Action Sought on Native Language Bills

Carolyn Hepburn Carolyn.Hepburn at SAULTCOLLEGE.CA
Fri Jul 28 13:42:34 UTC 2006

Fyi item.




United Tribes News
27 July 2006

Action sought on Native language bills

BISMARCK (UTN) - Members of Congress should take action on pending
legislation that addresses the loss of Native languages across the

That's the hope of Ryan Wilson (Oglala Lakota), president of the
National Indian Education Association (NIEA), Tex G. Hall, chairman of
the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation, and David M. Gipp, president of
United Tribes Technical College. 

The three leaders believe that tribal languages are in jeopardy and will
not survive without a concerted effort, which includes help from the

"Not only are these dying languages sacred to Native people, they're
part of America's heritage," said Wilson on July 27 at United Tribes
Technical College. 

As use of tribal languages declines, NIEA's Language Revitalization
Initiative is the organization's number one education priority. 

An estimated 500 distinct Native languages were spoken in North America
prior to European contact. Fewer than 100 have survived; today only 20
different languages are spoken by Native children. 

"If we don't act now, these languages will go away," said Hall, who's
Three Affiliate tribal education system in North Dakota requires native
language training in the early grades. "Our best hope of reviving them
is by getting Congress to pass amendments to the Native American
Languages Act." 

Two bills contain elements that update the act and invigorate the
preservation of indigenous languages. Both call for creation of a
competitive grant program in the Department of Education to support
Native American language immersion programs in Native communities. The
grants would create pilot programs for "language nests" and "language
survival schools." 

"The goal is to provide a strong early foundation in the languages,"
said Wilson. "We know from the few immersion programs in existence now
that youngsters acquire the language rapidly and retain it later on." 

A 2004 Executive Order signed by President Bush promised assistance for
American Indian students in meeting the academic standards of the No
Child Left Behind Act "in a manner consistent with tribal traditions,
languages and cultures." According to the NIEA, their language
initiative is an important step toward refining the act so it works for
Native students in a manner that supports Native culture. 

"Saving the language and saving Indian people is what's at the heart of
this," said Gipp. "The research is beginning to show that effectively
taught language programs enhance the overall academic strength of
students. And that plays directly into the goals of No Child Left

Hall called on North Dakota U. S. Senator Byron Dorgan to "champion the
cause" for passage of a bill. 

A member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Dorgan co-sponsored
Senate Bill 2674, Native American Languages Act Amendments. The other
bill, H.R.4766, Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006, was
introduced by Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico. 

Originally passed in 1990, the Native American Languages Act reversed
long-standing government policies of eliminating Native languages. The
act sought to protect and promote the use and development of Native

Electing to learn a tribal language is just as valuable for American
Indian students as learning a foreign language is for mainstream
students, said Wilson. 

For more information please contact Ryan Wilson at (206) 265-3473.




Carolyn Hepburn

Director, Native Education and Training

Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology

443 Northern Avenue

Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 5L3


Phone: (705) 759-2554 ext. 2499

Fax:     (705) 759-0175



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