$35M in Federal Grants for Alaska Native Education
Kei Naltseen Haa Sgóoni is a language immersion preschool designed to increase academic performance of Alaska Native students.
Federal grants totaling $35.3 million pay for twenty-eight programs statewide to support Alaska Native students and teach Native languages and culture. The US Department of Education awarded the three-year grants through the Alaska Native Education program, recognizing the unique educational needs of Alaska Native children and adults.
“Every Alaska Native student—in rural and remote villages, in regional hubs, and in urban centers—should have access to high-quality and culturally responsive educational opportunities,” says US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “These projects help fulfill that obligation by supporting existing partnerships between students, families, schools, and Alaska Native organizations.”
Grantees use their funds for development of curricula, programs that address the education needs of Alaska Native students, and the development and operation of student enrichment programs in science and mathematics. Eligible activities also include training and professional development for educators, early childhood and parent outreach, and enrichment programs.
Recipients include school districts, Alaska Native nonprofits, and tribal associations. Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, which is working toward qualifying as a tribal college, receives $817,394 for “Tumyaraa: The Path Bridging Program.”
The largest single grant, $2.6 million, goes to Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) for its “Opening the Box” culturally responsive STEAM education for middle school. Altogether, SHI receives almost $9 million for four different programs. Other large grants go to the Knik Tribe, splitting $6 million among four programs; $2.2 million to Calista Education and Culture for its Yuuyaraq culture camps; $1.5 million to the Bering Strait School District’s “Circle of Learning”; and $1.2 million to the Yukon Koyukuk School District for a math and science project.
The Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska gets $1.2 million for its Kei Naltseen Haa Sgóoni (Our School is Being Strengthened) program, one of eight in Southeast Alaska. Kei Naltseen Haa Sgóoni is a partnership between Tlingit & Haida’s Cultural Heritage and Education Division, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, and Cedar Group to increase academic performance of Alaska Native students by providing a language immersion preschool.
There are currently nine children enrolled in the program. With the new funding, staff plan to improve the quality of materials and produce a video mini-series in the Lingít language.
Tlingit & Haida President Richard (Chalyee Éesh) Peterson says the grant helps revitalize languages in Southeast Alaska.
“Our Indigenous languages are vital to ensuring our identity and place among this land continues for generations to come,” Peterson says. “This funding ensures we can continue to build the capacity to increase Lingít language immersion efforts, nurture the reemergence of our languages through the voice of our children, and develop online educational resources for all of our tribal citizens and language learners.”
“These funds address many needs throughout Alaska, including academic and postsecondary success, language preservation, culturally relevant curriculum development, and teacher professional development in ways that maximize Native ways of knowing and learning,” says US Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Alaska’s Native educators and leaders have a proven track record of providing culturally relevant supportive services that enable Alaska Native youth and adults to succeed academically, professionally, and personally.”