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Schatz Bills To Support Native Hawaiian Language Schools And Programs Unanimously Pass Key Committee

WASHINGTON – Two bills authored by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) to support Native Hawaiian language schools and programs, unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, where Schatz serves as Chairman.

“Our bipartisan bills will strengthen federal support for culturally-based Native language education and make sure Native language use in Hawai‘i and across the country continues to grow,” said Chairman Schatz.

The pair of bills passed by the Schatz-led committee include the Native American Language Resource Center Act and the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act. The first bill will create a designated resource center to support and grow Native language education in Hawai‘i and across the United States, while the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act, named after a renowned Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran, would help improve federal agencies’ coordination in support of Native American languages.

“It is wonderful to receive news from Senator Schatz’s office regarding progress on his bill to establish a Native American Language Resource Center. It has been my honor to testify before Senator Schatz’s Indian Affairs Committee regarding the promise and challenges of Hawaiian language medium education and similar programs in American Indian and Alaska Native languages. As we begin our new school year enrollments are up at our main campus as well as our two satellite campuses. Much remains to be done to support our students, faculty, parents and staff. The establishment of a national resource center will be a crucial step in addressing longstanding unmet needs. I am thankful for the leadership of Senator Schatz and appreciate the years of work it has taken to get the bill this far. I will support all of his efforts to secure enactment of this important bill before the end of the year,” said Dr. Kauanoe Kamanā, Principal of Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu Hawaiian Language Medium Laboratory School.

“Over the last four decades the tireless efforts of advocates and educators has led to a resurgence of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, the Native Hawaiian language. It’s also allowed us the opportunity to encounter and overcome challenges that other Native language communities will face along their journey of language revitalization. I believe that both S.989 and S.1402 are crucial steps and vital to the progress of Native American language revitalization,” said Ka‘iulani Laehā, Chief Executive Officer of ‘Aha Pūnana Leo.

“As a Hawaiian Homesteader serving on a national Native American language education and advocacy entity, I am extremely haʻaheo to have this bill passed by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs under the Chairmanship of Hawaiʻi's Senator Brian Schatz. Last year we celebrated the thirtieth year anniversary of the Native American Languages Act (NALA) enacted into law during the chairmanship of Indian Affairs by Hawaiʻi's Senator Inouye. Now this year, another Senator from Hawaiʻi, Brian Schatz, chairing the same committee, has authored and moved forward the Native American Language Resource Center Act, legislation that will help ensure the policies set forth in NALA will become a reality. I am very proud of Hawaiʻi's role in working to save the Indigenous language heritage of our country,” said Namaka Rawlins, Vice President of the National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs.

“Weʻve experienced and benefit from the revitalization of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, especially in the development of ʻŌiwi Leadership. Our language cultivates a strong sense of identity and contributes to the health and well-being of our people. Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Schatz, the Native American Language Resource Center Act will support the efforts of our community to perpetuate many other Indigenous and Native American communities to preserve their languages which draws upon the strength of their indigenous culture and knowledge to meet the challenges that lie ahead,” said Jack Wong, Chief Executive Officer of Kamehameha Schools.

“While there is a broad range of national centers for foreign languages, there is no similar Native American language center accessible to all tribes and Native peoples of our country. Having had the privilege to work in and around indigenous media for the last decade amplifying Native voices and stories throughout the United States and the world, I am keenly aware of the groundswell movement to reverse the loss of our precious languages from our homes and communities. This new national center will be crucial to meeting the needs of grassroots community Native American language movements well into the future,” said Amy Kalili, Host, Producer and Co-Founder of ʻŌiwi Television Network.

“The Office of Hawaiian Affairs applauds Chairman Brian Schatz and Vice Chair Lisa Murkowski for their leadership to pass the Native American Language Resource Center Act out of Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today—in furtherance of the federal trust responsibility to Native Hawaiians and our Native cousins across the country,” said Carmen Hulu Lindsey, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. “The Hawaiian language movement is widely recognized as the largest language revitalization effort in the United States. While there are several national centers focused on supporting foreign languages, no such national center currently exists for the Native languages of the United States. These centers will build off the decades of hard work put in by Native language advocates by providing technical assistance to schools and communities; collecting and sharing best practices in Native language education and revitalization; and addressing historical discrimination and inequities faced by Native peoples—and they will support the Hawaiian language. Mahalo nui loa iā ʻoe e ke Kenekoa Schatz. We urge the rest of Congress to act swiftly on full passage of this bill.

“Today’s bi-partisan passage of S.989—the Native American Language Resource Center Act and S.1402—the Durban Feeling Native American Languages Act by the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs represent critical, long-awaited legislation to support the native peoples of this country. Congress will have two powerful opportunities to amend this country’s intentional denial and suppression of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. As sovereign peoples, these acts advance our efforts to revive and renormalize our mother languages, cultural practices, and genealogical connections to all things sacred while ensuring that our future generations will continue to thrive,” Dr. Walter Kahumoku III, Co-Director of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Accreditation.

“Native American languages are a national treasure, and yet far too many are endangered and close to extinction. The Native American Language Resource Center will support the efforts of Native American communities to protect and revitalize the languages of their ancestors. We are most appreciative of Senator Schatz's effort to support all Native American languages and want to thank him for his bill and for all of his efforts to ensure that our precious Hawaiian language lives on and is spoken by Native Hawaiian children and families now and forever,” said Dr. Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, Chair of the Hawaiian Language Renormalization Committee.

“The Office of Hawaiian Education (OHE) is excited by the news that the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has passed two bipartisan bills that will provide supports for strengthening Native Language revitalization efforts across the nation. We especially appreciate the leadership of Senator Schatz and other Senators who acted in a unified manner to support the establishment of a Native American Language Resource Center. The Hawaiian Language Immersion program is in its 34th year of existence within the Hawaiʻi Department of Education and continues its expansion in School Year 21-22 by adding an additional elementary site on the island of Lānaʻi and an additional secondary site in the Koʻolaupoko district at Kailua High School. OHE looks forward to engaging in educational discourse with our indigenous brothers and sisters across the continent and sharing in the benefits of this resource center to continue to build on best practices, policies, programming and projects that work towards the normalization of languages indigenous to the United States of America,” said Kaui Sang, Director of the Office of Hawaiian Education at the Hawai‘i Department of Education.