The late Cherokee linguist
Durbin Feeling is credited as being the tribes single-largest
contributor to the Cherokee language since Sequoyah. The Senate
Committee on Indian Affairs on Aug. 4 passed a Native American
language act named after him. COURTESY
WASHINGTON The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Aug.
4 passed the Durbin Feeling Native American Language Act of 2021,
a bipartisan bill named in honor of the late Cherokee linguist.
Sens. Brian Schatz, (D-Hawaii) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
introduced the bill, which was initially proposed by former Sen.
Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) in 2020. Udall proposed the legislation
on the 30th anniversary of the Native American Language Act signed
by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.
Today is a great day for the Cherokee language and all Native
American languages, said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
said. Today, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed
a bill that will ensure our Native languages get the support and
resources they need to ensure not only the Cherokee language, but
all Native American languages are thriving now and into the next
seven generations. This bill is named in honor of the largest contributor
to the Cherokee language since Sequoyah, the late Durbin Feeling,
who advocated tirelessly for Native language and revitalization
efforts. No one is more worthy of this honor than Durbin. Now, with
the approval of this bill by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,
I now urge our elected leaders at the U.S. Capitol to not only consider
this crucial law, but to vote for its passage in the Senate after
its upcoming August recess.
The act would direct the president to review federal agencies
compliance with the acts requirements and make recommendations
to improve interagency coordination in support of Native languages.
It would also authorize a federal survey of Native language use
and the unmet needs of language-revitalization programs every five
years. The surveys would allow Native communities and Congress to
improve targeting of federal resources for Native languages.
On the same day, the committee also approved the Native American
Language Resource Center Act of 2021.
These bipartisan Native languages bills will improve federal
support for culturally-based Native language instruction and ensure
Native American language use continues to grow, Schatz, who
chairs the committee, said. (This bill)
makes the federal
government more accountable by setting clear goals and asking for
direct input from Native communities about how federal resources
can be more effectively used to support and revitalize Native languages.
The Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act is supported by
the Joint National Committee for Languages-National Council for
Languages and International Studies, the National Congress of American
Indians, the National Indian Education Association, the National
Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs and the
Our Cherokee language is the soul of our people. It is the
source of our pride and our strength as a tribe, Howard Paden,
CN Language Department executive director, said. The investments
our tribe is making in our language programs are meant not only
to preserve the Cherokee language today, but to encourage us as
Cherokee people to embrace our language and to use it for generations
to come. It is vital that federal leaders continue to acknowledge
the efforts not just of the Cherokee Nation, but of tribes throughout
this country, to grow and strengthen our Native languages.
Feeling died Aug. 19, 2020, at age 74. Some of his accomplishments
include adding the Cherokee syllabary on a word processor in the
1980s, writing a Cherokee language dictionary in 1975 and helping
add the language on Unicode, which allows smartphones to offer the