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Alaska Native Language Experts Urge The State To Declare A "Linguistic Emergency"

Jan 31, 2018

Native language experts are urging the state to declare a "linguistic emergency," and work with tribes to open a discussion about the endangerment of indigenous languages.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

Native language experts are urging the state to declare a "linguistic emergency," and work with tribes to open a discussion about the endangerment of indigenous languages. In a report to both the legislature and Governor Walker, the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council warned that most of the 20 indigenous languages recognized by the state are expected to go extinct by the end of the century.

They recommended that, in the Council’s words, “the Governor issue an Administrative Order recognizing the linguistic emergency exists, and clearly stating that it is the policy of the State of Alaska actively to work to promote the survival and efflorescence of all of Alaska’s 21 official languages.”

 

Of all the endangered languages, Central Yup’ik has maintained the most speakers, with a little over 10,000 people using it today.

 

The report also implores policymakers to look at the relationship between historical trauma and language loss, and consider something “modeled after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to help find healing options for survivors of that trauma.

 

The Council suggests that the state sponsor a series of listening and discussion sessions so that the actions of the past can be publicly recognized, “partnering with communities and indigenous organizations to hold healing ceremonies.”