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Bill introduced to preserve Native American languages

 —John Blaire

On September 13, U.S. Representatives Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Luján, and Steve Pearce introduced legislation to reauthorize a program to preserve Native American languages. The Esther Martinez Native American Language Act provides grants to support Native language immersion programs and is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. This bill would extend that authorization for an additional five years.

Since 2000, 390 grants have been awarded under the program for a total of nearly fifty million dollars to help preserve Native languages through language immersion programs. Language preservation is an important element of broader efforts to preserve and protect Native cultural traditions because cultural nuances may be lost when translated out of their original language. Expanding fluency in Native languages helps tribal communities preserve their cultural traditions and ensures that these languages will not be lost to future generations.

The Esther Martinez Native American Language Act, which was originally authorized in 2006, was named after a woman who taught the Tewa language at Ohkay Owingeh and helped develop language preservation strategies around the southwest.

U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (SD-D) introduced the companion bill on September 13 in the U.S. Senate.


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