On December 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Native American Language Resource Center Act. The bipartisan legislation, authored by U.S. Senator 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. The bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
“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,” said Senator Schatz.“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 bill 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 is also set to become law. The bipartisan bill named after Durbin Feeling, a renowned Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran who passed away on August 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.