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Language Act name change would honor Cherokee linguist, Vietnam veteran

On April 29, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, chaired by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and co-chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), introduced the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act of 2021.

“Congress made a commitment to promote and protect the rights of Native Americans to use their languages over three decades ago when it enacted the Native American Languages Act of 1990,” said Chairman Schatz. “The Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act will ensure we are living up to that commitment. Our bill will make the federal government more accountable by setting clear goals and asking for direct input from Native communities about how federal resources can be more effectively used to support and revitalize Native languages.”

The bi-partisan legislation marks the 30th anniversary of the Act, but will change the name to honor Feeling, a renowned Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran who passed away on Aug. 19, 2020. The bill will review and make recommendations to improve federal agencies’ coordination in support of Native American languages and authorize a federal survey of Native language use and programmatic needs every five years. These surveys will serve as “health checks” to allow Native communities and Congress to target federal resources for Native American languages more effectively.

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