ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Federal grant programs aimed at preserving indigenous languages would be extended for a few more years and expanded to allow more American Indian tribes to participate under legislation that has cleared its final congressional hurdle.
The U.S. House approved the measure Monday, sending it to the president’s desk. The Senate gave its approval earlier this year.
The measure is named after Esther Martinez, a traditional storyteller and Tewa language advocate from northern New Mexico’s Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo who died in 2006. Her family and members of the state’s congressional delegation say reauthorization of the programs through 2024 would mark the federal government’s commitment to keeping Alaska Native and American Indian languages alive.
The goal of the programs has been to prevent the languages that are still spoken today from going extinct over the next 50 to 100 years. Evaluations by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department show the programs have increased fluency for thousands of speakers and have resulted in the training of between 170 and 280 Native language teachers each year.
“Esther Martinez was a champion for Native languages who spent her life teaching others and