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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) applauded the Senate passage of the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act to strengthen Tribally-developed Native American language revitalization programs.

The bill is named after Esther Martinez, an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo traditional storyteller and Tewa language advocate who passed away in 2006. It amends existing law to reauthorize two federal Native American language programs at the Administration for Native Americans until 2024, expand eligibility for those programs to smaller-sized Tribal language programs, and allow both programs to offer longer grant periods. 

“Native American languages in the U.S. represent some of the greatest linguistic diversity in the world. They hold within them the culture, the history, and the resiliency of Native communities,” said Udall. “This bill, which honors Esther Martinez’s inspirational legacy for Native languages in New Mexico and across the country, recognizes and supports the important work being undertaken by Tribes and Native communities to maintain and revitalize their languages. I’m proud the Senate joined with the New Mexico delegation to pass this legislation to help carry on Esther Martinez’s advocacy, and I will continue to fight to make sure we get this bill across the finish line and signed into law.”

“Native language instruction connects students with their heritage and keeps our indigenous cultures alive. Students who are immersed in their language and a culturally relevant curriculum achieve greater academic success. I am proud that we will keep Ohkay Owingeh storyteller Esther Martinez’s legacy alive by continuing this program that has demonstrated success in teaching Native languages in many tribal communities to new generations,” said Heinrich.

“Preserving Native languages means that the inherent sovereignty, vibrant traditions, and rich cultures of Native communities can flourish. Esther Martinez made the revitalization of the Tewa language her life’s work, and I’m privileged to continue her fight to safeguard tribal heritage for future generations. In honor of Esther Martinez and all those who work to perpetuate Native languages, I’m proud to join my colleagues in supporting the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act,” said Assistant Speaker Luján.

“Keeping our indigenous languages and traditions alive is part of why our communities are so resilient, but in an era where our culture is continuously threatened, the programs that support language preservation are underfunded and often times lack funding altogether. The Senate passage of our bill honoring the legacy of Pueblo storyteller and self-taught linguist, Esther Martinez, is a positive step toward revitalizing our languages and traditions, and I’ll be fighting to move the bill through the House,” said Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

“The preservation of Native American languages is vital to the cultural traditions, histories, and future of tribal communities. Esther Martinez’s work as a Native language advocate continues to inspire to this day and her namesake legislation will provide tribal nations with the critical resources they need to safeguard Native languages and ensure the academic success of Native youth. I’m proud the Senate passed this legislation to honor Esther Martinez’s legacy and urge my colleagues in the House to do the same,” said Torres Small.

The full text of the bill is available HERE.

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