Native language bill passes Alaska House committee

The state capitol building in Juneau in May 2003. Photo: Kenneth John Gill, Wikimedia Commons.

House Bill 26 has passed the House Tribal Affairs Committee. The bill seeks to rename the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council as the Council for Alaska Native Languages.

The bill would also increase the number of voting seats on the council from five to seven.

The proposed legislation was heard for a third and final time in the committee on Monday, March 20. It passed out of committee after an amendment by Rep. Jamie Allard of Eagle River was accepted.

The amendment would increase the number of legally protected Alaskan languages from 20 to 23 by including Wetaɬ, Cupik and a Tanana language.

“This amendment is adding additional languages to be recognized, so all languages within the state of Alaska are recognized,” Allard said during the hearing on March 20.

As of 2022, Alaska Native language programs existed in 10 Bering Strait regional communities at the elementary through high school level and beyond, according to a council report.

The next hearing for HB26 is expected in the House Finance Committee due to a $10,000 fiscal note attached to the proposal. That money would be earmarked, under statute, for travel costs of council members.

Image at top: The state capitol building in Juneau. Photo by Kenneth John Gill, Wikimedia Commons.