US House Appropriations Subcommittee Recommends Near Doubling of Native Language Program Funding

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Jun 13 21:44:38 UTC 2007


  House Appropriations Subcommittee Recommends Near Doubling of Native
Language Program Funding [image:
Print]<http://www.tanasijournal.com/main/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=254&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=1#>
 Byline/Source:
Ryan Wilson, Save Native Languages Alliance     Tuesday, 12 June 2007

New funds targeted at Native American language nests, language survival
schools, and language restoration programs.

The House Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the
House Appropriations Committee met Thursday, June 7, 2007, to mark up the FY
2008 Labor, HHS appropriations bill. Included in the mark-up was an increase
in funding for Native American Programs in HHS, from $44 million to $47
million, with the extra $3 million targeted at implementation of language
immersion and restoration programs authorized by the recently passed Esther
Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006.

Currently less than 10 percent of the ANA budget is spent on language
programs, with only 1 percent spent on immersion programs. The new funds
would increase total funding for ANA language programs from the current
level of approximately $4 million to a new level of approximately $7
million.

This day may well mark the turning point in our efforts to halt the dramatic
decline in Native languages and, indeed, to commence their revitalization,?
said Ryan Wilson (Oglala Lakota), President of the National Alliance to Save
Native Languages. President Wilson added, "Although the National Alliance
sought a $10 million boost, this new funding will definitely jump-start a
lot of critical programs and is a great increase in a tough budgetary
environment."

The National Alliance to Save Native Languages represents a broad coalition
of Indian country, including tribes, tribal organizations, language experts,
teachers and students, united in their goal of revitalizing Native
languages. The National Alliance held a language summit in Washington, DC on
June 4-5, 2007, and has held many meetings over that last nine months with
members of Congress and their staff to express the importance of Native
language survival and to urge support for language immersion and restoration
efforts.

President Wilson stated, ?Indian Country had a great champion in Congressman
Tom Udall (D-NM) on the Labor, HHS Subcommittee. He was a co-sponsor of the
Esther Martinez legislation and, when he became a member of the
Appropriations Committee this year, made it a personal priority to secure
funding for its programs.? President Wilson added, ?This national effort
also secured great backing from the leadership of the Native American caucus
with the co-chairs, Congressman Dale Kildee (D-MI) and Congressman Rick
Renzi (R-AZ) sending a joint letter to the appropriators urging their
support for increased funding. We remain grateful for Congresswoman Heather
Wilson?s (R-NM) leadership on the authorizing legislation, and that of House
Education Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and Ranking Member Buck
McKeon (R-CA), as well as many others who have been allies in this effort.?

There are about 175 Native languages still spoken in the United States, but
scholars believe that 155 languages are ?moribund,? meaning that they are
spoken only by adults who are no longer passing the language actively down
to the next generation. Native educators have found that immersion programs
are successful at teaching fluency in Native languages to the next
generation, which means that these languages will survive.

President Wilson noted, "Our work is not done. This is only a beginning,
albeit a good one. The Senate appropriators have yet to decide on funding
for these programs, where we want to seek even higher increases. Even with
new funding, ultimate responsibility for success lies within our own
communities. Indian country has been united in this effort, with great
leadership not only from the National Alliance?s membership, but also from
the National Indian Education Association, National Congress of American
Indians, the Navajo Nation, and literally scores of other tribes and tribal
organizations. If we remain united, we shall succeed!"

The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006 or HR
4766 was signed and passed into law by President George W. Bush in December
2006 amending the Native American Programs Act of 1974 adding clauses that
would open up grant opportunities to Native American Language Nests, Native
American Language Survival Schools, and Native American Language Restoration
Programs.

Related Links:

http://www.savenativelanguages.org

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