Monday, March 07, 2005

Southwest Native art tribes oppose English language

Arizona is one of the states that produces wonderful Southwest Native art. Here's a article from Indian Country Today which reports some news from that region.

Arizona tribes oppose English as official language

© Indian Country Today January 21, 2005. All Rights Reserved

PHOENIX - Arizona Indian tribal leaders opposed new legislation that would make English the official state language, as they struggled for solutions to meet the needs of economic development and housing, during the 10th annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day.

Arizona Indian women leaders received standing ovations at the Arizona State Capitol when they objected to the proposal to make English the state language.

''In plain English, sir, we don't like it, and we don't want it,'' said San Carlos Apache Chairwoman Kathy Kitcheyan. ''As the first Americans, we never asked anyone to speak a specific language.''

Tohono O'odham Chairperson Vivian Juan-Saunders said the proposal was reminiscent of BIA boarding schools, where Indian children were verbally and physically abused for speaking their Native languages.

Juan-Saunders, also president of the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, said Navajos and other American Indian soldiers used their Native languages as unbreakable codes to pass messages, which helped win World War II.

House Concurrent Resolution 2030, being considered during this year's legislative session, would allow Arizona voters to declare English the official state language.

Speaking before a luncheon crowd of 500 representatives on the lawn in front of Senate Building, Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. said Indian tribes are beginning to feel like endangered species.

''We've been a true sovereign, but we're doing everything we can to save ourselves and our culture,'' President Shirley said, criticizing the English measure. ''One hundred years from now, 500 years from now, we will continue to be Navajo people telling our stories in the Navajo language.''

However, Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, sponsor of the legislation, criticized tribal leaders for their comments. In the audience, Pearce accused tribal leaders of not reading the proposed law. He said there is nothing in the proposal that affects how tribes conduct their own business.

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