Early Monday morning in its 91st day of the session, the Alaska Senate passed House Bill 216 by an 18-2 vote, making 20 Alaska Native languages official state languages. The Bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives last week, 38-0. It now heads to Governor Parnell for his signature.
“We are pleased the legislature passed this bill. Language is crucial to the perpetuation of Alaska Native cultures and identity, and this bill recognizes its importance,” said AFN President Julie Kitka. “Many thanks to the legislators who voted for this recognition, and also to the educators and culture bearers who championed the legislation.”
“While the language bill passed in 2014, it’s important that we acknowledge Alaska’s history of repressing Native languages and recognize Native cultures as central to the wonderful quilt work of society that is Alaska today,” Kitka said.
The vote followed a large grassroots effort that included a vigil in the halls of the capitol building, calls from AFN and other Native leaders from around the state, and social media buzz.
Only two senators voted no, John Coghill, R-North Pole, and Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks.
If Gov. Sean Parnell signs the bill into law, Alaska will become just the second state after Hawaii to officially recognize indigenous languages.