Congressman Ben Ray Luján Introduces Legislation to Preserve Native American Languages

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District announced that he recently introduced legislation to help Native American communities preserve their traditional languages.  This updated reauthorization of the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act improves and reauthorizes an existing program to support tribal communities and makes resources available to achieve this vital goal.

“Language preservation is a vital component of broader efforts to preserve the nuances of Native American culture and traditions that are often lost in translation.  Language is an essential part of history, culture, and way of life,” Congressman Luján said.  “The preservation of culture depends upon the endurance of native languages that have been an integral part of tribes in New Mexico and across the country.  Continuing the successful programs implemented by the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act will help expand fluency in native languages, helping tribal communities preserve their cultural traditions and ensuring that these languages will continue to provide meaning and value to future generations.”

In 2006, the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act was signed into law to support language immersion programs, language survival schools, and language restoration programs.  In addition to reauthorizing this important effort, Luján’s bill also increases the sustainability and flexibility of the program by extending the duration of grant awards to up to five years, giving projects a more stable funding source and increasing the impact of each project.  Additionally, more language schools and language nests in low populated and remote areas will be eligible to access this important grant funding.  The reauthorization of this legislation would allow existing programs to continue through Fiscal Year 2019.

Previously, in February of 2013, Luján introduced legislation to extend the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act.  This new, strengthened legislation mirrors a Senate companion bill that was recently reported favorably to the full Senate by the Committee on Indian Affairs.  This effort enjoys bipartisan support and was introduced with the support of five co-sponsors.