Only 20 of the nearly 300 native languages originally spoken in America are spoken today by Native youth.
According to Ryan Wilson, Oglala Lakota, President of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages, indigenous languages are sacred and vital to the cultural survival of Native peoples.
Leaders in the Native language revitalization movement are convening in Washington D. C. this week at the National Museum of the American Indian. Participants also plan to meet for a briefing session on Capital Hill at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Hearing Room. The session will be followed by visits to their congressional delegations to share information about supporting Native language systems through the Ester Martinez Native Languages Preservation Act.
In a statement to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Wilson reported that Indian students who attend language immersion schools routinely out perform their counterparts attending English-only schools. Students also display lower drop out rates, disciplinary problems, substance abuse and lower rates of truancy. These problems are epidemic for Native youth, especially those living on reservations.