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Johnson, Murkowski Introduce Native Languages Bill

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Washington D.C. (KELO AM) - Senators Tim Johnson 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.”

“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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