Language Education Policy Studies
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Indigenous Regions

This page is about language in education policies specifically oriented to Indigenous languages. The term Indigenous, in relation to the nature of the languages, as well as status as languages in need of revitalization is defined in the section explaining the field of languages. Here the goal is to explore language in education policies on a worldwide basis in terms of both educational strategies and in pursuit of their potential to contribute to planetary diversity and sustainability.


If humanity were to recognize the value and need for multilingualism for the many stakeholders, the question of Indigenous language revitalization through prestige planning, status elevation, and language in education policies to allow for this would be a priority and a reality. The massive loss of languages has not occurred on this scale in known human history. The difference too lies in the situation of depleted earth resources and concurrent loss of biodiversity. Even those who deny the link cannot deny that this loss is occurring, and that there are serious environmental and social dangers in front of us due to global warming, loss of ozone layer, wars and violence, poverty.


Linguae francae would not have to preclude multilingualism. Diversity of languages could exist with a unity of purpose that acknowledges the interconnection of peoples and respect for the earth that we inhabit. Solutions may be found in the languages if allowed to live and flourish. This may now be the time for such a shift in thinking. Some Native American prophecies tell of such a time, for example, Lighting the 7th Fire of the Ojibwe people of Canada and the U.S.


The advent of a globally-organized educational initiative in the post 1990 and post Cold War era has furthered the shift away from traditional languages and education. During the same time, there has also been a more concerted activism of Indigenous peope globally, leading to for example the 2007 Charter of Indigenous Rights. The charter affirms the importance of language for culture and identity, negating the sociolinguists who claim that “minorities” do not want to maintain their languages. Tellingly, the countries with the most linguistic diversity- Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States- objected to the charter and took up to two years to ratify it. Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea, a small island with over 800 languages, adopted a highly successful model. (See Papua New Guinea, Endangered Languages, Social Practice and Social Justice.)



Dunbar, R., & Skutnabb-Kangas (2007). Forms of Education of Indigenous Children as Crimes Against Humanity? Expert paper written for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


Hornberger, N. (1996). Indigenous Literacies in the Americas: Language Planning from the Bottom Up. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.


Hornberger, N. (1998). Language policy, language education, language rights: Indigenous, immigrant, and international perspectives. Language in Society (27), 439-458.


Hornberger, N. H. (2010). Can Schools Save Indigenous Languages?: Policy and Practice on Four Continents. New York: Palgrave, Studies in Minority Languages and Communities. ISBN-13: 9780230285002

Liddicoat, A. J. (2007). Models of national government language-in-education policy for indigenous minority language groups. 2007 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society.


Olthius, M., Kivela, S., & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2013). Revitalising Indigneous Languages: How to Recreate a Lost Generation. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


Pease-Pretty on Top, J. Native American Language Immersion: Innovative Native Education for Children and Families. American Indian College Fund.


This web page has a copyright. It may be referred to and quoted, or reproduced and distributed for educational purposes according to fair use legislation only if the following citation is included in the document:

This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. M. (2013). Indigenous. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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