Indigenous language bill signed

Rep. Brown’s bill will help bring native speakers to classes

DENVER – Schools can say “ya’ah’tee” to a new bunch of potential Native American language teachers, thanks to a bill Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Monday.

Senate Bill 57 allows schools to hire indigenous language teachers even if the teachers aren’t certified educators. The language instructors would have to work with a certified teacher.

Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, the House sponsor, taught Hickenlooper to say “ya’ah’tee” – a Navajo greeting – during a brief ceremony to mark the bill’s signing Monday.

Schools in Southwest Colorado could use the bill to hire Ute and Navajo language teachers, Brown said.

“If they could come in and teach the language without having the certification of a regular teacher, I think that would be beneficial to school districts and to the students and parents,” Brown said.

Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, sponsored the bill, which she modelled on the Lakota language program in Denver Public Schools. Around 20 Denver Lakota students attended the bill-signing ceremony.

Hickenlooper also signed several other bills Monday and last Friday, including SB 102, which repeals the criminal libel statute.

Only a handful of people have been convicted of criminal libel in recent decades, but one of them was from the Durango area. Davis T. Stephenson is serving time in prison for criminal libel and several other harassment convictions for defamation of Fort Lewis College instructors and other people he didn’t like.

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