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Traditional Languages in Danger, Minnesota Lawmaker Says

BEMIDJI, Minn.   A Minnesota state senator says American Indian languages could become extinct unless language- immersion programs are renewed.

Senator Mary Olson of Bemidji says immersion programs and textbooks written in Ojibwe are needed. That is the fourth most spoken Native American language in North America after Navajo, Cree, and Inuktitut.  The number of fluent speakers of Dakota and Ojibwe in Minnesota is declining rapidly, with fewer than 100 fluent speakers of Ojibwe and 30 fluent speakers of Dakota.

Education Commissioner Alice Seagren and members of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council have been meeting this week at the Capitol to discuss language preservation.

Olson, a Democrat, wrote a bill authorizing the state Board of Teaching to establish a task force for language immersion programs for Dakota and Ojibwe language preservation. The Board of Teaching would collaborate with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council to identify barriers to teacher licensing and certification for the teaching of Dakota and Ojibwe languages from prekindergarten to grade 12.

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