Tester Pushes Senate to Back Native Languages Preservation

Senator: "Investing in Native languages is investing in communities."

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester in a legislative hearing touted the incredible success of Native language preservation and urged lawmakers to make strong investments in language grants.

Tester noted the Administration for Native Americans within the Department of Health and Human Services issues grants to tribes in order to protect languages from disappearing.

Over the past 400 years, more than 200 Native languages have gone extinct. Currently, there are 46 languages whose survival is under threat in the next decade.

Tester pointed out that the language grants have shown successes in boosting education, maintaining Native culture, and improving high dropout rates and low test scores.

“We know that language is intricately connected to culture, tradition, ceremony, and song, it is the lifeblood of people. Without it much is lost,” Tester said during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing Thursday. “That is why it is of utmost importance that we don’t let these precious resources slip away, that we do everything we can do to invest in preservation.”

Earlier this month, Tester secured more than half a million dollars in grants aimed at preserving Native languages in Montana. These grants were awarded to the Crow Language Consortium, the Salish Kootenai College, and the Fort Peck Tribes.

Tester also passed legislation in the Senate to reauthorize the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act in 2017, providing funding to support immersion schools for Native students. These grants produce the highest number of fluent speakers of all Native language immersion programs.