The Jemez Pueblo community broke ground on their Walatowa Early Childhood Learning Center with the help of $6.2 million in New Mexican funds dedicated for the center. The new building will assist the Pueblo of Jemez in maintaining its language preservation program.
And because this community is the only one that speaks the Jemez language, also called Towa, it gives the tribe an opportunity for cultural preservation. Everyone involved in the new learning center’s development and opening attests there’s a significant need for a place like it in the area.
“The center is the Pueblo’s top priority infrastructure project, as there is a great need in our community to provide a safe facility for early childhood education and language learning,” Jemez Pueblo Gov. Raymond Loretto explains.
A Childhood Program Changing Education
The Jemez Pueblo Early Childhood Program has incorporated a language immersion program since 2013, leading the way in preserving a rare Native language.
Over the years, about 100 Jemez children up to five years old have participated in the language program. Additionally, the program is inclusive of Head Start and Child Care services. And, all the teachers and childcare providers are fluent in the Jemez language.
“Our unique and valuable community-based education incorporates the community’s vibrant traditional calendar as well as art, music, dance, learning through movement, play, and exploration of our community and nature through science and math,” Lana Garcia, the program’s manager, explains.
The Need For More Language Immersion
Implementing Jemez language into early childhood programs ensures that a large portion of the Jemez Pueblo culture isn’t lost forever. It’s also important to children because they may live in a household where the language is not spoken.
“When we teach our cultural ways and traditions, our language,” Gov. Lujan Grisham says, “it shows support for both Jemez Pueblo children and their families.”
Head Start teacher Gloria M. Tsosie has high hopes for the future of the Walatowa Early Childhood Learning Center. She envisions the building will provide more classroom space and be able to offer more lessons centered around the Jemez culture. Also, Tsosie expects the community’s language immersion will inspire more tribes in the state to start similar programs.