Ethnic identity of Seneca Nation students in Seneca language revitalization program.
Lesher, Janelle L.
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There were once 300 indigenous languages spoken in the United States. Today, only 35 of those languages are still in use and are in severe risk of extinction (Reyhner, 2000). Causes of this language loss include social, economic, and political factors (Whaley, 2003). Due to the prominence of White culture and its necessity for success in the U.S., many Native American populations are losing their heritage language, and with that, their sense of ethnic identity. To combat the rapid rate of language loss, various Native American nations are implementing language revitalization programs, including the Seneca Nation. The goal of this study was to measure the ethnic identity of Seneca Nation students participating in a language revitalization program, as well as to determine the effects that the program has had on their ethnic identity. The participants of this study included seven Seneca Nation students enrolled in the Seneca language revitalization program of a school district in Western New York. Data was collected through a paper Likert-scale survey and an audio-recorded focus group. Results were varied and showed that some Seneca Nation students participating in a language revitalization program possessed a strong sense of ethnic identity while others demonstrated a weaker ethnic identity. Furthermore, the Seneca language revitalization program has positively affected and strengthened the ethnic identity of its participating Seneca students. This study may aid as a source for further research i this area.
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