Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Urges President to Sign Bipartisan Bill Preserving Indigenous Languages
December 10, 2019
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) called on President Trump to quickly sign into law S.256, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act, which was passed by the House yesterday and now awaits the President’s signature. Rep. Gabbard is a cosponsor of the House’s version of the bill, H.R.912. The bill would reauthorize grants that preserve American Indian languages and expands them to cover smaller groups of learners.
“We must continue to support the revitalization and preservation of ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi and other Native American languages. It has been a long but important movement and this year Hawai‘i has received over $1 million in support for Native Hawaiian language immersion programs through grants that would be reauthorized by this bill,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “The President must quickly sign this bill into law. Preserving the Native Hawaiian language is vital to Hawai‘i’s culture and connects us to one another as well as our environment.”
Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is a cosponsor of the House version of this bill, H.R.912, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act.
Rep. Gabbard worked with the bill’s sponsor to secure additional cosponsors and has long championed Native American, Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian issues — including preserving language and culture. She has fought for funding and improvements for the Native Hawaiian Education Act, met with parents and educators in the Native Hawaiian Community, and celebrated the Hawaiian language and the successes of the Hawaiian language education programs.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and reported by the National Congress of American Indians, 74 Native languages stand to disappear within the next decade. UNESCO declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
Both the House and Senate versions of the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act enjoy bipartisan support. The House version of the bill has over 230 cosponsors. The bill would reauthorize grants that preserve American Indian languages and expands them to cover smaller groups of learners. These programs were named for Esther Martinez, also known as P’oe Tsawa or Blue Water, who helped conserve the native Tewa language spoken in New Mexico pueblos as a teacher and storyteller until her death in a 2006 auto accident.
The previous authorization expired in 2012; this bill would reauthorize the program for five years. Biennial evaluations by the Department of Health and Human Services show the program increases fluency with 4,000 speakers and trains 170-280 Native language teachers each year. This bill has widespread, bipartisan support from Indian Country, teachers unions, and educational and linguistic consortia, who are urging final passage to reauthorize these vital language programs.
Esther Martinez grant programs are administered by the Administration for Native Americans at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – this includes the Native American Languages Preservation and Maintenance (P&M) grant program and the Esther Martinez Initiative (EMI) grant program.
In 2016, three grantees were awarded funding: Te Taki -Tokelau Community Training & Development, Inc., Papahana Kuaola, Aha Kane - Foundation for the Advancement of Native Hawaiian. The 2019 Pacific Region grantees include four institutions located on O‘ahu:
Kai Loa, Inc., Papahana Kuaola, Papakolea Community Development Corporation, and Kulaniakea.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for 16 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
Follow Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on social media: