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Sen. Schatz Seeks to Preserve Native Languages

Posted May 28, 2015, 09:28 AM HST
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United States Senator Brian Schatz. U.S. Senate photo.

United States Senator Brian Schatz, along with four additional Senators, introduced a bill Wednesday to preserve endangered Native languages.

The additional Senators part of the bill include Senator Jon Tester, Senator Mark Heinrich, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and Senator Tom Udall.

A new grant initiative would be created by the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act and would help to establish or expand Native language immersion programs.

“Immersion schools in Hawai’i have shown us that if we incorporate culture, traditions, and language into education, we can preserve Native languages, improve student outcomes, and lift native communities,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill builds on the success of schools like Nawahiokalaniopuu and preserves our Native languages and cultures for this generation and the next.

The grant program would be established under the Department of Education. Both revitalization and maintenance of indigenous languages would be supported by the grants as educational opportunities are increased for Native Hawaiian, American Indian, and Alaska Native students.

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With the introduction of the bill, the Senators are aiming to limit the overhead costs and reduce the resource demands on tribal and school administrators seeking language immersion funding.

According to the bill, the grant program would total $5 million per year for the first five years. The grants would be awarded to tribes, tribal organizations, tribal colleges and universities, and public or private schools in order to establish or expand existing immersion classes for students ranging from Pre-K through post-secondary education levels.

There are around 148 Native languages that are spoken in the United States. According to Senator Schatz, each of those languages is at the risk of extinction within 50-100 years unless preservation actions are taken.

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