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Young, Leger Fernández Introduce Legislation Establishing the Native American Language Resource Center to Revitalize and Restore Indigenous Languages

Washington, D.C. Today, Representatives Don Young (R-AK-AL) and Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM-03) introduced the House companion to Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Senator Tina Smith's (D-MN) Native American Language Resource Center Act. This legislation would create a designated resource center for the protection, restoration, and long-term stability of Native American languages spoken across the country. Congress has previously funded 16 Centers for Foreign Language Excellence within various higher education institutions to provide support for foreign language learning. However, no such center has been established for Native American languages, despite the federal government’s trust responsibility to Alaska Native, Native American, and Native Hawaiian languages.

"There is no Alaska history without the rich culture and traditions of Alaska Natives, who have called our state home for centuries. Language is one of the most important ways that our Alaska Native communities pass on stories and customs to future generations," said Congressman Don Young, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples. "With 20 Native languages spoken in Alaska, we must be doing all that we can to foster learning and long-term resilience for them. Too many languages spoken by Indigenous people in Alaska and across the country face the threat of being forgotten; that must not happen. I am proud to introduce the Native American Language Resource Center Act alongside Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández. This bill is crucially important. Through it, we can ensure that our universities and other learning institutions provide needed support for Native languages so that future generations can learn the traditions of their ancestors."

“My parents helped pass the 1973 Bilingual Multicultural Education Act by which Tewa, Tiwa, Towa, Keres, Navajo, Apache, Zuni, and Spanish are taught in schools,” said Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández, Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples. “I grew up understanding the importance of preserving our languages. They hold the key to our collective identity, our rich culture, and lived history. The federal government at one time tried to eliminate Native languages – not anymore. Passing the Native American Language Resource Center Act gives us an opportunity to uplift the Indigenous wisdom and stories of our Native American brothers and sisters, in their own words, in their own language. I’m proud to co-lead on this bill to ensure that Native languages will live on for generations to come.”   

The Native American Languages Resource Center created under this legislation would:

  • Establish a consortium of institutions that reflect the diversity of Indigenous communities across the country, with a focus on languages, oral traditions, and culture.
  • Implement support for Native American language immersion programs and schools serving children and adults from pre-kindergarten to post-graduate students.
  • Implement a central outreach to existing Native American language programs.
  • Produce resources and best practices to support distance learning.

Original cosponsors in the House include: Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II (MO-05), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Kaialiʻi Kahele (HI-02), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Tom O'Halleran (AZ-1), David E. Price (NC-04), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).

Text of this legislation can be found here.

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