In 2014-2015 there has been a great movement and a surge in support for American Indian languages nationwide. This page provides information on some current legislation; referencing the following bills would be an excellent way to start your letter to your Senator or Representative.
Esther Martinez Reauthorization (H.R.2174; S. 1163)
Reathorizes through 2020 the Esther Martinez Native language grant program (which allows the Department of Health and Human Services to make grants to tribes to support Native language nests and cultural survival schools) and decreases the minimum number of student enrollees required in programs funded by an Esther Martinez grant. Learn more here.
Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act (S. 1419)
Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to authorize the Department of Education to award grants in support of PreK-12 to university-level Native language immersion schools so that they may develop and expand their language instruction programs and curriculum; and to instruct the Department of Education to assist these schools with evaluating grantees' efforts to expand the evidence base surrounding the impact of AI/AN immersion schools on student outcomes. Learn more here.
NEST Act (S. 1928)
Promotes recruitment and retention of culturally-informed teachers in Indian Country by helping future Native teachers pay for college, expanding maximum Federal loan forgiveness for Native langauge teachers, and investing in the preparation of highly effective Native language educators through supporting the growth of Native American Language teacher training programs at colleges of education across the country. Learn more here.
BUILD Act (H.R. 1082; S. 410)
Puts forward a number of provisions that cover topics as wide ranging as school facility improvement, teacher recruitment and certification, and the role of the Department of Education in BIE oversight/management among others. For Native languages, it exempts Native language teachers from qualification requirement, requires states to develop an alternative licensure or certification process for those teachers, and provides an additional vehicle to reauthorize the Esther Martinez program. Learn more here.
Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177)
Incorporates a portion of the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act into the ESEA reauthorization to authorize the Department of Education to award grants in support of PreK-12 to university-level Native language immersion schools so that they may develop and expand their language instruction programs and curriculum. Learn more here.
In the digital age, connecting with your US Senator or Representative is fairly simple. Find a complete listing of all US Senators here, and links to webpages and information on all US Representatives here.
Writing to Your Members of Congress.
Writing to your Senator or US Representative is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build legislative support for indigenous language issues, including loss, protection and promotion of such languages. However, your letter or email needs to be thoughtful, well-written and specific because it needs to stand out from the hundreds of emails, letters and calls Congress Members receive daily. In addition, it is best to address legislation that has already been proposed or is currently up for debate, using it as a complement or lead-in for your advocacy of language preservation and revitalization. Learn more here.
Visiting Your Members of Congress.
The most effective way of influencing your Senator or US Representative is to schedule a face-to-face meeting with them or the appropriate member of their staff. These meetings can be arranged for either their local offices or their Washington headquarters, depending on the time of year. You will need to find out when your Member of Congress will be available, which you can do by calling their local offices, checking their website, or getting on their mailing list. You should also research to find out if your Senator or US Representative is currently working on native language and culture legislation or has done so in the past. Once your visit is arranged, make sure you are prepared for how to make the most of your time and how to best approach and promote our cause. You can get prepared by referring to this guide and the following tips.