U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
U.S. SENATE News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, received the inaugural Native American Language Legacy Organizational Leadership Award during the seventh annual Native American Languages Summit jointly hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Native Americans, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education, and the U.S. Department of Education.
The Organizational Leadership Award recognizes significant work to protect and advance Native American languages.
Throughout his career in Congress, Udall has championed efforts to expand federal support for Native American languages, including working to secure enactment of the Esther Martinez Native Languages Preservation Act in 2006 and the Native language Immersion Student Achievement Act as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.
Sen. Udall led the Esther Martinez Native American Language Programs Reauthorization Act, which became law in 2019. Udall most recently introduced the bipartisan Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act of 2020 to ensure the federal government is living up to policies and principles set out in the Native American Languages Act three decades ago.
“Native languages hold within them the culture, history, and resiliency of their communities,” Udall said. “Their importance – to their communities and to the nation at large – cannot be overstated. Native languages have influenced our shared American history, contributed to our understanding of environmental stewardship, and enriched the very fabric of our nation’s identity.
Udall’s remarks as delivered at the Native American Languages Summit:
Good afternoon. Thank you for that kind introduction, Commissioner Hovland. It’s great to join you and Native language advocates from across the country at the seventh annual Native American Languages Summit.
As the vice chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee and a long-time advocate for Native languages revitalization, I am honored to receive this year’s inaugural Organizational Leadership Award. Thank you to the Administration for Native Americans, the Department of Education, and the Bureau of Indian Education for this special recognition.
Native languages hold within them the culture, history, and resiliency of their communities. Their importance – to their communities and to the nation at large – cannot be overstated. Native languages have influenced our shared American history, contributed to our understanding of environmental stewardship, and enriched the very fabric of our nation’s identity.
This year’s Individual Achievement awardees – the Navajo Code Talkers who served in World War I and World War II – personify these contributions at home. And reflect the positive effect the United States’ Native languages can have on our global community.
Yet, until just 30 years ago, U.S. federal policies and practices often resulted in the suppression of Native languages.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, under the leadership of Chairman Inouye and Vice Chairman McCain, first sought to reshape federal policy on Native languages to better align with the principles of Tribal sovereignty and self-determination in 1990. Thanks to their hard work, the Native American Languages Act became law. And the United States formally acknowledged the rights and freedoms of Native Americans to use their languages.
During my time in Congress, I have worked to support the revitalization of Native American languages. In 2006, as a U.S. congressman for New Mexico, I helped lead a bipartisan bill to expand the ANA’s grant program to bolster Native language immersion education programs. The legislation, which eventually became known as the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, was named after a traditional storyteller and Tewa language advocate from the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo who tragically passed away in 2006.
In the Senate, I have taken inspiration from the groundwork laid by Chairman Inouye and Vice Chairman McCain over three decades ago and made championing Native languages and cultural rights a priority. Through listening sessions, field, and oversight hearings I convened as vice chairman, we have learned that while much progress has been made to rectify past injustices and move toward support of Native languages there is still more work to do.
To that end, I led the charge to enact the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act. This legislation, now law, enhances ANA’s Native languages grant programs and ensures their continued success for years to come.
And earlier this month, I introduced the Durbin Feeling Native Languages Act of 2020 to conduct a survey of Native American language use. Named after a well-respected Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran who passed away in August, this new bipartisan legislation will hold the federal government accountable for living up to the policies and principles set out in the Native American Languages Act over three decades ago.
Although my time in the Senate is coming to a close, I look forward to my continued partnership with Native communities and Native language advocates in my next chapter of public service. Thank you again for recognizing me today with the Native American Languages Legacy Award.