[lg policy] State crisis? Lost languages to join opioids ’emergency’ declaration Gov. Walker declared a state disaster in February. The disaster is opioids, and his act made anti-overdose drugs widely available. It is the first such declaration in Alaska that didn’t pertain to an actual natural or economic disaster. Last week, the Tlingit Haida Central Council marched on the Capitol to demand a “linguistic emergency” be declared. The problem? The Senate majority, not completely sold on the House majority concept of a language emergency, was trying to tame a resolution and instead label Alaska’s dying languages an “urgent” problem. That was not enough: Tlingits who marched through the halls wanted it to be declared an official state emergency by the governor. Alaska Native languages are on the wane and most will be gone by the end of the century, if nothing is done to preserve them. Government must act, advocates say, although many conservatives would argue it is not the governmen

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Apr 23 12:00:33 EDT 2018


State crisis? Lost languages to join opioids ’emergency’ declaration
Gov. Walker *declared a state disaster
<https://gov.alaska.gov/newsroom/2017/02/governor-walker-issues-disaster-declaration-on-opioid-epidemic/>*in
February. The disaster is opioids, and his act made anti-overdose drugs
widely available. It is the first such declaration in Alaska that didn’t
pertain to an actual natural or economic disaster.
Last week, the Tlingit Haida Central Council marched on the Capitol to
demand a “linguistic emergency” be declared.
The problem? The Senate majority, not completely sold on the House majority
concept of a language emergency, was trying to tame a resolution and
instead label Alaska’s dying languages an “urgent” problem.
That was not enough: Tlingits who marched through the halls wanted it to be
declared an official state emergency by the governor.
Alaska Native languages are on the wane and most will be gone by the end of
the century, if nothing is done to preserve them. Government must act,
advocates say, although many conservatives would argue it is not the
government’s role to save a certain language from extinction.
Indeed, none of the Alaska Native Corporations conduct their meetings in
Tlingit, Yup’ik, or Deg Xinag.


Rep. Daniel Ortiz of Ketchikan, a member of the Democrat-led majority
introduced HCR 19 this session to declare the linguistic emergency.

The declaration would set the state up to to budget funds that would be
used to preserve the languages, although it’s unclear how such money would
be made available, since the bill has a fiscal note of zero.

Likely, the next step would be to introduce a law that requires the dying
languages be taught in public schools.

[image: Hawkins] <http://hawkins2018.com>

The movement started back in 2014, when Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins got a
bill passed that added 20 Native languages as official languages of
Alaska. That bill also drew a Native-led sit-in that lasted 15 hours in the
Capitol.

Official Alaska languages include Inupiaq, Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan
Yup’ik, Alutiiq, Unanga, Dena’ina, Deg Xinag, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Upper
Kuskokwim, Gwich’in, Tanana, Upper Tanana, Tanacross, Hän, Ahtna, Eyak,
Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. It was a start, language advocates said.
There will be more to do.

The “more to do” is lined out in the HCR 19 sponsor statement from Rep.
Ortiz:

*“The state has moved in the right direction by acknowledging and
recognizing the 20 Alaska Native languages as official languages of the
state; however, recognition is just the first step. The intent of this
resolution is to heed the suggestions put forth by the Alaska Native
Language Preservation and Advisory Council (ANLPAC).*

*“The Council strongly urges that the Governor issue an Administrative
Order, recognizing the linguistic emergency that exists, and state that it
is the policy of the State of Alaska to actively promote the survival and
continued use of all of Alaska’s 20 Native languages.*

*“In their 2018 Biennial Report to the Governor and Legislature, ANLPAC
warned that all 20 Alaska Native languages are in crisis, and most are
predicted to become extinct or dormant by the end of the 21st century. The
State of Alaska can no longer sustain these rates of language loss unless
policy changes are enacted that support people who are learning and
speaking Alaska Native languages throughout the state.*

*“The loss of language represents the loss of a critical piece of our
history, culture, and a traditional way of life. I respectfully request the
Legislature join me in support of ANLPAC and the languages that represent
intergenerational knowledge.”*

The bill is now in Senate Rules and is scheduled for a Monday vote on the
floor.

-- 
=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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