JUNEAU — A bill has advanced in the Alaska State Legislature that would rename a state council on Alaska Native languages and expand its membership.
The bill would rename the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council to the Council for Alaska Native Languages and add two members to the current five-person council, KTOO Public Media reported Friday.
Members of the House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs heard comments from the bill’s supporters last Tuesday. The committee then voted to advance the bill to the House Finance Committee.
X̱'unei Lance Twitchell, a council member and Tlingit language scholar, said the Legislature should support growth of the 21 Alaska Native languages that are spoken today.
“But by my estimations, and the estimations of language experts across the state, over half of them may have fewer than 10 speakers remaining, and we’re only talking about incremental change or only toeing a line that does keep us in a death spiral,” Twitchell said.
The council produces a report every two years. The report published last year encouraged programs to immerse students in Alaska Native languages.