Murkowski Continues Work to Support Native Languages

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recently joined Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and other colleagues to re-introduce the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act. A long-time supporter of Native language revitalization efforts, Senator Murkowski praised the bill, which will maintain two programs that fund revitalization, expand them to smaller-size tribal language programs, and lengthen the grant periods.  

“We understand our past, ourselves, and our relationships with our family and community through our language.  For Native peoples, language is truly the foundation of their cultures and their identity.  For Alaska, one example of the importance of this legislation is highlighted by the late Chief Marie Smith Jones. She was the last full-blooded Eyak, the last surviving Native speaker of the Eyak language, and a fierce activist for Indian rights. After passing away in 2008, she left a legacy to her people—recordings of her speaking in the Eyak tongue. These recordings are truly a gift, but it’s a tragedy that young people have only those recordings of their own language and no living speakers. We must do more to ensure Native languages exist as more than just recordings, and with Esther Martinez, we can,” said Senator Murkowski. “In places like Igiugig, Bethel, Juneau, and dozens of communities across Alaska, Native language revitalization has played a big part in preparing students to be college, career, and culturally ready while strengthening entire communities.  I’m proud that this bill invests in programs to protect Alaska Native culture, history, and tradition by insuring the vitality of Native languages.”

To read the full text of the bill, click here.


  • The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Program funds a variety of language learning activities, including Native language immersion programs in which instruction is provided to children and adults in the Native language, training language teachers, creating teaching materials, and related activities.
  • The bill is named after Esther Martinez, a revered Tewa linguist and traditional storyteller from New Mexico, who published the San Juan Pueblo Tewa dictionary.
  • Other Senate co-sponsors include: U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Tina Smith (D-MN).  
  • Congressman Don Young (R-AK) is a co-sponsor of the companion bill introduced in the House.
  • The bill is supported by the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Education Association.