the trade off appears equally pleasing to both parties....