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Congress Increases Funding for Native American Language Programs

Hundreds of Native language advocates convened on Capitol Hill this past May, asking Congress to approve a minimum of $10 million in additional federal support for the Esther Martinez Act, which funds Native American language immersion schools, master-apprentice programs, and other revitalization projects. Native language advocates have made the $10 million request in earnest since 2007, and the new administration heard the call. In May during the Cultural Survival and National Alliance to Save Native Languages summit, Congressional appropriators welcomed the language revitalization funding request from Code talkers, fluent speakers, and novice learners alike in nearly three dozen meetings with key members of Congress and their staffers. A $12 million increase for the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006 was signed by President Obama on December 16, 2009 as part of the omnibus fiscal year 2010 appropriations bill. The $12 million in increased funds for Native languages will be administered in a competitive grants program by the Administration for Native Americans within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.