Lawmakers Aim to Preserve Native American Languages
Native language revitalization work may get a boost thanks to a new bill introduced in the Senate. The Esther Martínez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act aims to strengthen Tribally-developed Native American language revitalization programs and to improve the grant program that funds a variety of language learning activities such as Native language immersion and language teacher training. The bill is named after Esther Martínez, an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo traditional storyteller and Tewa language advocate who passed away in 2006. There were once more than 300 indigenous languages spoken in the U.S. and approximately 175 remain today. The effect of European settlement was a deleterious one to Native American language and culture -- and that’s putting it very mildly. Without restoration efforts, there will be at most 20 still spoken in 2050. This legislation to preserve these languages was introduced by the New Mexico delegation of Democratic lawmakers: Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small. “The preservation of language is essential to the sovereignty and continuation of the rich history and cultural traditions of Native and tribal communities. Yet, too many Native languages will face extinction in the coming decades without sustained intervention,” said Luján. Haaland, one of the first Native American women elected to Congress and member of the Pueblo of Laguna, weighed in touting the need for resources: “The resilience of Indigenous culture lies in keeping our languages and traditions alive, but many times the resources needed to continue those cultural education programs is lacking or completely absent.” Torres Small added, “I’m proud to join the New Mexico delegation to honor Esther Martinez’s legacy and ensure our Native and tribal languages live on and are passed down to future generations.” More here.