At Fort Peck, Tester announces Native language preservation bill

Senator: we must ensure the survival of Native languages before it’s too late

(POPLAR, Mont.) – At the Fort Peck Language and Culture Program in Poplar, Senator Jon Tester announced that he has introduced a bill to help preserve endangered native languages.

The Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act creates a new grant initiative to establish or expand native language immersion programs. The grants will support the revitalization and maintenance of tribal languages while increasing educational opportunities for Native American students.

“Native languages connect students with their culture, history and heritage,” Tester said. “This bill increases access to critical funding for language immersion programs and ensures the survival of Native languages before it is too late.”

Senator Tester toured the Fort Peck Language and Culture Center to meet with staff, students, and Fort Peck Councilmembers. He was also joined by Program Director Ramey Growing Thunder.

“My lifetime dream is coming closer to reality: to design, develop, operate and secure funding for a tribal immersion school while implementing a strong language and culture educational platform,” said Growing Thunder. “I am confident by creating grounded language and culture opportunities for my youth learners; children will benefit from an instilled sense of identity and pride in education and will continue the circle of educational growth for generations to come. The children will carry our future as we mold them from the start.”

The Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act establishes a grant program under the Department of Education. The bill offers a streamlined application and reporting process compared to existing Native language grant programs authorized through other agencies.

The bill seeks to limit overhead costs and reduce the resource demands on tribal and school administrators seeking language immersion funding.

Individual grant levels and lengths are flexible. The grant program totals $5 million per year for five years. The grants can be awarded to tribes, tribal organizations, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and public or private schools to establish or expand existing immersion classes for students ranging from Pre-K through post-secondary education levels.

All of the approximately 148 remaining Native languages that are still spoken in the United States are at the risk of extinction within 50-100 years unless preservation actions are taken.

Tester’s Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act is available HERE.