Today, Governor Bullock signed into law Senate Bill 272 and House Bill 559. These two bills are aimed at supporting the preservation and continuation of tribal languages in Montana.
Senate Bill 272, introduced by Senator Jonathan Windy Boy, Box Elder, encourages language immersion classes in public schools. Funding will be provided to implement tribal language immersion-style program for a handful of schools that have at least a 10 percent American Indian student population.
“Senate Bill 272 takes a bold move forward to encourage school districts to implement language immersion programs,” said Senator Windy Boy. “With this monumental piece of legislation, Montana has set the bar high.”
House Bill 559, introduced by Representative George Kipp, Heart Butte, revises and extends the Montana Indian Language Preservation (MILP) program. In 2013, the legislature appropriated $2 million from the general fund to establish the MILP pilot program. HB 559 places this program in the state base budget at $1.5 million over the biennium. The program supports tribal governments or their designees, in collaboration with state agencies, to engage in preservation efforts of tribal languages in Montana.
“Native languages are a treasure to this state, but this bill is also about preserving our culture and song,” said Representative Kipp. “By recording and preserving our languages, we ensure a bright future for our children.”
Montana will now join Hawaii as the only other state to provide state funding for Native American language immersion programs in public schools.
“We are thrilled to join the Governor, legislators, and tribal leaders in celebrating Montana’s efforts to preserve the languages of our tribal nations,” said Laura John, State-Tribal Policy Specialist for Montana Budget and Policy Center. “The impact of these programs reaches well beyond mere preservation and education. These programs will help reverse a legacy of ill-intended policy that has contributed to the loss of tribal languages in our country.
The Montana Budget and Policy Center (MBPC) is a nonprofit organization providing in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. In 2013, the MBPC released a report on the economic impacts and educational and cultural benefits of Native language preservation. You can find the report at www.mbadmin.jaunt.cloud.