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State Leaders to Celebrate Bill Protecting Alaska Native Languages

ANCHORAGE-Senator Donny Olson, D-Golovin, would like to invite the public and members of the media to a celebration for the successful passage and signing of Senate Bill 130, which is intended to protect and restore Alaska Native Languages.    The celebration will take place at the Alaska Native Heritage Center from 12:30pm to 2:30pm on Thursday, June 14, 2012.   Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, Representative Alan Dick, and former State Senator Georgianna Lincoln are expected to be in attendance along with Senator Olson.

Senate Bill 130 establishes the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council to assess the state of Alaska Native Languages, reevaluate the programs within the state, and make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature to establish new programs or reorganize current programs.

“Alaska Native Languages are the backbone of our culture, but unfortunately some of them are almost extinct,” said Senator Olson.  “Senate Bill 130 ensures important Alaska Native customs continue on and be passed from generation to generation.  We’ve heard from testimony and learned from research that when cultures experience identity loss, we see an increase in social problems similar to the ones our Native communities continue to face today.  It is my hope this will greatly contribute to healthier individuals and communities.”

According to the University of Alaska’s Language Center’s Population and Speaker Statistics published in 2007, only 22 percent Alaska Natives statewide can speak their native language.  More specifically, only 29 percent of the Eskimo Aleut population, less than 2 percent of the Tsimshian and Haida, and less than 5 percent of the Athabascan and Tlingit communities combined are fluent speakers.  The Eyak language recently lost its last native fluent speaker.

“This Legislation is the most significant piece of legislation affecting Alaska Native languages since 1972 when laws were passed requiring mandatory bilingual education in state-operated schools where children speak Alaska Native languages,” said Senator Olson.  “I encourage everyone to join us in celebrating this big step towards saving the culture and traditions of our Alaska Native population.”

WHAT: Celebration of the successful passage and signing of Senate Bill 130

WHO: Sen. Olson, Rep. Dick, Lt. Gov. Treadwell, former Alaska Senator Georgianna Lincoln

WHERE: Alaska Native Heritage Center

WHEN: Thursday, June 14th, 2012 12:30 to 2:30pm

For more information, please contact Loren Peterson in Senator Olson’s office at 907-269-0254.

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