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Jan 17, 2014

Tester, Johnson, Begich, and Schatz introduce Native languages bill

Senators fight to preserve tribal cultures, improve Indian education

(U.S. SENATE) - Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is teaming up with Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to preserve Native languages and help strengthen Indian culture and education.

Tester and his colleagues this week introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act. The bill establishes a grant program to fund Native language educational programs throughout Indian Country in order to improve high school graduation rates, increase college enrollment and better prepare students for jobs.

"We are racing against the clock to save and revitalize our sacred Native American languages," Tester said. "Preserving Native languages will strengthen Indian culture and increase student confidence - leading to greater academic achievement and a stronger economy. I am proud to help strengthen Indian Country and the languages and traditions that make it a special place."

"Native American languages are an integral part of American Indian culture and history," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, throughout the decades, many Native languages have become extinct. I believe this legislation will encourage schools and colleges to develop and strengthen language programs to help our young children develop a fluency in their Native language."

"Preservation of Native American languages through revitalization efforts like this bill is extremely valuable," Begich said. "Through no fault of their own, our Nation's First Peoples have suffered from various policies and reform efforts aimed at terminating Native languages. But Alaska Natives are a resilient people who have worked hard to preserve almost two dozen various indigenous languages.

"Today Immersion schools and programs offer students tremendous learning opportunities and are indicators of student achievement and success," Begich continued. "I'm honored to join Senator Tester in this effort and will work hard to advance this important legislation."

"Forty years ago, the people of Hawai'i faced the possible death of their native language. Today, through the dedicated and concerted efforts of a strong people, the vibrant Hawaiian language lives through thousands of speakers. The people of Hawai'i understand the richness and importance of Hawaiian customs, tradition, and language. We have worked to support incorporating Hawaiian culture, tradition and language into education," said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. "I've seen first-hand visiting immersion schools, the vital role immersion and other Native language-medium schools play in preserving Native languages and improving education. This bill will support this important work."

Tester, Johnson, Begich and Schatz are all members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Their bill, which is supported by the National Indian Education Association, would award grants to eligible programs serving students from pre-Kindergarten to graduate school that use Native American languages as the primary language of instruction.

Tester recently brought Indian Affairs Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to Montana, where they visited the Nkwusm Salish Immersion School, in Arlee, Montana.

A copy of the Senators' Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act (S. 1948), which would provide $5 million in 2015, is available online HERE.  It is also co-sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.

Billings

Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768

Bozeman

Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647

Butte

Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586

Helena

208 North Montana Avenue
Suite 104
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462

Kalispell

8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974

Missoula

130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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