BIE Immersion Program
Hinono’eitiit – Highlights of thee BIE SSIS Dual Language Immersion Grant Program
This is the beginning of a permanent dual language (Arapaho/English,) kindergarten through 12th grade and beyond Immersion School, envisioned by the late Dr. Burnett Whiteplume. He often reminded us that someday, when the Arapaho language and culture were once again vigorous, we would look back at this time and say, “We didn’t start this school because we were forced to. We did it because it was the right thing to do.”
The first year of the three-year BIE St. Stephen’s Indian School Immersion School grant project has been funded in the amount of $166,000. (We anticipate approximately equal funding for at least the next two years.) The project will provide the foundation for a permanent k –12 school based on a dual-language immersion model. During this year, we have collected essential data on successful immersion schools in our region. Also, this school year, will seek a fluent eminent elder to work with a master teacher and student teacher in a classroom of 8 to 12 kindergarteners and plan the curriculum of the BIE St. Stephen’s Indian School program. The first year of actual classes is optimistically planned to begin in August 2020. Collection of evidence of the effectiveness of the immersion program will begin immediately through the program’s strong research emphasis.
We didn’t ask permission. Those in authority volunteered permission. But we did have proof that the Arapaho community believes that their culture and language should be at the heart of their children’s education. The PhD dissertation of our late friend, Burnett Lee Whiteplume, Sr., gave us this evidence. Like most elders of his tribe, Doctor Whiteplume believed that revitalization of the Arapaho language was the key to revitalization of his tribe.
This is why the BIE St. Stephen’s Indian School immersion grant is so important: it gives us the chance to preserve and revitalize the Arapaho language, culture, and ways of knowing and to prove, through research, that culture/based education enhances student achievement in every way – in meeting Arapaho education standards and in the English language curriculum. The project will provide a model for indigenous education across Indian Country and around the world.