Local Alutiiq Speakers Express Concerns About SB130


Jennifer Canfield/KMXT

A senate bill that would establish an "advisory council for the preservation, restoration and revitalization of Alaska Native languages," has received a lot of attention from language enthusiasts. Gary Holton is a professor of linguistics at the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. On the language center’s blog, Holton says SB130 could be the most important legislation for language learners since 1972 when a series of laws were passed that established mandatory bilingual education in schools where Native languages were spoken. The hope is that the advisory council would give effective representation for Native languages at the state level, which would be a monumental event for many elders who still remember being beaten in school for speaking their first language.

Still, that optimism is tempered by some who are wary of the state being involved in any way with their language revitalization efforts. The Alutiiq Language Group, which comes together to create new Alutiiq words and to discuss their language, met yesterday here in Kodiak.

Irene Coyle of Akhiok isn’t for or against the bill. She says the details still need to be worked out, but that she is skeptical of it.

(LanguageBill 1 :07 " I’m fearful of something new coming in to what’s already established unless it’s going to make it a stronger foundation."

April Laktonen Counceller is the activity director for the new Alutiiq Studies program at the Kodiak College. She’s offered her assistance to Kodiak’s Senator Gary Stevens, who is now a co-sponsor of the bill, but she too has her concerns.

(LanguageBill 2 :31 "I guess there’s just a need for more information if this is going to move forward at the local community level what effect would this have on the local communities, I think that’s the worry. That it wouldn’t be fully representative or that it would be powerless or that it would be somehow used to have more oversight over what the local communities are doing when we feel like we kind of know what direction we want to go in.")

The bill is currently in the finance committee and will need a lot of support to make progress. Legislators already have a full plate with concerns about oil taxes and the ever-present debate over whether to build a natural gas pipeline.

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