Native Village
Youth and Education news
October 2010 Volume 1

Native voices heard at national language summit
Condensed by Native Village

Washington DC: Indian educators met on Capital Hill in July for the National Native Language Revitalization Summit. They told legislators and officials that Native languages may be alive and well, but tribes need financial help for their voices to flourish.

Ryan Wilson believe $3,000,000 - $5,000,000 in federal funding should be made available for language programs.

“We are at a unique moment in history for the federal government to assist with the revitalization of Native language and culture,” said Wilson, president of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages.

Wilson cites many reasons the government should help. Most important, he says, is the United States ability to save the remaining cultures they tread upon for hundreds of years

Cultural Survival Quarterly agrees. It writes: “Those who may ask why the federal government has a role in revitalizing Native American languages need only look to the sorry history of federal regulations and practices to obliterate Native languages – and to the recent administrative efforts to undermine them – to find an affirmative obligation to help save those languages that remain. ”

Cultural Survival also requested a White House initiative on Native language revitalization. The agency would help coordinate activities and establish national working groups and conferences.
“It is not overstating the case to assert that without a coordinated federal approach, increasing numbers of Native American languages will go extinct in the immediate future,” according to the request document.

Meetings were held with members of Congress and the Obama administration.  They were told that drastic action is needed.  Without it, more than 70 Native American languages will become extinct within the next 10 years,” 

Some Congressional members seemed more than compelled.

“I think you’re fighting for something that is so important,” Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., told attendees. “If you don’t have language, the culture disappears.”

Federal officials also took part and promised to help strengthen Native languages.

Jefferson Keel is president of the National Congress of American Indians, which co-hosted the summit. He says the NCAI also passed a resolution saying Native languages are in “a state of emergency."  It calls on the White House to take action.

Washington has taken positive steps in many areas, including the Native American Languages Act and the Esther Martinez Act. But some rules and regulations block progress.

Interior Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk will hear more from Native educators on language revitalization. He invited Wilson to meet with department officials.


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