December 08, 2022

Cortez Masto Joins Colleagues in Bipartisan Bill to Protect and Preserve Native American Languages

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the Committee, in cosponsoring the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act of 2021. This bipartisan legislation marks the 30th anniversary of the Native American Languages Act by ensuring federal efforts meet the goal of respecting and supporting the use of Native languages.

“Native American languages are critical to the rich cultural identities and histories of Tribes in Nevada and across the country,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m proud to join this legislation to help Tribes continue to preserve their important heritage.”

The bill, named after Durbin Feeling, a renowned Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran who passed away on August 19, 2020, would review and make recommendations to improve federal agencies’ coordination in support of Native American languages. It would also authorize a federal survey of Native language use and programmatic needs every five years. These surveys will serve as “health checks” to allow Native communities and Congress to target federal resources for Native American languages more effectively. The bill is supported by the Joint National Committee for Languages – National Council for Languages and International Studies, National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs, and the Cherokee Nation.

Senator Cortez Masto has been a strong advocate on behalf of Tribes in Nevada, and across the country. The Senator has continuously highlighted the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW), and she was instrumental in passing Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act into law. Most recently, she introduced the Bridging Agency Data Gaps & Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act to address federal inefficiencies that hurt Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement recruitment and retention, increase the effectiveness of federal missing persons resources, and give Tribes and states resources to combat the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.