Legislature approves council to preserve Native languages

JUNEAU — Lawmakers have passed a plan creating a state-backed council aimed at revitalizing Alaska Native languages.

SB130 was approved unanimously by the House on Thursday. Also Thursday, the Senate, which passed a version of the bill in March, agreed to changes made by the House.

The measure, which now goes to the governor, would establish the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council.

The council would evaluate the state’s 20 indigenous languages and make recommendations for preservation, restoration and revitalization.

Nome Democratic Sen. Donny Olson, the bill’s sponsor, says understanding of many languages has dropped off precipitously as younger generations only learn English. The last speaker of Eyak, the language of a Southcentral Alaska people, died in 2008.

Supporters believe the council will help prevent the same fate for other languages.