Tester backs bipartisan bill to strengthen Native American languages

Senator’s bill supports Native language programs, improves student performance

(BIG SANDY, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester, the Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is backing a bipartisan bill to preserve Native American languages and culture and promote educational opportunity for Native students.

Tester’s bill (S. 2299) reauthorizes the Native American Languages Act, which funds a variety of native language programs across the country, through 2019. The original law expired in 2012.

Before the Native American Languages Act expired, the measure provided more than $1 million to Montana Native American language programs.

Tester, who has prioritized improving education in Indian Country, says Native language education programs improve high school graduation rates, increase college enrollment and better prepare students for jobs.

“Preserving Native American languages and culture strengthens Indian Country and puts students on the path to success,” Tester said. “This bill keeps languages alive and ensures that they are passed down to future generations.”

Tester also recently introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act. The bill 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.