Murkowski: Preserve Native Languages, Don’t Fail Another Generation

Senator Pushes For Her Legislation, Presses Administration for “Urgency” in Incorporating Proven Link Between Fluency and Academic Success

Senator Lisa Murkowski today challenged the Obama Administration’s Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education to aggressively advocate within the Administration, among school districts and teachers the link between Native language revitalization, increased academic achievement and well-being among our Native youth.

“Those responsible for improving the education outcomes of our Native students must understand and take action knowing the moral gravity of inaction is another generation that we have failed,” Murkowski told William Mendoza, Executive Director, of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

(Senator Murkowski: “The moral gravity of inaction is another generation we have failed.” – Click to view.)

During an emotionally-pointed question and answer period between Mendoza and Senator Murkowski as they discussed Murkowski’s Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014, the official agreed with her contention and laid it out in the starkest of terms, “It is life and death – our elders are dying and our young people are killing themselves,” and committed to taking Murkowski’s message back to the White House.

Senator Murkowski discussed her concerns about top-down federal government efforts like the White House Initiative with a witness from Alaska – Ms. Sonta Hamilton Roach, a teacher at Innoko River School, Shageluk.  Mr. Roach testified about the successes being seen in rural Alaska among Alaska Natives, but also to share the challenge of dealing with teachers and administrators who are not culturally and linguistically fluent with Alaska Native languages.  “Our superintendents, our administrators and principals come from outside, where they don’t have the connection with our culture – and don’t understand how important it is to have these languages come alive to our children.”

(Ms. Roach tells Senator Murkowski about the frequent need to teach teachers about culture, language – click to view.)