Johnson, Begich, and Schatz introduce Native languages bill
(U.S. SENATE) Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
is teaming up with Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska),
and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to preserve Native languages and help
strengthen Indian culture and education.
Tester and his colleagues this week introduced
the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act. The bill
establishes a grant program to fund Native language educational
programs throughout Indian Country in order to improve high school
graduation rates, increase college enrollment and better prepare
students for jobs.
"We are racing against the clock to save and
revitalize our sacred Native American languages," Tester said.
"Preserving Native languages will strengthen Indian culture
and increase student confidence leading to greater academic
achievement and a stronger economy. I am proud to help strengthen
Indian Country and the languages and traditions that make it a special
"Native American languages are an integral
part of American Indian culture and history," Johnson said.
"Unfortunately, throughout the decades, many Native languages
have become extinct. I believe this legislation will encourage schools
and colleges to develop and strengthen language programs to help
our young children develop a fluency in their Native language."
"Preservation of Native American languages
through revitalization efforts like this bill is extremely valuable,"
Begich said. "Through no fault of their own, our Nation's
First Peoples have suffered from various policies and reform efforts
aimed at terminating Native languages. But Alaska Natives are a
resilient people who have worked hard to preserve almost two dozen
various indigenous languages.
"Today Immersion schools and programs offer
students tremendous learning opportunities and are indicators of
student achievement and success," Begich continued. "I'm
honored to join Senator Tester in this effort and will work hard
to advance this important legislation."
"Forty years ago, the people of Hawai'i faced
the possible death of their native language. Today, through the
dedicated and concerted efforts of a strong people, the vibrant
Hawaiian language lives through thousands of speakers. The people
of Hawai'i understand the richness and importance of Hawaiian customs,
tradition, and language. We have worked to support incorporating
Hawaiian culture, tradition and language into education," said
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. "I've seen first-hand visiting
immersion schools, the vital role immersion and other Native language-medium
schools play in preserving Native languages and improving education.
This bill will support this important work."
Tester, Johnson, Begich and Schatz are all members
of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Their bill, which is supported
by the National Indian Education Association, would award grants
to eligible programs serving students from pre-Kindergarten to graduate
school that use Native American languages as the primary language
Tester recently brought Indian Affairs Chairwoman
Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to Montana, where they visited the Nkwusm
Salish Immersion School, in Arlee, Montana.
A copy of the Senators' Native Language Immersion
Student Achievement Act (S. 1948), which would provide $5 million
in 2015, is available online HERE.
It is also co-sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
|Andrea Helling / Dan Malessa
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