Dana Linnane, 269-969-2301
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – Today, the federal Office of Head Start (OHS) reaffirmed its commitment to “the full integration of tribal language and culture into every aspect of the Head Start and Early Head Start program model.” At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), we fully support full implementation by all sectors toward the maintenance of Native languages and cultures, and consider it to be essential in sustaining the identity and values essential for the well-being of Native children and communities.
Head Start programs have the potential to be a powerful tool in enabling Native children to strengthen and revitalize their indigenous languages, and to put them on a path to reach their full potential in school and life. For the more than 45,000 Native children currently enrolled in Head Start programs, this means increased opportunities to learn and grow immersed in a pride and understanding of their heritage. It means higher quality early childhood education, and it gives American Indian and Alaska Native kids the ability to know and celebrate their roots and traditions, which we know is crucial to their future success.
There is ample evidence demonstrating that providing Native children the opportunity to be immersed in their indigenous languages or learning through dual-language teaching both promotes academic success and sustains vital Native cultural traditions.
The Kellogg Foundation is supporting culturally authentic efforts across the country that will lead to a new generation of fluent Native language speakers. This includes the Pueblo of Jemez in New Mexico, which developed a clear vision for culturally based, early childhood education and is now implementing a Towa language immersion approach in their Head Start. Also, WKKF’s grantee partner, the University of New Mexico’s American Indian Language Policy Research and Teacher Training Center, is helping to increase the overall quality of Pueblo Indian tribes’ early learning programming by providing Native language curriculum design, development and implementation support. Additionally, we have seen the impact of the work of a longtime WKKF partner, the ‘Aha Pūnana Leo Native Hawaiian immersion schools, whose students have achieved significantly higher graduation and college attendance rates than their counterparts in other schools.
On behalf of the Kellogg Foundation and as president and CEO, I look forward to working in partnership with the Office of Head Start, along with tribal leaders, to put this policy into action so that Head Start programs can successfully enable children to reclaim their Native languages as they begin their path toward a brighter future.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.