Legislature(2021 - 2022)ADAMS 519

04/21/2021 01:30 PM House FINANCE

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-- Public Testimony --
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Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HOUSE BILL NO. 47                                                                                                             
     "An   Act   renaming   the   Alaska   Native   Language                                                                    
     Preservation and  Advisory Council  as the  Council for                                                                    
     Alaska Native  Languages; and  relating to  the Council                                                                    
     for Alaska Native Languages."                                                                                              
2:15:33 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDI STORY,  SPONSOR, read  from a  prepared                                                                    
     Thank  you, Chair  Merrick, and  members  of the  House                                                                    
     Finance  Committee.  For  the  record I  am  Rep.  Andi                                                                    
     Story,  representing district  34,  which  is on  A'akw                                                                    
     Kwaan land  and the Indigenous language  of this region                                                                    
     is Tlingit.                                                                                                                
     House Bill  47 developed as the  Alaska Native Language                                                                    
     Preservation  &  Advisory  Council,  wants  to  do  two                                                                    
          1. Shorten the Council name                                                                                           
          2. Expand its' membership.                                                                                            
     The  Council  provides  recommendations and  advice  to                                                                    
     both   the  Governor   and  Legislature   on  programs,                                                                    
     policies, and projects, and to  network and advocate in                                                                    
     support of the Council's mission.                                                                                          
     The  mission  is  to  advocate  for  the  survival  and                                                                    
     revitalization  of  Alaska   Native  languages  through                                                                    
     collaboration and sharing for all.                                                                                         
     The  Alaska  Native  Language Preservation  &  Advisory                                                                    
     Council was created  by the second session  of the 27th                                                                    
     Legislature.   The  Governor   appointed  five   voting                                                                    
     members who are                                                                                                            
     professional   language  experts   and  who   represent                                                                    
     diverse regions of the state.                                                                                              
     Additionally,  there  are  two nonvoting  members.  One                                                                    
     member  of   the  Senate,   appointed  by   the  Senate                                                                    
     President  and one  member of  the House,  appointed by                                                                    
     the  speaker. I  have been  fortunate to  serve as  the                                                                    
     non-voting member from the House,  and this is how this                                                                    
     information was brought to me.                                                                                             
     The two seemingly small changes  proposed in HB 47 have                                                                    
     significant meaning  to the council. The  first item in                                                                    
     the  name change  simplifies the  name from  The Alaska                                                                    
     Native  Language  Preservation  & Advisory  Council  to                                                                    
     Council for Alaska Native  Languages. This reflects the                                                                    
     goal  of sustaining  and  reinvigorating Alaska  Native                                                                    
   language, - a concept that goes beyond preservation.                                                                         
     The second change requested is  to add two new members,                                                                    
     going from 5  to 7 voting members. Alaska  has about 20                                                                    
     distinct languages, and  to be able to  be inclusive of                                                                    
     more  languages  the  council feels  two  more  members                                                                    
     would capture a greater perspective.                                                                                       
     I appreciate  your consideration  of House Bill  47. It                                                                    
     supports the requests of the council.                                                                                      
     Chair  Merrick,   depending  on   the  wishes   of  the                                                                    
     committee,  my staff,  Mary Aparezuk,  is available  to                                                                    
     walk through the sectional analysis.                                                                                       
     HB 47  has a $10,000  fiscal note. Sandra  Moeller from                                                                    
     the  Department  of  Community, Commerce  and  Economic                                                                    
     Development is on-line with an explanation.                                                                                
     Importantly  there is  an  invited  testifier, X  'unei                                                                    
     (khoo - nay)  Twitchell, online who is  a voting member                                                                    
     of  the council  and  a  long-time indigenous  language                                                                    
     advocate. We are all happy to take any questions.                                                                          
Co-Chair Merrick directed Rep. Storys staff to review the                                                                       
sectional analysis.                                                                                                             
2:19:27 PM                                                                                                                    
MARY APAREZUK, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE ANDI STORY, (via                                                                           
teleconference), appreciated the members taking the time to                                                                     
hear the bill. She read the sectional analysis:                                                                                 
     Section 1:  Amends AS 44.33.520(a) simplifies  the name                                                                    
     of   the   Council   from   "Alaska   Native   Language                                                                    
     Preservation  and  Advisory  Council" to  "Council  for                                                                    
     Alaska Native Languages."                                                                                                  
     Section 2:  Amends AS  44.33.520(c) by  changing voting                                                                    
     members from "five" to "seven."                                                                                            
Co-Chair Merrick moved to invited testimony.                                                                                    
2:20:48 PM                                                                                                                    
XH'UNEI,  LANCE A.  TWITCHELL,  ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR,  ALASKA                                                                    
NATIVE  LANGUAGES,  UNIVERSITY   OF  ALASKA  SOUTHEAST  (via                                                                    
teleconference) spoke in favor of  HB 47. He read a prepared                                                                    
     Thank   you,  honorable   Representatives.  Gunalch?esh                                                                    
     Representative  Story and  her  office for  introducing                                                                    
     this House Bill 47. My  name is Xunei  Lance Twitchell,                                                                    
     and I  represent myself here  today, speaking  in favor                                                                    
     of this  bill. It is  an honor  to visit with  you here                                                                    
     today, and  to talk about the  sacred and irreplaceable                                                                    
     languages of  Alaska. My work  is teaching  the Linig?t                                                                    
     language  at the  University  of  Alaska Southeast  and                                                                    
     advocating for  the health and safety  of 22 additional                                                                    
     Alaska  Native  languages  as  a  scholar  of  language                                                                    
     revitalization. I am also the  vice chair of the Alaska                                                                    
     Native  Language  Preservation  and  Advisory  Council.                                                                    
     However, I do not speak for those organizations today.                                                                     
     I  wish I  could tell  you  that there  was great  news                                                                    
     regarding Alaska  Native languages. I wish  I could say                                                                    
     that  since the  last time  I testified  to this  great                                                                    
     body  of  elected  leaders   to   declare  a  state  of                                                                    
     emergency  for our  languagesthat  sufficient  work had                                                                    
     been done and changes were  made that led to hope. That                                                                    
     is simply  not the  case. As leaders,  let me  tell you                                                                    
     what  is  going  to  happen on  your  watch,  and  what                                                                    
     history  books  will  remember you  for:  half  of  the                                                                    
     surviving  Alaska Native  languages  are  going to  die                                                                    
     out. The silence will be  horrifying, and to be honest,                                                                    
     many of your colleagues  will never even notice, unless                                                                    
     they happen to read about it.  There is so much work to                                                                    
     do, and  so much loss on  a daily basis, and  that work                                                                    
     falls  upon  six people  from  the  perspective of  the                                                                    
     State  of  Alaska: the  five  council  members and  the                                                                    
     single   employee  of   the   Alaska  Native   Language                                                                    
     Preservation & Advisory Council.                                                                                           
     When this Council was formed  in 2012, many of us doing                                                                    
     this work  felt a  charge of energy.  We felt  seen and                                                                    
     heard. But then politics began  to be played. The staff                                                                    
     positions for  the council  were cut  from two  to one.                                                                    
     The  reports produced  every two  years  often fell  on                                                                    
     ears that  refused to listen  and eyes that  refused to                                                                    
     read.  If Alaska  Native  languages  were important  to                                                                    
     this  state, then  this congress  would have  heard the                                                                    
     calls  for  change  and taken  more  courageous  action                                                                    
     since  that time.  We had  at least  23 languages  that                                                                    
     were spoken  in this  state before  contact, and  21 of                                                                    
     them  are still  spoken today.  But by  my estimations,                                                                    
     over  half of  them  may have  fewer  than 10  speakers                                                                    
     remaining, and  we are  only talking  about incremental                                                                    
     change,  are only  toeing a  line  that keeps  us in  a                                                                    
     death spiral.  And let  me tell you  this: if  this was                                                                    
     your  future on  the line.  If this  was a  total break                                                                    
     between  your   present  existence  and  all   of  your                                                                    
     ancestors, and if you stood  to lose the chance to pass                                                                    
     along  your identity  to your  descendants, I  would do                                                                    
     all that  I could to help  you. This is the  way of the                                                                    
     human being. I  ask you this: can you, not  as a single                                                                    
     Representative, not as  a committee, not as  a House of                                                                    
     Representatives, but as the  Legislature of this state,                                                                    
     could you collectively say the same?                                                                                       
     This  is  a small  change  that  the Council  has  been                                                                    
     asking for  since our  last report  came out  two years                                                                    
     ago. We  are not  in the  business of  preservation. We                                                                    
     need  substantial  and  lasting change  that  leads  to                                                                    
     revitalization. What leaders are  we if we allow entire                                                                    
     ways  of  knowing  to be  eradicated  by  systemic  and                                                                    
     deliberate genocide? What  kind of humans are  we if we                                                                    
     stand upon a foundation of  racism and allow systems of                                                                    
     communication that  are tens of thousands  of years old                                                                    
     to be  lost? Can  we, with steadfast  determination and                                                                    
     unity, dream of a future  other than death? Can we find                                                                    
     the courage to  create a different destiny  and be real                                                                    
     about  the  levels  of  inaction   and  total  lack  of                                                                    
     compassion? To all of this, I would say: yes.                                                                              
     This is a  small change, and as a  scholar and advocate                                                                    
     of  language  revitalization  I  have  many  ideas  for                                                                    
     larger changes, but I implore  you to grow this council                                                                    
     and find a way to  elevate the voices that are burdened                                                                    
     with these loses. Give it  a stronger and more relevant                                                                    
     name   regarding  the   work  that   we  do,   and  the                                                                    
     terminology currently used in  this field. We are doing                                                                    
     all we can  to stop the tide with our  bare hands, from                                                                    
     which  this government  has removed  the tools  and the                                                                    
     populace. Have  courage, my leaders. A  brighter future                                                                    
     calls  you  if you  choose  to  listen.  A new  day  is                                                                    
     waiting if you choose to  see. In our language, we say,                                                                    
     gunalch?esh, thank you.                                                                                                    
2:26:06 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Josephson thanked Dr. Twitchell for his                                                                          
statement. He asked what kind of resources would be needed                                                                      
beyond the scope of the bill for language preservation.                                                                         
Mr.  Twitchell thought  that currently  it  would require  a                                                                    
rearrangement of  existing resources. He did  not anticipate                                                                    
a  substantial cost  to create  a college  of Alaska  Native                                                                    
languages  because there  were  already  teachers in  place.                                                                    
However,  there was  no specified  degree  program or  clear                                                                    
direction to  create teachers. He suggested  that the Alaska                                                                    
Native  Language Center  receive enough  support to  produce                                                                    
high    quality    publications    and    enable    language                                                                    
documentation.  He  suggested  the  creation  of  an  Alaska                                                                    
Native  Media  network,  which would  need  initial  startup                                                                    
funding  but could  work through  Alaska  Public Radio.  The                                                                    
network  would  establish  a central  office  that  produced                                                                    
audio  and video  content  for  broadcasting throughout  the                                                                    
state. He  noted that a  similar path was very  effective in                                                                    
Hawaii  and  New  Zealand  to  promote  Hawaiian  and  Maori                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick  relayed that Sandra Moller  would speak to                                                                    
the  published   Fiscal  Note  1  from   the  Department  of                                                                    
Commerce,  Community and  Economic  Development  [FN 1  CED]                                                                    
appropriated  to  the  Division of  Community  and  Regional                                                                    
2:28:47 PM                                                                                                                    
SANDRA MOLLER, DIRECTOR, DIVISION  OF COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL                                                                    
AFFAIRS,  DEPARTMENT  OF  COMMERCE, COMMUNITY  AND  ECONOMIC                                                                    
DEVELOPMENT   (via   teleconference),  reported   that   the                                                                    
language program  existed within  the division.  She related                                                                    
that there  was not a  separate budget for the  council. The                                                                    
division would require an additional  $10 thousand in travel                                                                    
per year  for the  two additional members  to travel  to two                                                                    
meetings per year at a cost of $2.5 thousand per trip.                                                                          
2:29:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Edgmon  thought  that only  1  staff  member                                                                    
travelled.  Ms.  Moller  replied   that  two  board  members                                                                    
2:30:11 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Story clarified that  the fiscal note was for                                                                    
the two additional voting council members to travel.                                                                            
Representative  Edgmon had  heard that  the council  members                                                                    
had not travelled since  2018. Representative Story answered                                                                    
in the  affirmative. She conveyed  that in 2015  the council                                                                    
switched from  two trips each year  to one trip and  had not                                                                    
travelled  since 2018.  She added  that she  was honored  to                                                                    
serve as a  non-voting member of the  council. She indicated                                                                    
that there  was a report  which she included in  the members                                                                    
packets titled   The Alaska  Native Language  Preservation &                                                                    
Advisory Council's 2020 Biennial  Report to the Governor and                                                                    
Legislature  (copy on file). She  directed attention to page                                                                    
18  that  contained  findings  and  recommendations  of  the                                                                    
council and encouraged members to read the recommendations.                                                                     
Co-Chair Merrick set HB 47 aside.                                                                                               
HB  47  was   HEARD  and  HELD  in   committee  for  further                                                                    
2:31:46 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
2:32:58 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick indicated the next bill was HB 127.                                                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB041 Letters of Support as of 03.30.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 41
HB041 Sponsor Statement ver. B 1.27.21.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 41
HB041 Sectional Analysis ver B 03.10.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 41
HB47 Sponsor Statement 3.31.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 47
HB 47 Sectional Analysis version A.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 47
HB 47 Testimony - Received as of 4.6.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 47
HB47 Additional Documents 04.06.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 47
HB 127 Letter of Support Maniilaq 3.15.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 127
HB 127 Sponsor Statement version A 3.16.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 127
HB 127 Sectional Analysis version A 3.16.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 127
HB 127 Support Letter University of Alaska 3.9.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
SFIN 4/21/2022 9:00:00 AM
HB 127
HB 41 Letter of Support - ASMI 04.21.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 41
HB 41 Letter of Support - ABSC 04.22.2021.pdf HFIN 4/21/2021 1:30:00 PM
HB 41