Seventh Annual Native American Languages Summit features record attendance, first recipients of the Native American Languages Legacy Awards

November 24, 2020

The 2020 National Native American Language Summit, hosted by the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), and U.S. Department of Education (ED) drew record attendance and introduced new Language Legacy Awards this week, as the event was held virtually this year. Registration for the summit exceeded 500 people, the greatest number of attendees in its seven-year history.

The National Native Language Summit hosted 15 live workshops between Monday, November 16 and Wednesday, November 18 focused around the theme “Building Upon Our Resilience Through Our Languages.” The theme signified the importance of supporting Native American communities who seek to maintain and revitalize their Indigenous languages. The summit featured guest speakers from Native language grant recipients across the country, including the Pacific Basin. The summit covered a variety of topics including data and evaluation, mentoring and developing language teachers, and community engagement.

“We are resilient people, and our Indigenous languages are a vital part of that resilience,” said Jeannie Hovland, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans. “We become even more resilient when we learn, reclaim, and pass down our languages to future generations, which is why we chose this theme for the summit.”

New to this year’s summit were the Native American Language Legacy Awards. These awards are for an individual and an organization whose work has had a profound impact on the preservation and maintenance of Native languages. The Individual Achievement Award was presented to the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums, in honor of all Native American Code Talkers. Navajo Code Talkers Thomas Begay and Peter MacDonald shared their inspirational life experiences and emphasized the importance of Native languages in the Allied victory of World War II.

“I wanted to be honorable and I wanted to serve my country, so they sent me to Navajo Code Talker School,” said Thomas Begay. “It was easy for me because I knew Navajo the traditional way because of how I grew up.”

“Language is very, very important, no matter what language you speak, because it gives you life,” said Peter MacDonald. “Everything growing up is explained to you in your language. Language gives you a means to understand the things around you.”

“Navajo and Native American Code Talkers were forbidden to speak their Native languages freely, yet were called upon to use their language to help the United States and our allies win World War I and World War II,” said Commissioner Jeannie Hovland. “They were sworn to secrecy about their service as a code talker until it was unclassified, decades later. Unfortunately, many died before the world knew of their heroism and sacrifice, but as Native people, we honor them by keeping their languages and legacy alive. Because of them, we enjoy our freedom as American citizens; because of them, we stand proud as Native Americans in our right to learn and speak our native languages.”

The Organizational Achievement Award was given to the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator John Hoeven and Senator Tom Udall.

“As Chairman, Senator Hoeven worked in a bi-partisan fashion, ensuring that expert witnesses were brought to bear in oversight hearings on Native Languages, as well as in testimony on legislation. When Senator Udall announced he would be retiring this year, I knew we must mark the occasion by reflecting on his years of dedicated service and accomplishments specifically to Native languages,” said Commissioner Hovland.

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Quick Facts

  • Registration for the summit exceeded 500 people, the greatest number of attendees in its seven-year history.
  • The National Native Language Summit hosted 15 live workshops between Monday, November 16 and Wednesday, November 18 focused around the theme “Building Upon Our Resilience Through Our Languages.”
  • The summit covered a variety of topics including data and evaluation, mentoring and developing language teachers, and community engagement.
  • New to this year’s summit were the Native American Language Legacy Awards.

Quotes

"We are resilient people, and our Indigenous languages are a vital part of that resilience."
— Jeannie Hovland, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans
"We become even more resilient when we learn, reclaim, and pass down our languages to future generations, which is why we chose this theme for the summit."
— Jeannie Hovland, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans
"I wanted to be honorable and I wanted to serve my country, so they sent me to Navajo Code Talker School."
— Thomas Begay, Navajo Code Talker
"It was easy for me because I knew Navajo the traditional way because of how I grew up."
— Thomas Begay, Navajo Code Talker
"Language is very, very important, no matter what language you speak, because it gives you life."
— Peter MacDonald, Navajo Code Talker
"Everything growing up is explained to you in your language. Language gives you a means to understand the things around you."
— Peter MacDonald, Navajo Code Talker
"Navajo and Native American Code Talkers were forbidden to speak their Native languages freely, yet were called upon to use their language to help the United States and our allies win World War I and World War II."
— Jeannie Hovland, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans
"Unfortunately, many died before the world knew of their heroism and sacrifice, but as Native people, we honor them by keeping their languages and legacy alive."
— Jeannie Hovland, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans
"Because of them, we enjoy our freedom as American citizens; because of them, we stand proud as Native Americans in our right to learn and speak our native languages."
— Jeannie Hovland, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans
"As Chairman, Senator Hoeven worked in a bi-partisan fashion, ensuring that expert witnesses were brought to bear in oversight hearings on Native Languages, as well as in testimony on legislation."
— Jeannie Hovland, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans
"When Senator Udall announced he would be retiring this year, I knew we must mark the occasion by reflecting on his years of dedicated service and accomplishments specifically to Native languages."
— Jeannie Hovland, commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans

Contact

Administration for Children & Families
Office of Communications
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Washington, D.C. 20201

Phone: (202) 401-9215
Fax: (202) 205-9688
Email: media@acf.hhs.gov