HB 26 would give Native languages entity a new name

Legislation recognizing the critical role of preserving and revitalizing Alaska Native languages with a new name has passed the House of Representatives and has moved to the Senate for consideration.

“Language is a fundamental part of culture, and the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council plays a critical role in supporting the preservation, restoration and revitalization of Alaska Native languages,” said Rep. Andi Story, D- Juneau, after the House approved the measure on May 4. “By changing the council’s name to the Council for Alaska Native Languages and increasing its membership, we are taking an important step toward recognizing the council’s broader focus and ensuring that it has the capacity to effectively support Alaska Native languages and cultures,” Story said.

House Bill 26 adds Wetał (Ts’etsa’ut), Cup’ig, and Benhti Kokhwt’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana) and Sahcheeg xut’een xneege’ (Middle Tanana) as official languages, as they were unintentionally left out when Alaska’s Indigenous languages became official languages in 2014.

Members of the seven-member entity, currently known as the Alaska Native Language Preservation & Advisory Council, are appointed by the governor and serve three-year terms.

Alaska has some 20 distinct languages, most within two main language groups. These include the Inuit-Unangan (a.k.a. Eskimo-Aleut) and Na-Dene (A.k.a. Athabasan-Eyak-Tlingit). Since its creation by the Legislature in 1972, the Alaska Native Language Center has researched and documented Alaska’s Native languages.

More information on the center is online at https://www.uaf.edu/anlc/.