Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has joined forces with Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to preserve Native American languages.
This week, the senators introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, which will establish a grant program to fund American Indian language educational programs across the country. The bill’s sponsors hope that the program will improve Native American high school graduation rates and better prepare students for higher education and employment.
“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 place.”
“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.”
The bill will award grants to programs that utilize Native American languages as the primary form of instruction. Tester, Johnson, Begich and Schatz are all members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.