April 11, 2007

Yeagley Wrong Again, Surprise Surprise!

from the Bad Eagle Journal

Remember this Yeagley “pontification” about the urgent and dire need for an English Only policy?

David Yeagley — “Official English: For Indians, Too” (Feb. 2007)
Well, surprise, surprise, it turns out that Yeagley was — you guessed it — wrong again, according to the actual facts. Yeagley tried to argufy that English Only policies don’t actually harm the revitalization efforts of American Indian languages, but the research has determined otherwise — they do! So while Yeagley rants on about the so-called dangers of so-called illegal people, and calling forth all manner of paranoid bigotry to discourage the natural order of diversity itself, it seems Yeagley has been duped by his right-wing employers ... again.
David Yeagley — “If there is any fading of Indian language, it isn’t because of this law. No such "English Only" law existed before. How could it be blamed now? It’s just Democrat, Leftist paranoia at work again... Why on earth would any American Indian leaders object to legislation affirming that English is the language of the United States? Indians have been speaking English for some 300 years now. Are these Indian leaders seriously worried that such legislation will have any affect whatsoever on Indian language and culture of the two hundred Indian languages still spoken today? This Oklahoma legislation is simply about preventing illegal aliens—Mexicans—from defacing American culture. It has nothing to do with American Indians. English-only legislation has been provoked by the 7 to 20 million mostly Spanish-speaking people illegally immigrated to the United States... Certain far-sighted leaders in America ... want to correct it. They are right... I definitely think "English Only" is a good thing... I’m Indian, not Mexican. I’m Comanche, not Maori! I'm a man, not a herded animal” (Feb. 2007)
Okay, so Yeagley likens Mexicans and Maoris to herded animals, right. However, Yeagley is again completely wrong about Native languages, as proven by detailed research. The research was first published in The Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, Volume 12, Special Issue III, Summer 1993, pp. 35-59. A portion is reposted below, along with all the references. And yet again, if you STILL think Yeagley is on to something good, or STILL think he is a scholar, or STILL think he even knows the real facts, THINK AGAIN. Yeagley reasons about as well as he spells, that is, not so well.

On October 30, 1990, President Bush signed the Native American Languages Act, Title I of Public Law 101-477.1 Congress found in this Act that "the status of the cultures and languages of Native Americans is unique and the United States has the responsibility to act together with Native Americans to ensure the survival of these unique cultures and languages" (102, 1). Congress made it the policy of the United States to "preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages" (104, 01). "The right of Indian tribes and other Native American governing bodies to use the Native American languages as a medium of instruction in all schools funded by the Secretary of the Interior" is recognized (104, 5). Furthermore, the act declared that "the right of Native Americans to express themselves through the use of Native American languages shall not be restricted in any public proceeding, including publicly supported education programs" (105).

The Native American Languages Act has three important implications. First, it is a continuation of the policy of Indian self-determination that has been effect over the last twenty years. Second, it is a reversal of the historical policy of the United States Government to suppress Indian languages in Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and other schools. And third, it is a reaction to the attempt to make English the official language of the United States. The Act represents the grass roots support of Indian people for their native heritage. This article looks from a historical perspective at what impact the implementation of the American Indian Languages Act might have on Indian education... The history of the suppression of American Indian languages is especially relevant today as organizations such as U.S. English and English First lobby for a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of the United States... (Jon Reyhner, 1993)
Despite Yeagley’s opinions to the contrary, it appears that both the educational scholars and the government agree that the “scare” factor is not a liberal phenomena but a right-wing anti-American sentiment. It appears that bilingual efforts in traditional American Indian languages are more patriotic, and hold a greater connection to the founding documents of this country than does the ranting of Yeagley and those who agree with him.

Further, it appears that the pontifications of Yeagley are nearly identical to the 19th-Century racist declarations that formerly promoted those failed English Only policies. Those policies were simply "reactionary" impulses based on a perceived, but delusional, fear of illegal immigration, and not tied to any sound analysis nor rational education policy.

Quite simply, the facts show that English Only policies have overwhelmingly failed in every single instance where employed, and more hurt Indians than help them. The piano doctor, once again, has proven he is not only anti-Indian by adopting the racist behavior of past eras, but that he is a phony patriot as well.


The rise of support for English-only instruction in this country is correlated with the rise and fall of the perceived threat to the "American way of life" by immigrants to this country and thus is a form of xenophobia. In the Nineteenth Century the imagined threat was from immigration... The result for Indian education was the removal of government support for mission schools and an instructional emphasis on "Americanization."... Vine Deloria, Jr.'s recently described these past European educational efforts as resembling,
indoctrination more than it does other forms of teaching because it insists on implanting a particular body of knowledge and a specific view of the world which often does not correspond to the life experiences that people have or might be expected to encounter. (1990, p. 16)
Today, the perceived threat is from increased immigration from Asia and Central and South America. Before non-Indian Americans insist on "Americanizing" Native Americans with "English-Only" instruction today, we need to examine thoroughly why the Nineteenth Century effort of Atkins, Morgan, and others failed. Moreover, we need to reexamine traditional attitudes toward freedom and self-determination that Americans so strongly advocated recently for minorities in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union while often ignoring these same basic human rights for America's indigenous minorities.

Non-Indian Americans need to respect Indian peoples rejection of the old assimilationist approach to Indian education that can be found in the recently passed educational policies of several tribes, including the Navajo (1985), the Northern Ute (1985), and the Pasqua Yaqui (1984). For example, Navajo Tribal leader Peterson Zah declared in the preface to the tribal education policies that,
We believe that an excellent education can produce achievement in the basic academic skills and skills required by modern technology and still educate young Navajo citizens in their language, history, government and culture. (Navajo Division of Education, 1985, p. vii)
In seeking to preserve their cultural heritage, tribes are not rejecting the importance of English language instruction for their children. William Leap (1982) could find no tribe that had let native language restoration outrank the importance of teaching English. American Indians are seeking to follow a bilingual "English Plus" philosophy that will preserve their heritages and will allow their children access to jobs in the White Man's world. The Native American Languages Act of 1990 is the American Indian's answer to the English-only movement, and the Act's bilingual/multicultural educational approach is supported by the dismal historical record of assimilationist approaches to Indian education in the US...

The present government policy of self-determination for Indian tribes fits well with the democratic and libertarian philosophy expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Policy makers and educators would be better advised to focus on promoting and testing instructional practices that have shown promise for Indian students because the practices allow for cultural variation and reinforce strengths of American Indian cultures. Attempts to repeat past government policies that called for wholesale replacement of Indian cultures with "American" culture that were tried in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries violate basic human rights, do not make educational sense, and hold little promise for success. (Jon Reyhner, 1993)


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