Native American Language Revitalization Legislation in the U.S. Congress
The LSA has been a long-time support of federal programs that support Native American Language Preservation efforts. The main vehicle for federal support has been the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act.
Recent Updates on the Status of this legislation:
- Update (2/16/17) A companion bill to S. 254 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, as HR 1169. The bill had 25 co-sponsors upon introduction. It is currently pending with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
- UPDATE (2/10/17) On February 8th, 2017, S.254 passed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. the Senate Indian Affairs Committee also approved this legislation in the last Congress. The LSA will continue to monitor the Senate bill closely. We are currently seeking bipartisan co-sponsors for companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Archive of activity from previous Congressional sessions:
- UPDATE (5/5/15): S.2299, as described below, has been reintroduced in the Senate as the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, a bill renewing and expanding a federal grant program which supports Native American educational projects. More information will come as this bill progresses through Congress.
- UPDATE (4/16/15): The programs from S.1948 described below in support of revitalizing Native American languages have been included in an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The amendment was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, April 15; the reauthorization of ESEA will now likely move to the Senate floor.
The LSA was one of the leading organizations in support of this amendment, working with groups including the National Humanities Alliance, ACTFL, and JNCL-NCLIS to raise awareness of this issue. The LSA also sent a letter to members of the Senate Education Committee expressing their support for the amendment.
Thanks to Sen. Franken for the introduction of this amendment, and to everyone who has worked to support Native American language revitalization! To stay updated on this issue, follow this page, the National Indian Education Association, and the NCNALSP.
The LSA is currently engaged in a campaign to educate and inform members of the U.S. Congress about the benefits of Native American language revitalization. In the 113th Congress (2012 - 2014), two bills were proposed in both houses of Congress which sought to enhance efforts to revitalize Native American languages:
- H.R.726/S.2299 Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014
- H.R.4214/S.1948 Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act
A hearing to examine the merits of these bills was held by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on June 18, 2014, and both S.1948 and S.2299 were unanimously approved by the Committee on July 30. The legislation gained bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, but was not brought to a floor vote before the end of the Congressional session. A list of legislative sponsors is provided below.
The LSA is working with its Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation (CELP) and allied organizations to raise awareness within Congress about the importance of Native American language revitalization. In 2014, over 700 letters from LSA members and interested individuals were sent to Congress on this issue.
The LSA has also sent thank-you letters (PDF) to all current legislative sponsors of the bills. If your members of Congress are listed as sponsors below, you may wish to do the same. The U.S. House and Senate both have online guides to help you contact your members of Congress.
At a July 2014 town hall meeting, President Barack Obama spoke on the importance of preserving Native American languages and cultures. The LSA and CELP sent a letter to the White House thanking President Obama for his remarks. The LSA also co-signed a letter from the National Indian Education Association sent to Congress in support of this legislation.
As Congress continues its work, the LSA will monitor the progress of these efforts and provide periodic updates to the membership via this page and other communications channels.
Senate Bill Sponsors*
- Brian Schatz - S.1948 & S.2299 co-sponsor; HI
- Mark Begich - S.1948 & S.2299 co-sponsor; AK
- Tim Johnson - S.1948 co-sponsor, S.2299 lead sponsor; SD
- Max Baucus - S.1948 co-sponsor; MT (no longer serving in the Senate)
- Tom Udall - S.1948 & S.2299 co-sponsor; NM
- Lisa Murkowski - S.1948 & S.2299 co-sponsor; AK
- Heidi Heitkamp - S.1948 co-sponsor; SD
- John Walsh- S.1948 & S.2299 co-sponsor; MT
- Martin Heinrich - S.1948 & S.2299 co-sponsor; NM
- Al Franken - S.2299 co-sponsor; MN
- Mazie Hirono - S.2299 co-sponsor; HI
- Jon Tester - S.1948 lead sponsor, S.2299 co-sponsor; MT
- Angus King - S.2299 co-sponsor; ME
House Bill Sponsors*
- Ben Ray Lujan - H.R.726 lead sponsor; NM-3
- Colleen Hanabusa - H.R.726 co-sponsor; HI-1
- Lucille Roybal-Allard - H.R.726 co-sponsor; CA-40
- James Moran - H.R.726 co-sponsor; VA-8
- Gloria Negrete McLeod - H.R.726 co-sponsor; CA-35
- Louise Slaughter - H.R.726 co-sponsor; NY-25
- Betty McCollum - H.R.726 & H.R. 4214 co-sponsor; MN-4
- Stevan Pearce - H.R.726 co-sponsor; NM-2
- Raul Grijalva - H.R.726 co-sponsor; AZ-3
- Ed Pastor - H.R.726 co-sponsor; AZ-7
- Raul Ruiz - H.R.726 co-sponsor; CA-36
- Tom Cole - H.R.4214 lead sponsor; OK-4
*Sponsors list current as of July 30, 2014