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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01)

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Albuquerque, N.M. – Today, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) introduced the House companion bill to Senator Brian Schatz’s (D-HI)  announced her introduction of the Native American Languages Resource Center Act, a bill to create a designated resource center for the protection and stability of Native American language education. 

Congress funded 16 Centers for Foreign Language Excellence in various universities to provide support for foreign language learning. Yet, no such center has been established for Native American languages, even though the federal government has a trust responsibility to Native Nations. 

“The beauty of a Native language is something that has been passed down from generation to generation, but the federal government has fallen short on resources to teach these languages. I learned some Kares from my grandparents and my mom, who still speaks our language fluently, but we’re at risk of losing the language and the traditional knowledge that comes with it. That’s why Senator Schatz and I introduced Native American Languages Resource Center Act. This bill will protect our Native languages and ensure the next generation has access to the traditions of our ancestors.,“ said Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Vice-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus

Over the past three decades Native-run nonprofits and tribal entities have developed exceptional Native American language immersion programs. The COVID-19 crisis threatens to destroy 30 years of progress made by grassroots efforts in vulnerable communities, progress that may not be able to be fully restored without prompt intervention. Operating with limited resources, Native American language schools and programs desperately need coordinated, experienced support in best practices, including how to use technology to instruct, develop teaching materials, and certify Native American language teachers. 

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has led to school closures, job losses, financial insecurity for families, the collapse of Native American, local and state economies, and most tragically, a disproportionate number of Native American lives lost. Now, more than ever, Congress needs to take decisive actions in furtherance of the trust responsibility of the U.S., and carry out the commitments and policies enacted under the Native American Languages Act. Without action, years of progress in preserving and revitalizing Native American languages will be lost, putting many languages on the precipice of extinction again.

The Native American Languages Resource Center would:

  • Be a consortium of institutions that reflect the diversity of Native American languages, cultures and communities throughout the United States. 
  • Provide support for Native American language medium/immersion programs and schools serving children of all ages and at all levels of learning, from Pre-K to PhD. 
  • Provide a central outreach to other Native American language programs. 
  • Provide necessary resources and best practices to support distance learning.

The original House co-sponsors of this bill are Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Emanuel Cleaver II (MO-05), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Ed Case (HI-01), Derek Kilmer (WA06), Don Young (AK), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Paul Cook (CA-08), Ben Ray Luján (NM-03), and David E. Price (NC-04).

The Native American Languages Resource Center Act is endorsed by Tribes, Tribal organizations, and groups and organizations supporting the protection and stability of Native American language education. 

“The National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs supports the Native American Languages Resource Center Act. As we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the passage of the 1990 Native American Languages Act, we applaud the vision of Representative Haaland and Senator Schatz to establish a center to support Native American Languages. We must quicken the pace over the next thirty years in our language revitalization efforts to ensure this protection and promotion is rightfully sustained for our next generations. A focused Native American Language Center is an important next step to support the rights and freedom to use our Native American languages now and into the future.” -Leslie Harper, President, National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs

“The establishment of a Native American Languages Resource Center will play an important role in amplifying the voices of Native Americans and ensure that Native languages will live on for generations to come. The Joint National Committee for Languages is proud to endorse legislation that provides essential resources to support the revitalization of Native languages in communities across the country. On behalf of the over 300,000 language educators and professionals that JNCL-NCLIS represents, we would like to thank Congresswoman Haaland and Senator Schatz for their work to protect and support Native American languages and cultures.” -Alissa Rutkowski, Policy Manager, Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies