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Language preservation a top issue as AFN opens annual meet

Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka addresses the annual convention on the opening day. Photo from Facebook

The Alaska Federation of Natives opened its annual convention on Thursday.

Language preservation was a big issue as thousands of attendees packed the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage. Fluent Yup’ik speakers provided translation services for elders who want to keep up with the proceedings.

“The most important thing is that the elders who depend on us are able to keep up and get the whole message,” Hilda Oscar, one of the translators, told The Alaska Dispatch News. “You have to be very precise.”

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) and Alaska Native advocates pose with signed copy of House Bill 216. Photo from Office of Governor

Native languages were also the focus of House Bill 216, which Gov. Sean Parnell (R) signed into law after addressing AFN yesterday. The bill recognizes 20 Native languages as official for the first time in the state's history.

“This bill reinforces that effort and recognizes the vibrant, existing Alaska Native languages of the state of Alaska," Parnell said at the ceremony. "I am proud of those who have kept these languages preserved, as they strengthen the traditions and heritage of our Native people.”

Governor Signs House Bill 216 from Office of Governor Sean Parnell on Vimeo

Speakers of nearly every Native language expressed pride that their state finally recognizes their languages. They said it will help keep them alive for future generations.

“So we are trying to look 100 years in the future," Lance Twitchell, a Native language professor who pushed for the bill, told The Alaska Dispatch News. "You know what, these languages are going to be here forever.”

Get the Story:
Translators stay busy at AFN for Yup'ik-speaking elders (The Alaska Dispatch News 10/24)
Parnell signs Native language bill in emotional ceremony at AFN convention (The Alaska Dispatch News 10/24)
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Related Stories:
Alaska Federation of Natives ready to open annual convention (10/23)
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Alaska Legislature passes Native language recognition bill (4/21)
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