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3/23/15 - Sen. Donny Olson proposes promotion of Native languages through teacher certification

Mar 23, 2015

At least 20 distinct Native languages are spoken in Alaska, and every year, the population of speakers gets a little smaller. A Golovin senator now wants to reverse that trend by encouraging immersion language charter schools.

Democrat Donny Olson introduced a bill on Friday that would create a special certification process for instructors of Native languages, so that it would be easier for them to teach in schools.  He’s hoping to build on the success of legislation recognizing Alaska’s Native languages as official languages in their own right.

“There is a continued interest,” said Olson, “a continued momentum of issues like this that are coming to the forefront.”

While the bill would make it easier to set up immersion programs for any language, it makes specific reference to revitalizing endangered languages and providing an education consistent with indigenous cultures. The idea behind an immersion program is that students would be able to take all kinds of courses -- like math and science -- in a language other than English to help their fluency.

The charter schools could be set up using already existing resources, serving as alternative curricula in brick-and-mortar schools that are already up and running. Olson hopes that such schools could be established in rural areas, like the one he represents. His own parents spoke Inupiaq to him when he was a child, and he would like his children to have a chance to learn the language as well.

“The idea that, you know, they could do something like that -- I think it could make the daddy proud,” said Olson.”

Bethel already operates a Yup’ik immersion school. Two foreign language programs exist in Southcentral -- a German program in Anchorage and a Spanish program in Wasilla.

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U.S. Dept. of Energy grants Southeast tribal organization $500,000 for energy efficiency

Southeast Alaska’s largest tribal organization is getting $500,000 from the federal government to make energy efficiency upgrades to its Juneau headquarters. The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska hopes to reduce energy use by 30 percent and save about $15,000 a year with the improvements to the Andrew Hope Building. The tribe will match the federal government’s half-million dollar investment in the project, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

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A new leader assumes office at the Alaska Army National Guard

A 27-year veteran of the Alaska Army National Guard commander became the head of the Guard in a ceremony Sunday at  Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Col. Joseph Streff took over from Brig. Gen. Mike Bridges. Streff is the first new commander under the administration of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker. The Guard is emerging from an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct among its ranks. The issue played a high-profile role in the 2014 gubernatorial race, which was under way during the release of a scathing federal report of sexual misconduct and fraud within the Guard.

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Proposed bill would put revenue from state land sales, royalties into University construction

Alaska state Sen. Pete Kelly is proposing that revenue from the management of state lands be used to finance construction projects for the University of Alaska. Under Kelly's proposal, the university's building fund would receive one-half of a percent of the money the state receives from sales or royalties of state land.

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Wood bison being brought back to Alaska

Thirty juvenile wood bison have arrived in a rural Alaska village, the first of 100 animals that will be released to restore wood bison to U.S. soil. They were trucked to Anchorage and flown by Lynden Air Cargo to Shageluk. They will be released in a few weeks to the Inoko (in-OH'-koh) Flats 350 miles southwest of Fairbanks.