Language Advocates Seek $10 Million in Federal Appropriations

Native Americans from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., on June 4 and 5, 2007, to lobby Congress to appropriate $10 million for the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act, which was unanimously passed by the House and Senate in December.

The act, named for a 94-year-old Tewa author and language teacher, funds native language immersion programs throughout the country. Grants will support Native American language-nest programs that provide instruction and child care in Native American languages. The act also will support language survival schools and language restoration projects.

But in a tight budget year, everything turns on appropriations. Language advocates point out that Congress has not increased funding for Native American language and other economic and social programs in five years. This has resulted in a 12 percent drop in the value of funding dollars. Currently 562 federally recognized tribes and dozens of other native groups compete for approximately $4 million for language revitalization. Only 23 percent of all applicants receive funding.

Because the need is so great, Ryan Wilson (Oglala Lakota) formed the National Alliance to Save Native Languages, a coalition of organizations and language advocates--including Cultural Survival--that are working together to ensure that the Esther Martinez bill is fully funded. Regional tribal alliances from every part of the country presented resolutions appealing to House and Senate members to appropriate $10 million for language revitalization. Other leading language revitalization advocates, including presidents of tribal colleges, directors of Native American language revitalization and educational programs, and directors of indigenous non-governmental organizations, joined the National Alliance to appeal to members of Congress for their support.

(For more information on how you can help ensure that critically endangered Native American language revitalization efforts receive the federal funding they need, visit the Cultural Survival Native Language Revitalization Campaign site)

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