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Public Statements

Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


ESTHER MARTINEZ NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGES PRESERVATION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2006)

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Mr. BACA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 4766, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006.

Language is an important part of one's culture and heritage. Unfortunately, many languages are dying off at a tremendous rate. Native American languages are especially vulnerable and might soon become extinct if we do not take action to preserve them. It is predicted that by 2050, only 20 indigenous languages will remain viable in the United States.

Serving as a member of the Native American Caucus and having worked closely with the Native American communities of Southern California as a Congressman (and previously in the California State Assembly and State Senate), I am committed to helping preserve Native American language and culture.

In fact, I think Congress should take additional steps to help educate all Americans about Native American culture and traditions--and to honor the contributions that the ``first Americans'' have made to the larger American culture.

That's why I introduced a resolution a couple of years ago to encourage schools across the country to honor Native Americans for their contributions to American history, culture and education. The House passed this resolution, H.R. 168, during the 107th Congress.

And that's why I have been working to establish a Native American holiday. I believe that a national holiday would help raise awareness about American Indians. When I served in the California Legislature, the San Manuel Band asked me to introduce a bill calling for such a holiday. We passed it in California, and now I have introduced similar legislation, H. Res. 76, in the House of Representatives.

So I understand what is at stake today: We have a chance to prevent Native languages from disappearing forever. This is why we must pass this legislation.

Native American languages can be revitalized through language immersion programs. Language immersion programs have the ability to create fluency among students. In addition, students who participate in such programs often have higher rates of academic success then their peers who do not. This legislation therefore would be one way to raise the academic achievement of Native American students.

The Native American Language Preservation Act would contribute to an already existing Native language grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services by allocating grants for language immersion programs which would not only help keep the language alive, but also help ensure that Native languages are accessible for the next seven generations to come.

I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 4766. Let's preserve and honor Native American heritage and save our Native languages.

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