(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today released the following statement after Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, introduced identical legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to Tester’s Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act. Tester’s bill establishes a grant program to fund Native language educational programs in order to improve high school graduation rates, increase college enrollment and better prepare students for jobs:
“I appreciate Congressman Cole stepping forward to help preserve and revitalize our sacred Native American languages. Preserving Native languages will strengthen Indian culture and increase student confidence – leading to greater academic achievement and a growing economy in Indian Country. I look forward to working with Tom to pass this bill and preserve the languages and traditions that strengthen Indian Country.”
Tester’s bill, which is currently under consideration in his committee and supported by the National Indian Education Association and several tribal groups around the country, would award grants to eligible programs serving students from pre-Kindergarten to graduate school that use Native American languages as the primary language of instruction. It would authorize $5 million in 2015.
Tester became Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in February. After assuming the chairmanship, he embarked on a tour of Montana’s Indian Country to hear concerns from the state’s tribes. He also recently addressed the National Congress of American Indians.