AP Photo/Argus Leader, Jay Pickthorn
Sen. Tim Johnson was one of the senators who introduced the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014.

Johnson, Murkowski Introduce Native Languages Bill

Office of Sen. Tim Johnson

Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014. This bill reauthorizes the Native American languages grant program, administered by the Health and Human Services Administration for Native Americans, through fiscal year 2019.

“Since first being signed into law, the Native Americans Languages Act has helped to preserve and revitalize Native languages and encourages both young children and adults to develop a fluency in their Native language,” Johnson said. “Across South Dakota, this vital grant funding gives the opportunity for our cherished Lakota elders to sit down with the younger generation to revive the Lakota language. The continuity of these languages strengthens Native American culture and history, and I will continue to push until this reauthorization is signed into law.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski

“Our Alaska Native languages are alive and spoken today, yet we have much work to do to keep them alive,” Murkowski said. “Our Native languages are at risk, and if they are not passed to the next generation the richness of our Native cultures are at risk. We must be doing all that we can, whether it be within our public schools, our universities, our Native institutions, or in the home.”

According to the National Indian Education Association, by the year 2050, there may only be 20 Native American languages remaining. The Native American Languages Act was first signed into law in 1992 and established a grant program within the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to ensure the survival of Native languages. Language maintenance grant funding provides opportunities for grantees to assess, plan, develop and implement projects. It has been shown that, in addition to the preservation of Native languages, this type of learning promotes higher academic success for students.

The following Senators have cosponsored the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014 (S. 2299): Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

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hesutu's picture
Submitted by hesutu on
It would be helpful if announcements about bills could come with more specific information since it is so often that general claims about what the bill says or are expected to accomplish prove misleading or insufficient. Here is something of a dashboard on this bill's status: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s2299 The summary and status are here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:s2299: The text is not yet available, but perhaps by the time this is posted: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:S.2299: This is a reintroduction of a 2012 bill so perhaps the very brief text is comparable. Here is the text of that bill: Section 816(e) of the Native American Programs Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 2992d(e)) is amended by striking `2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012' and inserting `2013 through 2017'. Here is what it is reauthorizing. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/2992d So it updates "There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out section 2991b–3 of this title such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012." to instead read "There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out section 2991b–3 of this title such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2013 through 2017." Or more likely, 2014 through 2018 now. So we are talking about an unspecified amount of funding for §2991b–3. But what does that say? Let's take a look. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/2991b-3 It says the Secretary of HSS can give certain agencies mentioned in 2991b(a) a grant "to assist Native Americans in ensuring the survival and continuing vitality of Native American languages" and these grants may to be used for certain specific suggestions that are then listed, but the grants need not be strictly limited to that list. However the list is so specific it seems possible they'll prefer programs taken from the list. In the applications section it has restrictions and requirements required to get the grants, and that grants are good for only 1-3 years. Also seems to say that participants have to give copies of all materials to the "Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development" and the bill "shall not be construed to authorize Indian tribes" to sell language materials produced to that Institute or to any national or regional repositories. In any case, to see what this article is actually talking about, refer at the list in the above final link. I'm working on language revitalization myself and it's difficult, sometimes costly, and long time work with probably little chance of success, no supporters, and many detractors. Have to try though, if we can no longer speak and think in our language then who are we? As I am not a "public and nonprofit private agency", these sorts of programs don't apply, but that's OK. I wonder what sort of programs this act has funded. Hope it's doing some good.