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2024 Montana Primary elections

Tribes will have a larger voice in the state Indian Language Preservation program

These Browning kindergartners spend part of their day learning in English, and part of it learning in Blackfeet. The school's aim is to have a class of fluent Blackfeet speakers by the time the students graduate from high school.
Courtesy Emily Ritter Saunders
These Browning kindergartners spend part of their day learning in English, and part of it learning in Blackfeet. The school's aim is to have a class of fluent Blackfeet speakers by the time the students graduate from high school.

Montana tribes are closer to gaining more authority in a state program designed to preserve Indigenous languages.

The state Office of Public Instruction last week released draft revisions to the Montana Indian Language Preservation program, which was created a decade ago to provide funding to help tribes stem the tide of language loss.

The proposed revisions implement a bipartisan law sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder passed during this year’s legislative session. Windy Boy says the changes include new curricula and increased tribal involvement in Native language instruction across all Montana schools.

“I wanted the tribe to have a seat at the table,” Windy Boy told MTPR.

The Legislature also made the program part of the state’s ongoing budget, meaning lawmakers will no longer have to advocate for the program to continue every two years.

Nine Indigenous languages are spoken within Montana, at least three of which were critically endangered as of 2019, according to the Montana Budget and Policy Center and the United Nations.

View the proposed changes. Feedback can be emailed to milppubliccomment@mt.gov.

An Aug. 11 public meeting is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. in the Montana Room on the second floor of 1300 11th Ave in Helena, or online here. Public comment on the proposed rules ends a week later.

This year, the Montana state legislature passed a bill that provides funding for public schools to start immersion programs in native languages. It’s part…

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing austin.amestoy@umt.edu.
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