The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) has since its founding been committed to the study and preservation of Native American languages and cultures and recognizes its indebtedness to Native American communities for advancing the scientific study of language through the sharing of time, talents, and cultural treasures, for which researchers have not always adequately or appropriately given recognition.

Currently, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) is calling for the inclusion of a provision in the next coronavirus relief bill to establish a Native American Language Resource Center (NALRC) to support Native American language education schools and programs heavily effected by COVID-19.

30 years ago, Congress passed the Native American Languages Act of 1990 (NALA). Prior to NALA, there was a long history of policy and common practice that aided in the suppression of Native American Languages. By the time NALA was passed, roughly 150 Native American Languages remained and were in danger of no longer being spoken.

Since the enactment of NALA, it has been the hard work of small and often insecurely funded early childhood immersion programs, family and student language immersion camps, specialized teacher training, and Native language K-12 and higher education programs that has made progress in reversing Native American language loss. In addition to succeeding in the reversing of Native American language loss, these programs have yielded excellent academic outcomes and propelled culture maintenance and language reclamation.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in job loss, school closures, the dismantling of Native American economies, and, even worse, a disproportionate number of lost Native American lives. The 30-years worth of progress Native American communities have made in fighting language loss has already been affected by COVID-19 and will continue to be affected in ways that are detrimental.

In 1990, the first Language Resource Center (LRC) was established by the Department of Education. Since then, sixteen LRCs have been funded by Congress, providing support to foreign language learning. Currently, despite 30 years of NALA, there is no center for Native American languages. As Native American language schools are facing issues with limited resources amidst the COVID-19 crisis, a Native American Language Resource Center (NALRC) would provide Native American Language schools and programs with necessary technology and training centered on distance learning, digital libraries and other online resources, support in the development of distance learning curricula, and pedagogical training for teachers. Without immediate support, the progress made by these programs may not be fully restored.

The LSA has written a sample letter urging senators to co-sponsor the establishment of a federally funded Native American Language Resource Center. We encourage interested members to address and send the sample letter to their respective Senators. Additionally, we have written a sample letter urging House Leadership to include the establishment of a Native American Language Resource Center in the next coronavirus relief bill. We encourage interested members to also send this letter. Please make sure to change/insert appropriate information where the text is red.

Note: Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico is already co-sponsoring this bill.  A thank you letter to Senator Udalll would be appropriate instead.

Find your senators and their contact information here.

E-mail Speaker Nancy Pelosi here

E-mail Majority Leader Steny Hoyer here

Access the sample letter for senators here: 

Access the sample letter for House Leadership here: 

Access Senator Brian Schatz's outline of the need for a Native American Language Resource Center here.