Advocates Pressure Senate to Preserve Native American Languages
Advocates told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs during a hearing last week that the government must help reverse generations of federally backed assimilation programs that left Native Americans “robbed of the ability to speak our own language.” The hearing, “Examining Efforts to Maintain and Revitalize Native Languages for Future Generations,” included few specific proposals but plenty of support from Senators on both sides of the aisle. Several speakers at the hearing mentioned the Esther Martinez Act, which would dedicate $13 million for Native American languages each year from fiscal 2019 to 2023. That bill, sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-MN), passed the Senate in November and was referred to the House, where it has yet to get a hearing. This year, the Health and Human Services Department’s Administration for Native Americans plans to give out $2 million for new projects under the act. The total budget for the Administration for Native Americans this fiscal year is $54 million. The quickly disappearing Native American languages are vanishing as their speakers become increasingly assimilated into mainstream America. The result of discrimination and political pressure to assimilate, Native American languages have nearly been wiped out over the decades. The National Indian Education Association expects that by 2050, only 20 Native American languages still will be spoken in the U.S. without assistance to continue teaching them to children. More here.