Quantcast
Connect with us

Alaska lawmakers vote to formally recognize indigenous languages

Published

on

By Steve Quinn

JUNEAU, Alaska (Reuters) – Alaska lawmakers gave final approval on Monday to a bill that would officially recognize the state’s 20 indigenous languages in a symbolic move that gives a nod to tribal efforts to save Native American tongues at risk of dying out.

The move would make Alaska only the second U.S. state, after Hawaii, to officially recognize indigenous languages, although English would remain the official language and the state would not be required to conduct business in any other tongue.

“Here is a chance that we have to show respect for these language groups,” Alaska state senator Fred Dyson said in an address to his colleagues before the bill passed the state Senate 18-2. The state House had already passed the bill, 38-0, so it now awaits Governor Sean Parnell’s signature.

“It’s a small way to say ‘Hey, things haven’t always been good in the past, but here’s one way we are showing that we respect the languages of Alaska’s indigenous people,” said Dyson, a Republican.

ADVERTISEMENT

Many Alaska native languages are down to a few hundred fluent speakers or fewer, many of whom are elderly. In 2008, the state watched one of its indigenous languages become extinct with the death of Marie Smith, the last fluent speaker of Eyak.

The legislature’s move was welcomed by 30 to 40 language advocates – tribal elders, language students and non-natives – who spent nearly 18 hours at the Capitol while the bill appeared to languish on the Senate’s calendar.

They sat in halls signing and praying, creating a silent lobby that proved powerful in the legislative session’s waning hours, and the bill was ultimately passed by the Senate in the early hours of Monday morning.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Our leaders grew up tortured – just tortured – as children for speaking their language, for being who they are. Now for them to hear that they are equal is a huge weight lifted off of their shoulders,” said Lance Twitchell, a professor of native languages at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.

“Languages are a genetic connection to our ancestors,” said Twitchell, who teaches the Southeast Alaska indigenous language of Tlingit. “They are everything: the blood that flows through our veins; the air that we breathe.”

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

ADVERTISEMENT

[Image: “Smiling Eskimo Woman Wearing Traditional Clothing,” via Shutterstock]


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

FLASHBACK: Jeffrey Epstein accuser revealed there are tapes of famous men with underage girls

Published

on

A 2015 report is resurfacing on Raw Story as the Jeffrey Epstein trial begins and Washington and New York men fear being outed.

It appears that a series of QAnon Facebook groups and pro-Trump groups were the ones responsible for posting the story.

Continue Reading

Facebook

Iran probes seized UK-flagged tanker — Britain to hold emergency meeting

Published

on

ran warned Sunday that the fate of a UK-flagged tanker it seized in the Gulf depends on an investigation, as Britain prepared for an emergency security meeting on Tehran's action.

Iranian authorities impounded the Stena Impero with 23 crew members aboard off the port of Bandar Abbas after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized it Friday in the highly sensitive Strait of Hormuz.

Video footage released by Iran showed the Stena Impero tanker being surrounded by speedboats before troops in balaclavas descend a rope from a helicopter onto the vessel.

In an audio recording of a radio exchange, an Iranian officer can be heard ordering the tanker to change course "immediately".

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

For Cubans — a day at the beach is no easy task

Published

on

Cuba's constitution guarantees its people access to its beaches, but many locals are unable to enjoy the island's pristine white sands and crystal clear blue waters.

While foreign tourists flock to such paradisiacal Havana sites as Varadero, which was this year named the second most-beautiful beach in the world by American travel website TripAdvisor, Cubans are typically found elsewhere.

"Not many tourists come here," said 43-year-old Rey Gonzalez, who was enjoying a day at Guanabo, a beach east of the capital.

Guanabo's sand isn't as white and the water not quite as clear as Varadero's, but that mattered little to Gonzalez, who was there with his family.

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

Join Me. Try Raw Story Investigates for $1. Invest in Journalism. Escape Ads.
close-image