The University of New Mexico’s Department of Linguistics and Lobo Language Acquisition Lab are launching the Indigenous Child Language Research Center to follow the progress of infants and children at the Saad K’idilyé Diné Language Nest.
“Children hold the future of their languages in their hands. When children are no longer speaking their Indigenous languages, those languages will cease to thrive among speakers,” linguistics professor Melvatha Chee said.
This virtual center will be the first of its kind in the country, according to UNM’s announcement.
The new center will document Indigenous language development with a focus on producing Navajo speakers during the best learning age, which is childhood.
The linguistics department at UNM conducted a study of native languages and the Navajo verb.
The study shows that despite continued usage of the Navajo language by tribal elders, fewer children than ever before are learning it as a first language.
In New Mexico, there are eight Native American languages spoken and 11 New Mexico counties with Native American lands.
Santa Ana Pueblo offers its own language and culture program for Pueblo students, which is included in the Santa Ana Department of Education Summer Program.
They aim to preserve the Tamayame people. Tamayame is the Keres language name for the people of Santa Ana Pueblo.
Studies show Navajo is the most spoken native language in the United States.
However, several other native languages are close to extinction.
“Today many native languages are in danger of dying out, taking with them an irreplaceable part of the first Americans’ traditions,” National Commissioner of Administration for Native Americans Lillian Sparks said.