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Montana Governor Signs Laws to Promote, Preserve Tribal Languages

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has signed a pair of bills designed to promote and preserve Native American languages.

A language-immersion law sponsored by state Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy will provide $45,000 over the next two years to create programs in schools with Native American student enrollment of at least 10 percent.

The money will fund immersion programs in five Montana school systems. Currently no public schools in Montana offer tribal language immersion programs, but three private K-12 Native language immersion schools exist in the state, the Associated Press reports.

Bullock also signed a bill to continue funding the Montana Indian Language Preservation program, which creates tribal language dictionaries, recordings, and teaching materials.  The program "has helped tribes pursue innovative approaches to ensuring these languages are passed on to future generations," the bill's sponsor, state Rep. George Kipp, said in a statement.

Under the measure, $1.5 million will go to support those efforts over the next two years. Some of the money will also assist in the preservation and curricular goals of Montana's Indian Education for All Program, the Associated Press reports.

"Montana is leading the nation in the promotion and preservation of tribal languages," Gov. Bullock said in a statement. "Tribal languages are more than just a collection of words and phrases tied together. They represent the culture and history of not only Native Americans in our state, but in fact they represent the culture and history of our entire state."

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