Nov 20, 2018 in Analysis


Construction at a site in Navajo Nation discovered the possibility of huge oil reservoirs. In order for the Federal government to continue with this extraction, they must negotiate and agree with the people living in this nation, the Native Americans. The Natives asked for support for their bilingualism, which the government had started to slowly weaken. The government has to therefore come up with a solution to this situation to ensure that there was as little conflict as possible between itself and the community, between communities, as well as between itself and other minority communities.

Bilingual Education in the United States

Bilingualism is the state where a people decide to introduce their children to two languages from a young age. This leads to the young people developing as a person with two first languages. In most cases, it is done using a cultural and a foreign language. The United States has English as its main language. On top of being the official language, it is the first language to most Americans, after being introduced to English as children. However, several minority groups practice bilingualism. These groups are mainly the Native Americans, who value their cultural roots and have strongly held onto their language and other cultural practices. The United States has had its fair share of opponents of bilingualism. In some of the modern campaigns, calls to abandon the native languages and adopt the English have intensified in the last one decade. California has already developed a legal framework that excludes any other language from being learnt in school. All official communications are done through English language. Arizona was approached with the same proposition referred to as Proposition 203, but faced more opposition than Proposition 227 had faced in California. The natives in Navajo Nation have managed to keep their culture and especially their bilingual learning in school although efforts to eliminate it are still persistent.

The Navajo People

The Navajo Nation is among the semi-autonomous communities of Native Americans in the United States. The community was allocated their land totaling to about 71,000 square kilometers. The nation has a judiciary, and has its territories well demarcated. The Navajo Nation houses the largest tribe in the United State and has adopted bilingualism in their education system, arguing that it helps them maintain their culture, as well as increasing the cognitive abilities of their children. The US laws allow the Navajo Nation to dictate what they do with their land, and the Federal government must consult with them before they embark on any developmental project there. This is so in nearly all areas that are occupied by the Native Americans.

In 2009, a US court passed a judgment that bilingualism was not advantageous to learners. In the ruling in Horne v. Flores, the court by majority indicated that there was no need for American children to continue with a bilingual system of learning. While most of the Natives value their languages, the immigrants, the people whose roots are not in the United States, have agreed that English should be introduced in all schools and that bilingualism should be stopped in all US schools. The native communities have however refused to agree with this proposition. The conflict with the federal government has therefore been derailing smooth coexistence, especially when the latter tries to initiate programs that alter the living conditions of the Native Americans.

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The Navajo Situation

The oil extraction situation in Navajo has two possible solutions. One is through promising bilingualism in Navajo schools, and the second is through denying them the request. While the first is more appealing to the natives because the government would be basically giving in to their demands, it poses some budgetary risks because there has not been any determination of the quantity of oil there is in the reservoirs. However, it would provide the best community cooperation and support as the government starts its extraction process. The second approach is less costly to the government. First, it reduces the risks of committing a lot of resources on uncertain oil reservoirs, and second, its execution would not impose a lot of responsibilities of the government to the Navajo people. However, it is more combative and would be unpopular among the residents. It would be trying to deny their right over their land, which they are legally and constitutionally allowed to control and dictate use. At the same time, the government denial for bilingual approach would lead to another worse conflict, which would eventually erode the cultural and social heritage of the Navajo people. They have in the past tried vehemently to ensure that they retain their language and culture, despite many efforts by organizations to introduce an English only curriculum all over the United States. Therefore, any move by the government that seems to support the idea of English Only agendas would be opposed strongly.

From this analysis, it is clear that the government of Arizona led by the governor have only one plausible choice. They should promise to allow and empower bilingualism in Navajo Nation.

Solving the Navajo Situation

Allowing the Navajo people to get the privilege of bilingualism would come with new challenges. First, many other minority groups have been trying to fight to get bilingualism supported by the government. If they realize that the government of Arizona was supporting bilingualism among the Navajo, they would also demand to be allowed and supported in the same way. To eliminate this, the government should put down legal procedures that they would follow. These procedures should be eliminating to ensure that not everyone could make demands over the same.

The government should introduce a policy that is supported by the Navajo natives, allowing them to chose the activity that part of the returns from extraction should help them. They should propose cultural heritage support, from which they could further choose studies of their local language, essentially bilingualism, but packaged in a nice way under the umbrella of cultural heritage support. Language is a fundamental aspect of a cultural group.

The bilingualism should also change its face. Instead of being incorporated in the curriculum, the residents would develop cultural centers where their children would go for learning. This would sink well with the plans to abolish bilingualism in schools, and further cement the government assertion that their support is more of cultural than bilingualism.

The argument behind this strategy would be to ensure that no community that does not have any resource can claim bilingualism. No Federal money is sent to Navajo, but only part of the returns from the oil extracted from their land. The decision to support the cultural centers would also not come from the government, but should be proposed by the locals, to ensure the government is not seen to contradict its position on bilingualism in schools. Through this argument, the other minority groups in Arizona would not have a claim because they do not have a resource of themselves, and the money spent on the bilingual course is only obtained from the returns from the resource. This strategy ensures that the government does not seem to go against their wish to teach English, but the idea would swerve the idea of promoting culture and consequently the cultural language.

Bilingualism is not a widely accepted concept in the United States. While native communities vehemently support its being, new era leaders and activists have discouraged its execution in schools. This has split the nation between those willing to retain the cultures and heritage, which is done through native languages, and the adoption of English as a national and the only language that is studied in schools. While the government has not been in support of bilingualism due to the cost benefit issues, the government of Arizona should not change that position. Rather, it should channel its resources in a clever way, which allows a native community to use money recovered from such resources in their region to further their cultural heritage. The native American heritage is among the most important American cultures and should be supported., Starting from the time the natives were offered land of their own, and semi autonomy in their governance, the government already appreciated their existence and need to appreciate them in a very big way. Since this course is supported across the nation, the move to support the cultural growth and heritage would in this case not be termed as support for bilingualism, but support for cultural banking. The community involved would consequently provide the specific guidelines that would help in maintaining their culture. Taken this way, other communities would be blocked from demanding for bilingualism, while the government would deliver the needs of the Navajos, and peacefully start extracting oil in their region.


The government of Arizona has to deal with a delicate issue of allowing bilingualism, if they want to have a chance of extracting the oil in Navajo nation. They must ensure that the steps they take are unpopular with the rest of the communities in the region, or would have implications in future, especially with regard to resource allocation and use. Despite the recommendations in the paper seemingly good and effective, their execution would be more important in the success of the course.


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