Aaniiih (White Clay)
niinénnh nnááákich ééíh White Clay People Speaking White Clay Language Together

Aaniiih Nakoda College is located on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Harlem, Montana. With only 30 fluent speakers still alive, the Aaniiih language stands on the brink of extinction as a living language, and the only hope of survival is teaching the language to the tribe’s children. The NLCC Language project, niinénnh nnááákich ééíh (“White Clay People speaking White Clay language together”), goal is to establish an integrated system of Aaniiih language instruction on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation that will result in increased numbers of Aaniiih language speakers in all age groups and at all levels of fluency.

As with most language programs, Aaniiih Nakoda College learned to pivot and adapt their curriculum, classes, and meetings to a virtual platform during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Full Profile

Aaniiih Nakoda College is located on the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation in Harlem, Montana. The mission of the college is based on a commitment to maintaining and revitalizing indigenous lifeways for Native students; enrollment is open to everyone who cares to attend. The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is located in north-central Montana and is home to two tribes: the Aaniiinen (the White Clay People or the Gros Ventre) and the Nakoda (Assiniboine). The two tribes are joined together as the Fort Belknap Indian Community, which was organized in 1934 under the Indian Reorganization Act. The Aaniinen and Nakoda are two distinct tribes, each with its own unique language.

With only 30 fluent speakers still alive, the Aaniiih language stands on the brink of extinction as a living language, and the only hope of survival is teaching the language to the tribe’s children. Aaniinen (White Clay People, or Gros Ventre) tribal members living on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation concluded that the greatest problems facing the successful revitalization of the Aaniiih language are that: (1) too few opportunities for children of all ages to learn and use the language exist, and (2) too few instructors are available to teach the language. The NLCC project will focus on the revitalization and maintenance of the Aaniiih (White Clay) language.

The NLCC Language project, niinénnh nnááákich ééíh (“White Clay People speaking White Clay language together”) serves the residents of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Aaniiih Nakoda College, a tribally controlled community college chartered by the Fort Belknap Indian Community Council, serves as the lead institution for the project. Key partners include the White Clay Immersion School, local Head Start and Early Head Start Programs, Harlem High School and Dodson High School. A coalition of local educators and community leaders will be responsible for coordinating project efforts that will provide a seamless system of Aaniiih language instruction from pre-K to college on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

The project goal is to establish an integrated system of Aaniiih language instruction on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation that will result in increased numbers of Aaniiih language speakers in all age groups and at all levels of fluency. The project will achieve this goal by achieving the following objectives.

  1. Producing four guidance documents, which will provide the framework for integrated planning, delivery and assessment of Aaniiih language instruction on and around the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.  
  2. Aligning Aaniiih language instruction from pre-school to college, which will result in an increase in the number of Aaniiih speakers at all levels of age and fluency.
  3. Offering Aaniiih language educational opportunities for current and future Aaniiih language teachers, which will provide them with skills and credentials to deliver quality Aaniiih language instruction.

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the fifth year of the cooperative agreement. The tribe canceled classes, closed the reservation, etc. Aaniiih Nakoda College team adapted their curriculum to teaching via a virtual platform, and then worked with their students and staff to identify those with little to no access to the internet, developed a plan to connect to their students, and developed learning packets. Aaniiih Nakoda College will continue to work through the pandemic virtually as they learn what works best for their community to become engaged.

Below you will find the links to Aaniiih Nakoda College’s introduction video, website, and social media pages.

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