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Schatz-authored Native American language bill passes

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure Thursday that would bolster Native American language schools and programs with coordinated support.

The bipartisan Native American Language Resource Center Act, authored by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, now heads to President Joe Biden for final approval.

“As we have seen in Hawaii, native speaker-led language programs have proven that culturally based instruction is key to revitalizing and maintaining indigenous knowledge and traditions,” Schatz said. “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 proposed Native American Languages Resource Center will be composed of institutions housed at multiple locations throughout the country, reflecting the geographic diversity of Native American languages, cultures, and communities. According to Schatz’s office, 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.

Rep. Kai Kahele, D-Hawaii, praised the passage of the measure.

“As a parent to two daughters who have been raised in the olelo Hawaii immersion education program since they were 15 months old, I was proud to cast my YES vote today for S.989 a bill authored by my colleague Senator Brian Schatz — the Native American Language Resource Center Act,” Kahele posted on his official social media accounts. “This bill, headed to the President’s desk, is a BIG DEAL for the indigenous language revitalization movement nationally, and Senator Schatz made sure Native Hawaiians were included in the bill.”

Also advancing Thursday was another native language measure sponsored by Schatz. The Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act, named for an acclaimed Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran, calls for a review and recommendation on how federal agencies can improve coordination in support on Native American languages and would authorize a federal survey of Native language use and programmatic needs every five years.