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New federal law to boost Indigenous language schools and programs

Nick Yee
Nick Yee
/
HPR

A new federal law will help to boost the work of Indigenous language schools and programs nationwide.

The Native American Language Resource Center Act will create a program in the U.S. Dept. of Education. It will support these resource centers, which are tasked with revitalizing Indigenous languages and developing curriculum, as well as other resources.

The measure was introduced by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and signed into law earlier this month.

Native Hawaiian community leader and educator Nāmaka Rawlins is part of a local group that supported the bill.

“The importance of the language is the importance of a people. It identifies you to a place. It identifies you to a people and everything that goes with that," Rawlins said.

"So our language home is here, so the importance of our language is the importance of our home. It’s the importance of our family. It’s the importance of our relationships, and it’s everyone that calls Hawaiʻi home,” she said. 

Rawlins served as the first executive director of ʻAha Pūnana Leo. She is now a senior director of one of the nonprofit's programs.

She said the act will help to build on the decades of work that she and many others have done in Hawaiʻi.

Jayna Omaye is the culture and arts reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at jomaye@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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