“A Viable Path for Education”—Indigenous-Language Immersion and Sustainable Self-Determination

Teresa L. McCarty, Joaquín Noguera, Tiffany S. Lee, Sheilah E. Nicholas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This article examines Indigenous-language immersion (ILI) schooling, an innovative approach in which most or all instruction occurs in the Indigenous language, with a strong culture-based curriculum. With the goals of promoting language revitalization, academic/holistic wellbeing, and cultural identity and continuance, ILI is a form of sustainable self-determination. We ground our analysis in a growing body of ILI scholarship and preliminary findings from our research in a mixed-method, multisite, US-wide study of ILI schooling. The study asks: What can ILI teach us to improve education practice for Native American learners? How can such a study inform research, theory, practice, and policy for Indigenous and other minoritized learners? We begin with a brief history of ILI movements in the US and then discuss ILI’s de/anticolonial aims, highlighting connections to sustainable self-determination. We illustrate these processes with examples of pedagogical, communal, and nation-building goals and practices evident in our national study. We conclude with the broader implications of ILI as a “viable path for education” for sustainable enactments of Indigenous self-determination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-354
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Language, Identity and Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021


  • Indigenous education
  • Indigenous language revitalization and reclamation
  • Indigenous self-determination
  • language immersion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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