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First Nations Language Immersion Initiative

A:shiwi A:wan Bena:we

Project Proposal:

With a population of nearly 10,000 tribally enrolled members (2015 U.S. Census),

Shiwina, or Zuni, is located in the heart of the United States Southwest at the New

Mexico/Arizona border. Zuni is considered an isolated language, meaning it does not belong to

any language group in the world. According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey,

9,432 members speak Zuni. Although this number is high, it does not account for the fluent

speakers, dwindling the number down. According to many Zuni elders and the ethnologue, the

Zuni Language is in danger of becoming extinct, as it is categorized as a 6b Threatened, as a

language status.

To have language is to have culture. Culture creates many different experiences and gives

life purpose as it comes with aspects such as dances, prayer, food, attire, core values, relations,

attitudes, ideology, belief systems, and of course, language. The loss of language and culture is

prevalent throughout Indian Country as a direct effect of colonization, assimilation, and

indoctrination of Western (Spanish, French, Dutch, etc.) society. Effects of language and culture

loss can be seen in Native nations in forms of suicide, alcoholism, diabetes, homelessness,

domestic violence, sexual assault, high school dropout rates, addiction, and mortality. Native

Americans lead in these statistics of having the highest rates than any other race in the United

States. The language and culture loss has a direct effect as the traditional values, morals,

attitudes, mindsets, thought patterns and sense of belonging are actively being restricted and

stripped from Native people. This is known as Historical Trauma, the biggest cultural genocide

in history was the implementation of Indian boarding schools less than 100 years ago. The

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First Nations Language Immersion Initiative

effects of these Indian Boarding schools are still being seen with these diseases and hardships

listed as a majority of the Native population grow up without little to no connection to the

language, culture, and land. This creates more traumas, disconnect, loss, internal barriers, and

identity crisis that too often lead to detrimental outcomes as a form of coping with this loss.

Our objective with A:shiwi A:wan Bena:we (the language of the Zuni people) our

program, is to spread traditional knowledge for the purposes of retention and revitalization of our

language, culture, history, and society. This creates cultural competency for our participant’s

understanding of the language which can be incorporated to self-identification, belonging, and

overall wellness. This will in-directly impact lives to change or lower the statistics listed above

and initiating the healing process of the historical trauma.

Through preservation projects as conducted by the Pueblo of Zuni, Zuni Public School

District, and Zuni citizens like Arin Peywa. Starting in the 1970s, the Zuni schools began

developing Zuni language materials to be used in the schools. At the same time, a “standardized”

written Zuni alphabet and dictionary were being developed. The materials that will be used in

our program can be found throughout the Pueblo of Zuni at various offices and programs. Some

of these materials can be accessed via the internet, websites, YouTube and the materials that can

be found are pamphlets, posters, recordings, songs, and videos. Although we are in the stages of

healing from traumas and internal barriers, we continue to be resilient in preserving our

language, culture, and heritage for future generations. The number of fluent speakers is

increasing through the implementation of these linguistic efforts.

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First Nations Language Immersion Initiative

Project Objectives:

A:shiwi A:wan Bena:we aims to help create and start the healing process from traumas with

these objectives:

1. Participants will be able to understand, learn, and comprehend the basic structure of the

Zuni language core values.

2. Participants will be able to measure their progress through the ZPSD Zuni Language

proficiency tests that will be administered by AAB Staff.

3. Participants will be able to compile their research into a story or retell a story for the

class, passing on the oral traditions with or without visual aid.

4. Participants will conduct a traditional demonstration of sorts for in any interest of study

they choose.

Activities Description/Implementation

The direct implementation of our growth will be measured by the projects and tests that

will be administered but will not determine if the goal is met for the individual participants as it

will be determined by the participant themselves. We aim to create a safe, inclusive, and diverse

space for educational growth, to encourage everyone to speak, listen and learn.

The program will administer the research methods of effectively conducting data on the

language proficiency/fluency through the Zuni Language Fluency test which includes Reading,

writing, oral and visual aspects where the student is required to translate back and forth from

Zuni to English (vice versa). This test directly comes from the Zuni Public School District

Bilingual Program.

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First Nations Language Immersion Initiative

The following activities will be conducted and administered by the AAB Staff.

Kiana will host and conduct a daily activity which discusses and interpret Zuni Core

Values. Throughout the program, she will hold events to focus on Tribal leadership,

government, and higher education.

Rani will host and conduct the activity where participants will engage in daily

conversation of Zuni identity and problems. Participants are able to choose their form of

expression as they can read, write, orate, dance, etc. their thoughts for an hour of the


Tre’ will host and conduct the activities of research of physical endurance and the Zuni history of

Running. Fridays will be dedicated to physical activity as participants are encouraged to walk,

run and learn about the history of running along with and not limited to Zuni trails system,

animal and plant wildlife, historical sites, human anatomy, etc.

All staff members are required to speak in Zuni after entering the space and will exemplify Zuni


Please see attached for Budget and Timeline.


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First Nations Language Immersion Initiative


Rosay, A. B. (2016, June). Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women

and Men. Retrieved from


Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, July 18). CDC Newsroom. Retrieved


Beauvais, F. (1998). American Indians and alcohol. Alcohol Research and Health,22(4),


Brown-Rice, K. (2013). Examining the theory of historical trauma among Native

Americans. The Professional Counselor, 3(3), 117-130.

Zuni. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2018, from

Hon. Arden Kucate. Native Language Preservation A Reference Guide Establishing

Archives and repositories NMAI Project Advisory Work Group

“Native Americans and Alcoholism.”, 18 Aug. 2018,

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