Nez-Lizer Administration supports bipartisan Native language reauthorization bill

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Nez-Lizer Administration supports bipartisan Native language reauthorization bill

WINDOW ROCK– Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer announced today their full support of the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act.

On Jan. 30, Rep. Ben Ray Luján introduced the House version of the bill, HR 912. On Feb. 6, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs advanced its companion version, S. 256 introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and vice chair of the committee.

President Nez said, “This act is designed to strengthen Tribally-administered Native language programs for the benefit and success of Native American children.”

Esther Martinez, a famed linguist, and storyteller was best known for her commitment to preserving the Tewa language. The bill, carrying Esther Martinez’s name, will reauthorize two federal Native American language programs at the Administration for Native Americans for each fiscal year from 2020 to 2024. It will also expand eligibility for those programs to smaller-sized Tribes and allow more extended grant periods.

“It is important for the Nez-Lizer Administration to protect how we educate Navajo youth through Navajo language and culture programs. The Navajo language is the foundation of our identity and way of life. It is essential for us to preserve it. My grandparents spoke to us in the Navajo language to pass on their teachings. This, in turn, helped us to grow morally, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” President Nez said. “By supporting this measure, my hope is that future generations will continue to speak the Navajo language.”

On the Navajo Nation, the Window Rock Unified School District in northeastern Arizona and the Central Consolidated School District in northwestern New Mexico, operate full immersion schools at the elementary level.

“When our schools incorporated the Navajo language into the learning environment, the students performed better on standardized tests. The Navajo language was also used to develop an unbreakable code during World War II by our Navajo Code Talkers to transmit military information,” Vice President Lizer said.

Language immersion and revitalization are top priorities for the Nez-Lizer Administration. President Nez said he supports making the Navajo language the official language of the Navajo Nation, reaffirming Navajo sovereignty.

President Nez and Vice President Lizer extend their gratitude to the New Mexico Congressional delegation for their leadership in introducing this legislation critical to Navajo core beliefs and identity.

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