Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced his support of the Durbin Feeling Native American Language Act of 2020, a bipartisan measure proposed by Senators Tom Udall and Lisa Murkowski on the 30th anniversary of the Native American Language Act (NALA).
The bill would direct President Trump to review federal agencies’ compliance with NALA mandates and make recommendations to enhance interagency coordination supporting Native American languages. The bill would also authorize a federal survey every five years to assess Native American language use and the unmet needs of language revitalization programs. The surveys would allow Native American communities and Congress to improve the targeting of federal resources for Native American languages.
The bill is named in honor of the late Durbin Feeling, a renowned Cherokee Nation citizen and linguist. Feeling was instrumental in having the Cherokee syllabary added to word-processing technology in the 1980s. He also began the process of adding the Cherokee language on Unicode, which today allows smartphones to offer the syllabary. He also developed hundreds of Cherokee language teaching materials that remain in use by speakers.
“The Cherokee Nation is honored to strongly support the Durbin Feeling Native American Language Act of 2020,” said Hoskin. “For decades, Durbin Feeling led the effort to not only save and preserve the Cherokee language, but breathe new life into it. His unwavering commitment to Cherokee language perpetuation will be the foundation upon which we teach future generations to honor and carry on our traditions.”
“The Durbin Feeling Native American Language Act is designed to hold the federal government accountable for its work to live up to the policies and principles set out by NALA over three decades ago,” said Senator Udall. “Congress must continue to do its part to support the advancement of community-driven Native American language use and revitalization.”
NALA, passed in 1990, for the first time in U.S. history implemented legislation that formally spurned past policies to suppress the use of Native American languages. It also acknowledged the rights and freedoms of Native Americans to use their traditional languages.
“Our bill will ensure that policies and procedures are compliant with NALA, improve interagency coordination, authorize funding to help gain a greater understanding of Native American languages, and more,” said Senator Murkowski. “I remain committed to maintaining and revitalizing the languages of Alaska’s Native American peoples to help strengthen and empower their communities for generations to come.”
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