Governor acts to create Native language council

Muñoz, other members of Juneau delegation backed bill to revitalize Native languages

Gov. Sean Parnell has signed into law a bill creating an Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council.

Senate Bill 130, which passed nearly unanimously, was sponsored by Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, and Rep. Alan Dick, R-Stony River, with Juneau’s Sen. Dennis Egan and Reps. Cathy Muñoz and Beth Kerttula all signing on as co-sponsors.

Muñoz had been a prime sponsor of similar House legislation as well.

The council will assess the state of Alaska Native languages, re-evaluate the programs, and make recommendations to establish new programs or reorganize existing programs.

“Without language preservation, a culture dies,” Parnell said. “As Alaskans, we honor and celebrate our traditional cultures. The state will join with Alaskans to make sure these languages live on.”

Parnell signed the bill on Memorial Day, while in Dillingham attending a rural providers conference.

“If we lose our Native languages, I think we lose a big part of who we are as a people whether we are Native or not,” Muñoz said during the session.

The volunteer panel of language experts set up by the legislation would look at successful language programs, such as those in Juneau schools or at the University of Alaska Southeast that might be expanded locally or copied elsewhere, Muñoz said.

The council is expected to cost between $500,000 and $600,000 a year to operate, with money already budgeted for that cost.

Expenses would include travel for the seven council members to meetings around the state, along with two staff people, a committee administrator and research analyst.

Council members would come from various geographic areas of the state, including two from Anchorage, and one each from Fairbanks, Juneau, Kotzebue, Barrow and Bethel.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at


Thu, 01/19/2017 - 09:26

Around Town for Thursday, Jan. 19

Today, Jan. 19

Read more
Thu, 01/19/2017 - 09:21

This Day in Juneau History: Jan. 19, 1987

On Jan. 19, 1987, with revenues half of what they were the year before and an estimated budget deficit ranging from $700-$900 million, the 15th Alaska Legislature began working on the state’s enormous budget deficit. Everyone was present for the Legislature’s first day except for Sen. Frank Ferguson, D-Kotzebue, who resigned shortly after his election because of health problems. Taking his place was Kotzebue businessman and Native leader Willie Hensley, whom Gov. Steve Cowper appointed for the position until the 1988 elections.

Read more
Thu, 01/19/2017 - 09:21

Police & Fire for Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement and public safety agencies. This report includes arrest and citation information, not conviction information. Anyone listed in this report is presumed innocent. Anyone with information about a crime can report a tip anonymously to

Read more


  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback