Bilingual Education Oil and the Navajo Nation New Challenges and Opportunities in Arizona Research Paper

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Bilingual Education, Oil, and the Navajo Nation:

New challenges and opportunities in Arizona

The question before the researchers was to find the best means of providing the State of Arizona with the rights to pursue geological surveys of land in the Four Corners region of Arizona. This report is designed to provide Governor Brewer with the best possible information regarding the Navajo people, their language, the issues both positive and negative that may be present in this negotiation, and how the law of the state will be affected by this issue. The introduction covers the tribe and the language proposal and then two separate proposals ranked in order of viability (first is most viable and so on) are provided with the pros and cons of each.


The Navajo Nation

United States law has decreed that American Indian tribes have governance over their own land and that the tribal government can negotiate with state governments when there is any dispute or need to use the land. The land grants are secure for all uses and exploration of said land grants, including mineral rights (CSKT). This provides the Navajo Nation with the ability, according to federal law to block or assist in any way they see fit any use of the land granted to them by the U.S. government.

In land dealings in the past, the Navajo Nation has presented itself in opposition to any exploration or actual industry that could be considered a detriment to the land (Navajo Nation). They have successfully fought in federal court against the State of Arizona regarding land use on multiple occasions and have won some concessions that have set precedent for further negotiations. The Navajo nation has been relatively friendly with the state government, but it may be necessary to gain concessions from the Navajo Nation Government in the first negotiations, or they will seek to use the strict legal letter of the agreement to either not allow extraction of the resource in the future or to force further concessions from the state government which is their right. The proposals presented allow for this possibility, and make it possible to have an extensive agreement with the Navajo Nation Government that covers both exploration and extraction in an environmentally safe manner.

Bilingual Education

In 2000, the people of the State of Arizona voted that English Language Learner students of the state's primary and secondary schools (either those students who have a primary language other than English or who have another language primarily spoken in the home regardless of their English language proficiency) would be taught in English making it the primary language in the schools. Prior to this act, the children of Arizona could be taught using any of a number of languages (primarily Spanish) as long as they were also being taught proficiency in English at the same time. The reason for this was that it was assumed prior to the passage of Proposition 203 that students could learn more efficiently in their primary language and that English would be a natural byproduct of the fact that they were also instructed in English. This system worked for many year, but there were studies conducted that cast doubt over the prospect that students were effectively being taught English and that bilingual education led to both confusion for the student and less successful prospects as an adult. Proposition 203 states that "all children in Arizona public schools shall be taught English by being taught in English" (Mahoney, Thompson & MacSwan). To date the gist of the proposition has been only minimally successful with estimates putting the effectiveness anywhere from 11% proficiency to 37% (Mahoney, Thompson & MacSwan). This effectiveness was gauged based on the law which stated that students would be able to gain proficiency in one year with the immersion technique. This has not proven to be a factual assessment from the data presently collected (Mahoney, Thompson & MacSwan). Most research studies conducted over the past decade in the United States point to the fact that it takes many years to actually gain proficiency in a dense and confusing language such as English and that students actually benefit from being taught in both their native language and English (Shin 14). One study found that bilingual students were better able to read in English from a young age than English monolingual students (Shin 14). The assumption from the data is that having already become proficient in one or more languages makes it that much easier to understand the structure and grammar of another. Thus, the students actually do better on English language tasks.

The issue here is that the people of Arizona who most vociferously backed the original proposition will be adamant that the passage of Prop 203 covers all children in the state and that the children of the Navajo Nation should not be exempt. They will also present the case that the governor, or any representative body in the state has the ability to simply countermand the will of the people expressed in a proposition that was passed by an overwhelming majority (68%). This could be an issue for the governor at election time, but it could also stall the negotiations with the tribe as cases are introduced to the Arizona courts seeking to block the negotiations. Thus, this has to be presented as an advantage to tribe, the people of Arizona and the citizens of the United States. Since it is preferable that energy come from within the United States, a proceeding that will benefit citizens of every stripe across the United States, it is best to do whatever is necessary to promote this possibility.


I. First Proposal: negotiate with the Navajo Nation to allow schools within the nation the right to teach its children in bilingual classroom provided the State of Arizona is allowed to explore the potential of the oil field in the Four Corners region, and that the state shall have exclusive rights to negotiate with oil companies regarding extraction of the oils

A. Pros of the First Proposal

1. The nation will be able to teach its children as it sees fit.

a. The students will be able to gain instruction in their native language which research shows could prove more successful than single language immersion.

b. The change in language instruction will allow the children who are do not have the English language as their first language to more successfully learn the primary language of their country if they can learn it while being instructed in other matters in their primary language.

2. The presence of the resource will be definitely ascertained.

a. It is not known at this time what the extent of the oil field is or if it is possible to extract the resource to any advantage. This exploration will allow experts to determine if there is oil and the extent and depth of the field.

b. The methods of exploration are completely environmentally friendly which is a primary concern of both the Council and the state. This will allow the experts to pinpoint the concentrations prior to any negotiations regarding exploratory drilling.

3. Negotiation rights for extraction will be shared by the state and the tribe.

a. Drilling can be done in a manner that will leave a very minimal impact on the environment (EFD). These techniques will be of the first priority during the negotiations phase of the project.

b. The state and the tribe will be able to reap the financial benefits of the discovery.

B. Cons of the First Proposal

1. Proposition 203 states that English language immersion is the only way the state will allow language education to proceed.

a. Lawsuits may proceed from this agreement making it difficult to gain the positive results of the other parts of the proposal.

b. Studies, so far, have proven inconclusive as to which is preferable, English language immersion or structured bilingual education (Mahoney, Thompson & MacSwan). However, recent studies seem to indicate a preference for structured bilingual education (Shin 15).

2. The oil field may prove to be smaller than promised or there may be no cost effective method to mine it.

a. There are any possible outcome of a geological survey of the field:

i. Proves to be large and accessible

ii. Proves to be large but inaccessible iii. Is smaller than promised and only slightly profitable

iv. Is very small and unprofitable

3. The tribe could choose to negotiate any further rights as a single entity.

II. Second Proposal: The tribe is not allowed the concession that they have required but they do agree to negotiate with the federal government as to the oil reserves since the field encompasses more than the state of Arizona.

A. Pros of the Second Proposal:

1. This will eliminate the need for groups to protest the possible rescission of Prop 203 for this special case.

a. The court cases could be very costly to the State of Arizona and could ultimately, after…

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