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National Alliance to Save Native Languages says “Thanks”

Dear Editor,

The National Alliance to Save Native Languages commends Congress and the White House for passing H.R. 4766, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006.

With a stroke of a pen, President Bush etched across the pages of history a very real commitment to Native American languages. Five years ago, the President presented surviving members of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers with Congressional Gold Medals. Today, the language they used and all Native languages are being honored by America.

In a dramatic turn of political events, Congress and the White House have given the English only movement and the spirit of a one-language nation a break to honor and acknowledge the contributions of the first languages spoken on these shores.

While president of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), Ryan Wilson (Oglala Lakota) made this bill and the language revitalization effort

the NIEA’s number one priority. He continues this advocacy as president of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages.

“America’s long dark night of oppression and apathy toward the culture, spirituality and languages of her first peoples is giving way to a joyous daybreak of hope,” says Wilson. “The National Alliance to Save Native Languages applauds Congress, the White House, and congratulates Indian Country on the tremendous effort that inspired resolve for continued cultural survival.”

“We save our future when we save our languages,” says Tex G. Hall, who is a board member of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages and also Chairman of the Inter-Tribal Economic Alliance. “All of us who are part of this effort are doing so because it means so much to the future strength of Indian Country.”

H.R. 4766 passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on December 6; it had passed the U.S. House of Representatives on September 27, on suspension of the rules. H.R. 4766 is a Republican-sponsored bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) and co-sponsored by Representatives Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) Steven Pearce (R-N.M.) and Charles Taylor (R-N.C.). The strong bi-partisan effort demonstrates that the moral vocabulary of Congress is expanding when it comes to Native languages and their unique role in America.

Passage of H.R. 4766, the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act of 2006, marks the culmination of a 14-year struggle to strengthen the Native American Language Act. It is considered by many to be one of the most crucial pieces of legislation in the last two decade because

it fundamentally changes the definition of Indian education by creating a place in American education for Native languages.

The purpose of H.R. 4766 is to preserve and increase fluency in Native American languages. It does this by funding Language Nests, Language Survival Schools and Language Restoration Programs. These programs will be a part of the Administration for Native Americans, Native American Language Programs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. H.R. 4766 also will fund Heritage language schools.

The National Alliance to Save Native Languages will monitor the implementation of H.R. 4766 and will continue to be a forceful advocate for Native languages. The National Alliance now challenges the White House to provide funding in the 2008 budget for the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act for an amount that will ensure the revitalization

of Native languages. The Alliance looks forward to working with its friends in Congress during the upcoming appropriations process.

Ryan Wilson, President,

The National Alliance

to Save Native Languages

Washington, D.C.

206.325.3942

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