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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

By Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota (for himself, Ms. MURKOWSKI, Mr. BEGICH, Mr. FRANKEN, Mr. HEINRICH, Ms. HIRONO, Mr. SCHATZ, Mr. TESTER, Mr. UDALL of New Mexico, and Mr. KING):

S. 2299. A bill to amend the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to reauthorize a provision to ensure the survival and continuing vitality of Native American languages; to the Committee on Indian Affairs.

Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, today Senator Murkowski and I introduce the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014. We are also joined by our fellow colleagues and cosponsors of this bill: Senators Begich, Franken, Heinrich, Hirono, King, Schatz, Tester, and Tom Udall.

Since the Native American Languages Act of 1992 became law, we have made considerable progress in keeping native languages alive. The Native American Languages Act of 1992 established a grant program within the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to ensure the survival of native languages. Through the Health and Human Services Department Administration for Native Americans, the native languages grant program has made documented impacts on the revival of Native languages across Indian Country.

The bill we introduce today will reauthorize the native languages grant program until fiscal year 2019. The Native language grant program has made several reports to Congress on the significant impacts that its grants have for native communities. In the 2012 report on the Impact and Effectiveness of Administration for Native American Projects, out of the 63 total language grantees, Administration for Native Americans evaluated 22 language projects from across Indian Country. The 2012 impact data showed that from these 22 projects a total of 178 language teachers were trained; 2,340 youth had increased their ability to speak a Native language or achieved fluency; and 2,586 adults had increased their ability to speak a Native language or achieved fluency.

Promoting Native language programs will strengthen our Native cultures and, according to the National Indian Education Association, will also promote higher academic success in other areas of learning. The continuity of Native languages is a link to previous generations and should be preserved for future generations.

The Native Americans Languages Act has helped to save native languages and encourages both young children and adults to develop a fluency in their Native language. Across South Dakota and Indian Country, this vital grant funding gives the opportunity for our cherished Native elders to sit down with the younger generation to pass on native languages. We must continue our efforts to promote Native language revitalization programs to ensure the preservation of Native American cultures, histories, and traditions.

I urge my colleagues to join us and reauthorize this important legislation

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