New U.S. laws to support Native Hawaiian language schools and programs
President Joe Biden has signed into law the Native American Language Resource Center Act.
The bipartisan legislation, authored by US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, will bolster Native American language schools and programs with coordinated, experienced support.
“As we have seen in Hawai‘i, Native speaker-led language programs have proven that culturally based instruction is key to revitalizing and maintaining indigenous knowledge and traditions,” Sen. Schatz said. “The Native American Language Resource Center will build on this grassroots momentum to support Native American language schools and programs by providing them with the resources they need to continue to thrive.”
The Native American Languages Resource Center will comprise a consortium of institutions housed at multiple locations throughout the country, reflecting the geographic diversity of Native American languages, cultures and communities.
It will support Native language students at all levels of learning, act as a central nexus for Native American language schools and programs across the nation, and provide additional resources to enhance distance learning capacity.
The new law is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs, Joint National Committee for Languages – National Council for Languages and International Studies, and the Hawaiian Language Renormalization Committee.
In addition to the Native American Language Resource Center Act, Schatz’s Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act was also signed into law.
The bipartisan bill named after Durbin Feeling, a renowned Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran who passed away on Aug. 19, 2020, will review and make recommendations to improve federal agencies’ coordination in support of Native American languages. It would also authorize a federal survey of Native language use and programmatic needs every five years.