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Udall seeks language funding

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By Carol A. Clark

As part of his ongoing efforts to preserve ancient American Native languages, Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said $4 million in funding will be included in the final version of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008.The money will go to the Esther Martinez Native American Language ages Program, which Udall and Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M.,  were instrumental in establishing last year in honor of the language preservation pioneer.Martinez, who died in a car accident in 2006 was a well-known storyteller, linguist, and teacher who was a major conservator of the Tewa language of the Northern Pueblos of New Mexico.“This funding will help reverse the alarming trend of disappearing Native American languages,” Udall said in a news release from Washington. “This year, Congress has shown that we recognize the severity of the threat to these languages and that we will help to preserve them for future generations.”Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo Gov. Earl N. Salazar explained the importance of this funding during an interview this morning. “Language is the foundation of the Indian world,” Salazar said. “Some concepts do not translate into another language; there are characters, objects and figures that exist in one language that do not exist in another. Without the (original) language, it has a huge impact on the spirit world, it has an impact on everything.”Tewa was spoken everyday by Salazar and those of his generation in the 1950s and 1960s, he said. Youth today don’t speak the language.“We have to take special measures to teach them,” Salazar said. “We’ve done it on a small scale but to do it through a formal process is vitally important.”Udall sits on the House subcommittee that helped determine the funding level for this program. He became interested in the issue, he said, because during his time in Congress he has “had the great honor of visiting the Pueblos in my district and learning their cultures. I have learned that all across New Mexico tribes are losing their languages, a beautiful inheritance that can never be replaced.”Udall explained when a language is lost, “we lose a part of the beautiful cultural tapestry that makes America what it is. “When we lose a Native American language, we lose a piece of history. By funding this program, we are showing that we understand how important Native American languages are and we will do what it takes to protect them."Udall also serves as a co-vice chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.He was appointed at the start of the 110th Congress to the House Committee on Appropriations, which is responsible for setting all House expenditure levels for the federal government. Udall's three subcommittee assignments include the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment Appropriations, the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and the Subcommittee on Legislative Branch.President Bush has promised to veto the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, which provides needed investments in health care, education and other domestic priorities.