Note: Video feed from Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will begin shortly before 3pm Eastern on August 4, 2021.
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs set to advance Native language bills
Monday, August 2, 2021
Indianz.Com

Note: The business meeting will start at 3pm Eastern on August 4, 2021.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is meeting this week to advance Native language legislation.

Two items are on the agenda for the business meeting on Wednesday afternoon. They are:

S.1989, the Native American Language Resource Center Act. The bipartisan bill creates the Native American Languages Resource Center, whose purpose is to support Native language schools and help them succeed.

S.1402, the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act. The bill is named in honor of Durbin Feeling, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who dedicated his life to preserving the Cherokee language before his passing last year at the age of 74. The Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act ensures the federal government continues to support Native language efforts.

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The committee took testimony on both bills on May 26. Leaders from American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities said the federal government needs to do more to protect Native languages, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the worst of the pandemic, we made concentrated efforts to support our speakers, providing food assistance, telehealth services, support to pay the costs of utilities and direct elder assistance payments,” Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. of the Cherokee Nation stated in written testimony.

“Despite these efforts, we lost more than 50 fluent speakers to COVID-19,” Hoskin said. “Every life is irreplaceable, but when you lose a speaker, you are losing more than a person—you are losing a national treasure.”

The Biden administration confirmed how the coronavirus has taken a toll on Native languages during the hearing. But a government official did not outright support, or oppose, S.1989 or S.1402.

According to Michelle Sauve of the Administration for Native Americans, the program created by the Native American Language Resource Center Act would be housed at the Department of Education, which did not provide a witness for the hearing. Her agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, a different entity.

Sauve, who serves as the acting Commissioner for the ANA and the acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs, said her agency “stands ready to provide technical assistance” with respect to the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act.

Durbin Feeling Language Center
The Cherokee Nation breaks ground on the Durbin Feeling Language Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on May 19, 2021. The center is named in honor of Durbin Feeling, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who dedicated his life to preserving the Cherokee language before his passing in August 2020 at the age of 74. Photo: Anadisgoi / Cherokee Nation

The business meeting takes place at 2:30pm Eastern in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building on Wednesday. It will be webcast on indian.senate.gov.

Once the bills are approved by the committee, they can be considered by the full U.S. Senate for passage.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice
Business Meeting to consider S.989 & S.1402 (August 4, 2021)

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