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Old 09-25-2006, 11:33 AM   #1
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Exclamation H.R. 4766 Native Language Immersion Bill needs support

Native Language Immersion Bill Placed on the Suspension Calendar
NEEDS TRIBAL LETTERS OF SUPPORT TO PASS

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-4766

The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006, H.R. 4766 will be on the suspension calendar in the House of Representatives the week of September 25th which means that the House will vote on the bill next week. This bill will create grant programs under the Department of Health and Human Services for Native language survival schools, Native language nests, and Native language restoration programs. Representative Heather Wilson, (R-NM) introduced this legislation during NIEA's Legislative Summit and has been working very closely with NIEA and Indian Country to turn the bill into law. Most recently, the House Education and Workforce Committee held field hearing on the bill in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Co-sponsors of H.R. 4766 include Representatives Rick Renzi (R-AZ), Tom Udall (D-NM), Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Mark Udall (D-CO).

NIEA is requesting that all tribes, tribal Education departments, and schools express their support for this bill that will provide critical support for our languages. A sample letter is attached to send to your congressional delegation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. We have a short time frame (by Monday) to get these letters into your congressional delegation and leadership on the House Education and Workforce Committee and Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The attached letters are addressed to the House Education and Workforce Committee and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, but can be tailored to your individual Congressional members. PLEASE have your tribes, tribal education departments, and schools send in the letters to your congressional representatives TODAY and MONDAY. We do not have time to lose! If you have any questions- please feel free to contact NIEA at (202)544-7290.

Please send the letters to your congressional representatives and the four fax #s below.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs fax #s
(202) 224-5429 (Majority) and (202)228-2589 (Minority)

House Education and Workforce Committee fax #s
(202)225-9571 (Majority), and (202)226-4864 (Minority)

Please send a copy to the National Indian Education Association fax # (202) 544-7293

Cut and paste the following text.

SAMPLE LETTER TO THE HOUSE

September __, 2006

The Honorable Howard "Buck" McKeon, Chairman
Education and the Workforce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable George Miller, Ranking Member
Education and the Workforce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Miller:

On behalf of ___________, I support H.R. 4766, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006. I understand that this bill will be on the suspension calendar in the House of Representatives the week of September 25th. We urge the House to pass this critical legislation.

There is a crisis loss of Native languages across the country. It is estimated that only twenty indigenous languages will remain viable by the year 2050. Our Native languages are not spoken anywhere else in the world; and, if they are not preserved, they will disappear forever. Given the rapid pace of deterioration of Native languages, it is a race against the clock to save Native languages.

The key to stemming the loss of Native languages is by significantly increasing support for Native American language immersion programs. It is well proven that language immersion programs are one of the few effective ways to create fluent speakers in Native languages. Further, data shows that Native students who participate in an immersion program attain higher academic success compared to their Native peers who do not participate in these programs.

The United States should do all that it can to preserve Native American languages as these languages played a vital role in protecting our country during World Wars I and II. Also, as a result of federal assimilationist policies in the early and mid-1900s, many Native people stopped speaking their Native languages because they were forced to attend Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools that harshly forbid the speaking of Native languages.

Currently, under existing law, the Administration for Native Americans, Health and Human Services, administers a Native American languages revitalization grant program under the Native American Programs Act of 1974. H.R. 4766 would provide for expanded uses under the current grant program to allow for Native American language immersion grants. The language immersion grants would assist Native communities as they work to revitalize and protect their languages for generations to come.

We appreciate your efforts to help us save our Native American languages and look forward to working with you to ensure that this legislation is enacted into law.

Sincerely,


SAMPLE LETTER TO THE SENATE

September __, 2006

The Honorable John McCain, Chairman
Indian Affairs Committee
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Byron Dorgan, Vice Chairman
Indian Affairs Committee
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman McCain and Vice Chairman Dorgan:

On behalf of ___________, I strongly support H.R. 4766, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006. I understand that this bill will be on the suspension calendar in the House of Representatives the week of September 25th. This bill will likely pass the House, and we urge the Senate to pass the House bill by unanimous consent.

There is a crisis loss of Native languages across the country. It is estimated that only twenty indigenous languages will remain viable by the year 2050. Our Native languages are not spoken anywhere else in the world; and, if they are not preserved, they will disappear forever. Given the rapid pace of deterioration of Native languages, it is a race against the clock to save Native languages.

The key to stemming the loss of Native languages is by significantly increasing support for Native American language immersion programs. It is well proven that language immersion programs are one of the few effective ways to create fluent speakers in Native languages. Further, data shows that Native students who participate in an immersion program attain higher academic success compared to their Native peers who do not participate in these programs.

The United States should do all that it can to preserve Native American languages as these languages played a vital role in protecting our country during World Wars I and II. Also, as a result of federal assimilationist policies in the early and mid-1900s, many Native people stopped speaking their Native languages because they were forced to attend Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools that harshly forbid the speaking of Native languages.

Currently, under existing law, the Administration for Native Americans, Health and Human Services, administers a Native American languages revitalization grant program under the Native American Programs Act of 1974. H.R. 4766 would provide for expanded uses under the current grant program to allow for Native American language immersion grants. The language immersion grants would assist Native communities as they work to revitalize and protect their languages for generations to come.

We appreciate your efforts to help us save our Native American languages and look forward to working with you to ensure that this legislation is enacted into law.

Sincerely,
__________________

"Be good, be kind, help each other."
"Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

--Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)
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Old 09-25-2006, 12:51 PM   #2
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OBITUARIES
Esther Martinez, 94; Tewa Speaker Worked to Save Her Language
By Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Times Staff Writer
LA Times - 24 September 2006
http://www.latimes.com/news/obituari...ome-obituaries

At a government-run boarding school for Indians in the 1920s, Esther Martinez was not allowed to speak Tewa, her native language. Nor could she listen to the kinds of traditional tales her grandfather told her.

The goal of the school was to assimilate Native Americans, and that meant leaving the past — the stories and language — behind. But Martinez never did.

The language and stories remained a part of her life. As an adult she became a teacher of the language and compiled a dictionary to help others learn it. And she became a storyteller, keeping alive the stories her grandfather passed down to her and creating her own.

"Esther has been a keeper of the language central to Pueblo expression and identity as well as a storyteller whose traditional tales both enlighten and entertain," said Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, which on Sept. 14 honored Martinez as a 2006 National Heritage Fellow, the highest recognition in the folk and traditional arts.

Two days later Martinez was killed in a car accident caused by a driver suspected of being drunk. The accident occurred in Espanola, N.M., as she and her family returned home from the NEA ceremony, said Det. Sgt. Christian Lopez of the Espanola Police Department. She was 94.

Among those working to save native languages from extinction, Martinez was a well-known and beloved elder. Decades ago she helped lay the foundation for the current push to keep alive New Mexico's indigenous languages, an effort that is being replicated in native communities across the country.

"With each passing of a fluent speaker, we're not just losing a language," said Inée Yang Slaughter, executive director of the Indigenous Language Institute in Santa Fe, N.M. "We're losing a whole library of knowledge about their community, their history, their traditions. And all of this is all embedded in the language. There's something beyond language we're losing."

In Ohkay Owingeh, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo, Martinez was a living link to the community's past.

Also known as P'oe Tsáwä, or Blue Water, Martinez was the third of eight children.

In Utah, where she was born in 1912 and spent the first five years of her life, Martinez spoke the Tewa language. At age 5 she traveled with her grandparents to New Mexico. San Juan Pueblo, she said, "is located near where the Rio Chama and the Rio Grande rivers come together. It is one of the eight Northern Indian pueblos and one of the six Tewa-speaking tribes."

Like other Indian youths in San Juan Pueblo, Martinez was sent about 25 miles away to the Santa Fe Indian School when she reached fifth grade. The schools, which started in the 1860s and were often run or sanctioned by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, sought to eradicate Native American culture and identity and to assimilate the children into the larger society.

At the Santa Fe boarding school, there was harsh punishment for speaking Tewa, Martinez recalled years later, and there was none of the storytelling that marked her years at home.

"I didn't like that at all," she said. "Nighttime is when it was lonely. When you go to bed, you have nice clean sheets waiting for you, a nice bed, but there's no grandfather, there's no grandma there to sit on their lap and listen to their stories."

The boarding school experience divorced generations of Native Americans from the languages of their parents and grandparents and played a major role in the decline of native languages in the U.S., Slaughter said.

"They were determined — these people who were punished for being Indian, for speaking the language — that their children and grandchildren would not go through that atrocity, so they did not teach the language," Slaughter said.

That was not true of Martinez. After graduating from high school she raised 10 children on an income earned from working as a janitor and other service jobs, and she taught her children the Tewa language.

Always she told stories, said grandson Matthew J. Martinez.

"She had a story for everything, whether she was sitting at the kitchen table or out fishing at the river, which she loved to do," Matthew Martinez said. "She would see the reflection of the sun on the water, and say, 'One time this happened' and just come up with a story."

Some stories were passed down to her, and others were her own creations. The stories often contained a moral or explained how a place got its name. "But sometimes it's just humor, entertainment…. She loved to laugh," Matthew Martinez said.

In one story Martinez told, Rabbit saves himself from being eaten by Coyote by tricking him. Rabbit tells Coyote he will give him a chunk of cheese. He points to the "cheese," a reflection of the moon on the water. Coyote grabs for the cheese and falls in; Rabbit is saved.
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Old 09-30-2006, 11:05 AM   #3
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I am happy to report that it passed yesterday, September 29th !!!!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

STATEMENT of Congressman Rick Renzi
The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act

27 September 2006

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Miller for the opportunity to speak on this important piece of legislation. I also want to thank my colleague, Congresswoman Heather Wilson, for her leadership on this important issue.

This bill amends the Native American Programs Act to allow the Administration for Native Americans under the Dept. of Health and Human Services to award grants to strengthen Native American language immersion programs.

This measure is vital to preserving the diminishing Native languages in tribes across the nation, including many in my district. As an original cosponsor on this measure, I am thankful for the bipartisan effort to preserve the languages of those people who hold the original history of our country.

In my own district, the Navajo people have a very successful language immersion program. In 2001, the Navajo Language Immersion School at the Window Rock Unified School District was established by Dr. Deborah Dennison. At the first grade level, students are instructed in the Navajo Language 90% of the time, and the remaining 10% of their lessons are in English. With each year, these Navajo students are immersed in English more and more until there is an equal balance of language instruction.

The students in this successful program cover academic content areas in both Navajo and English and the results have been astounding. These students perform better on the standardized tests than students in "regular classrooms. Moreover, since it was established, the Navajo Language Immersion School has consistently met No Child Left Behind's designation of "Annual Yearly Progress" and they have also met "Arizona Learns" standards. I hope this kind of excellence in learning and education can be duplicated throughout Indian Country.

While some may worry that this program would decrease the importance of the English language in the United States, we must remember the contributions that Native Americans who speak their Native language have made to our country. During World Wars I and II, Native American languages, including the Navajo language, played a vital role in protecting our nation. Navajo people and other Native Americans were employed as "Code Talkers" during the wars, and implemented a code that our enemies could not break. Thus it was through their language that we overcame our enemies.

U.S. English, an organization dedicated to promoting English as the official language of the United States, has stated that, "official English legislation proposed by U.S. ENGLISH does not prevent the use of Native American languages ... In education, U.S. ENGLISH supports the right of tribal governments and autonomous Native American communities to make their native languages the primary language of instruction in their schools."

Therefore, it is paramount that we pass this legislation. As it helps us protect not only an essential part of Native American history but also helps us safeguard a larger part of United States character and culture for future generations to learn their Native language.

A wise friend once shared with me that "To take away a people's language is to begin to conquer them." Let us join together to support and preserve the first American's Native languages.
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Old 09-26-2007, 05:54 AM   #4
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Barack Obama is committed to honoring the federal government's obligations to the First Americans and strengthening the federal government's unique relationship with tribal nations. Recognizing the inherent sovereignty of tribes is not enough; we must also help build tribal nations through adequate funding of programs. Senator Obama is proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 2007. This long-overdue legislation will modernize Indian health care services and delivery, make it easier for Tribes and the IHS to attract quality health care professionals, and provide tribal health programs with more flexibility to ensure that funds are used to meet the specific needs of their communities.

The Senator's experience as a community organizer in some of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods taught him that there is no simple way to heal ills that often have complex causes. His comprehensive approach invests in physical, human and institutional infrastructure; increases access to capital and removes barriers to development; promotes education from the pre-school to the university level, including Native language immersion and preservation programs; and above all, develops authentic government-to-government relationships between the federal government and Indian tribes.

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