Native Language Bill Moves Through State House

native language bill

The House State Affairs Committee heard testimony Tuesday from Elder Selina Everson and University of Alaska professor Lance Twitchell in support of a bill that would add 20 Native languages to English as official languages of Alaska. The committee approved the bill and sent it to the House floor. PHOTO BY RICHARD MAUER, Anchorage Daily News


A bill that would add 20 Native languages to Alaska’s list of official languages is moving through the Alaska State House this week.  

Largely symbolic, the bill wouldn’t require that anything be said or written in any language other than English.  Its approval by the State Affairs Committee was loudly cheered by speakers of Native languages attending the hearing.

Tlingit Elder Selina Everson of the Alaska Native Sisterhood said the bill would go a long way toward healing the pain inflicted on Alaska Natives by schools that punished students for speaking the languages of their homes and communities.  “Our language is our very being,” she said.  “It’s our culture.  We were brought up with such respect to each other.  It would be an honor to be recognized that this is our culture – is our language.  It is our very heart and soul.”

“This bill is restorative justice,”  Tlingit speaker X’unei Lance Twitchell told the legislators.  A professor of Native languages at the Univeristy of Alaska Southeast, Twitchell said,  “You will create a better Alaska by overcoming outdated notions that we are inferior.  Have courage and vote yes now and on the floor.”

The committee listened, voting yes and sending the bill to the Rules Committee and likely on to the House floor.  If the bill passes, it would make Alaska the second state, behind Hawaii, to officially recognize its indigenous languages, according to Twitchell.

Click here to read the entire Anchorage Daily News article by Richard Mauer.