Alaska Senate votes in favor of native language emergency
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Senate has voted unanimously to declare a “linguistic emergency” for Alaska Native languages.
The vote ends a weeklong debate about whether the resolution should have included the word “emergency,” the Juneau Empire reported .
The resolution will return to the House where it originated, and representatives are expected to agree with a handful of changes made in the Senate.
The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska wrote on Twitter that the state is now “one step closer to ensuring the survival” of Alaska Native languages.
Independent state Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan sponsored the resolution in response to a recommendation made by the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council.
The resolution says that native languages are being lost at a rapid pace because the last remaining fluent speakers are dying of old age. It says that the preservation of language equates to the preservation of culture.
It concludes by asking Gov. Bill Walker to issue an administrative order recognizing a linguistic emergency.
Last week, Republican Sen. Kevin Meyer of Anchorage said that committee members agreed about the importance of language preservation, but they were wary of the word “emergency.”
“I think in most people’s minds, when you think of an emergency, you think of a fire, a flood, a major disaster like that,” he said.
In the Senate’s state affairs committee, “emergency,” was removed and replaced with a request that Walker “issue an administrative order recognizing the urgent need for language revitalization efforts.”
The Central Council issued a statement saying it objected. Members of the Tlingit and Haida annual assembly marched to the Capitol to protest the move.
In response, lawmakers restored the wording to “emergency.”
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com