Native Language Revitalization Focus in Senate Committee

“Language is truly the foundation of how Native people live and express their culture”

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and her colleagues on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing focused on the revitalization of Native languages and efforts to promote and preserve them. During the hearing, officials from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), tribal leadership, and other tribal stakeholders testified on what can be done to ensure languages are passed on to the next generation.

“Language is truly the foundation of how Native people live and express their culture. When a Native person knows their language, they know their culture. They know who they are, it is a part of their identity,” said Senator Murkowski.

Senator Murkowski stressed the importance of language revitalization programs and grants provided by the ANA which enable younger generations to learn their language and culture. Murkowski highlighted the success story of the Alaskan village Igiugig that received an ANA Language Preservation and Maintenance grant, ultimately reinvigorating Igiugig students, leading to measured success in school.

“For instance, the Igiugig School has a perfect 5-star rating on the Alaska School Performance Index (ASPI) star ratings system. Under ASPI, each school received a score on a 100-point scale and a star rating from 5-stars (highest) to 1-star. The ASPI score and star rating gave an overall picture of how well the school did to prepare students to be college, career, and culturally ready to graduate,” said Senator Murkowski. “Igiugig is just one of just a dozen schools in my State to receive a 5-star rating. The Igiugig School had an attendance record of 96.23% and a graduation rate of 100%.”

Indian Affairs Committee hearing on Language Revitalization

(Click here to watch video.)

During the hearing, Senator Murkowski questioned ANA Commissioner Hovland on how she plans on engaging and consulting with rural tribal communities, as well as, tribal consortiums, Alaska Native Corporations and other tribal non-profits and organizations on language revitalization issues. Murkowski also pressed on the need to ensure that smaller tribes with limited capacity have access to the ANA grants. Training and streamlining the grant process will make it easier to access these important language preservation grants, Hovland stated.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska