State Senate unanimously recognizes Alaska Native ‘linguistic emergency’

Resolution’s change links language loss to cultural loss and crisis

Nancy Keen, center, and Alfie Price, right, sing a Nisga’a prayer song as senators, including Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, make their way to the Senate chambers for a session on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Senators were to vote on a resolution urging Gov. Bill Walker to issue an administrative order recognizing a linguistic emergency for Alaska Native languages. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The Alaska Senate voted Wednesday 20-0 in favor of a resolution declaring a “linguistic emergency” for Alaska Native languages, ending almost a week of debate about whether the issue merited the word “emergency.”

“Gunalchéesh, Háw’aa to the Alaska Senate,” the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska wrote on Twitter.

“We’re one step closer to ensuring the survival our AK Native languages!” it said.

House Concurrent Resolution 19, declaring the emergency, will return to the House, which is expected to agree with a handful of changes made in the Senate.

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