With little national attention, 20 languages were named official state languages as House Bill 216 was signed into law late last month before a crowd of cheering people. Alaska’s Governor Sean Parnell signed the legislation which designated 20 Native languages as official state languages of the state of Alaska. He signed the bill into law as Alaskan Natives gathered in Anchorage for the Alaska Federation of Natives.
“Alaska Native young adults and students throughout the State have demonstrated remarkable success in revitalizing Alaska Native languages,” Governor Parnell said as he signed the legislation adding just short of two dozen languages as official languages of the state of Alaska. “This bill reinforces that effort and recognizes the vibrant, existing Alaska Native languages of the State of Alaska. I am proud of those who have kept these languages preserved, as they strengthen the traditions and heritage of our Native people.”
“The 20 Native languages include Inupiaq, Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan Yup’ik, Alutiiq, Unangax, Dena’ina, Deg Xinag, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Upper Kuskokwim, Gwich’in, Tanana, Upper Tanana, Tanacross, Hän, Ahtna, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian,” a press release from the state of Alaska listed.
Representatives Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Charisse Millett, Bryce Edgmon, Ben Nageak and Bob Herron sponsored the bill.
The legislation was approved by lawmakers earlier this year. Some members of the Alaska Federation of Natives accused Parnell of waiting until the gathering for political reasonings, according to Alaska Dispatch News. The race for Governor of the State of Alaska was expected to be a tight race, and has panned out to be still too close to call.
“It passed in April,” Georgianna Lincoln, an Alaska Federation of Natives board member, told Alaska Dispatch News of the legislation naming the 20 Native languages as official state languages. “One half a year later he wants the signing at the AFN convention? Now isn’t that politics?”
Days after the election, Deseret News said that the winner of Alaska’s gubernatorial race was still unclear. The race is so close that it hinges on absentee votes, which will reportedly be counted this upcoming week. As of Friday, independent candidate Bill Walker was in the lead by only about 3,000 votes over incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell.
Others from the Alaska Federation of Natives felt it was the perfect time to sign the bill. Jill “Kaasteen” Meserve said that it was “the perfect opportunity. We’ve got people from villages all over the state. We’ve got elders who could be here to witness it.”
[Photo via State of Alaska]