Tribes want elders to be certified as native language teachers

LANSING, MI – A measure awaiting action by the Michigan Senate would allow tribal elders to teach native languages in public schools.

The state allows native languages to satisfy Michigan's high school graduation requirements. Tribal leaders hoped that would help save native languages from extinction.

"The Potawatami language is classified as an endangered language, it's a dying language," Ken Meshigaud says.

Meshigaud is the tribal chairman of the Hannahville Indian Community in the Upper Peninsula. He says now there's another problem - pretty much the only people left who are fluent in native languages such as Potawatami are elders who don't have state-issued teaching certificates.

"Not many schools or colleges offer Potawatami language as a major or a minor in their college degrees, so this is one avenue that we think will work," Meshigaud says.

The bill would allow tribal elders who are fluent to be certified by the state as language instructors who would expose younger generations to dying tongues.

There's no word on when the state Senate might vote on the bill.