Alaskan Governor Signs Bill Naming 20 Official State Languages Other Than English

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A decently bizarre piece of Alaskan legislation was recently signed into law, naming 20 official state languages other than English.

Alaskan Gov. Sean Parnell signed House Bill 216 at the Alaskan Federation of Natives meeting in Anchorage, which opponents called a purely “political” move.

The 20 official added languages are all Native American dialects being spoken in various villages throughout the massive state. Although the legislation was passed in April, Parnell held off on signing the bill until the gathering, which coincidently coincided with his bid for re-election as Alaska’s governor.     

“Alaska Native young adults and students throughout the State have demonstrated remarkable success in revitalizing Alaska Native languages,” Governor Parnell told the crowd as he signed the legislation. “This bill reinforces that effort and recognizes the vibrant, existing Alaska Native languages of the State of Alaska. I am proud of those who have kept these languages preserved, as they strengthen the traditions and heritage of our Native people.”

For those curious as to what the official language list of Alaska now looks like, the state offered a press release to clarify: "The 20 Native languages include Inupiaq, Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan Yup’ik, Alutiiq, Unangax, Dena’ina, Deg Xinag, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Upper Kuskokwim, Gwich’in, Tanana, Upper Tanana, Tanacross, Hän, Ahtna, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian."

Although the move was directly aimed at appealing to Alaska’s Native American population, which accounts for 20 percent of the state's population, some members of the Alaska Federation of Natives were not buying Governor Parnell’s timing.

“It passed in April,” said Georgianna Lincoln, an Alaska Federation of Natives board member. “One half a year later, he wants the signing at the AFN convention? Now isn’t that politics?”

It remains unclear if Parnell’s move was able to help him win re-election in Alaska. The race is too close to call still, and it will largely come down to absentee ballots, which will be counted and totaled by the end of the week. Parnell’s adversary, Bill Walker, was leading by 3,000 votes when the numbers were last totaled.