átx̱ isitee | you are really something
Every single person who uses our language and commits to learning and decolonizing spaces through action and words is a part of a growing movement. It is good to let people know they are important and valued, and one of the ways to use this phrase, which literally translates to “you are something,” but means “you are important.” As our teacher and elder Ḵaalḵáawu Cyril George told us, “a pat on the back never hurt anybody.”
This 1" button pin is designed by X'unei Lance Twitchell and assembled by our team in-house as a part of our Lingít button pin collection. The collection is made with the intention of promoting the use of Lingít yoo x̱ʼatángi (Lingít language) and to share some concepts that exist within our language. Many of these phrases are ones that we love to use within a community of language users, learners, and teachers that are committed to changing the way things are going with Indigenous languages and place.
Lingít language is alive and in regular use on our community, and those who are on our lands as visitors or residents are invited and encouraged to use our language and end practices of genocide and exclusion. Also, we have fun and challenge ourselves to understand a complex and rich language that has been here since mammoths were walking around.
Also fun: The word for button, like on a blanket or shirt has several forms (ḵaayaka.óotʼi; ḵaayuka.óotʼi; yooka.óotʼ; yaka.óotʼ). All of these derive from the following compound noun ḵaa yaka.óotʼ which I Ḵaanáḵ Ruth Demmert translated as “human made octopus sucker.” Since these buttons have a needle/pin affixed to them, we are calling them át yawdig̱íji yooka.óotʼ (the human-made button that pierces).
Lance Twitchell, PhD, is of Tlingit, Haida, Yupʼik, and Sami heritage with the Tlingit names X̱ʼunei and Du Aaní Kawdinook, and the Haida name Ḵʼeijáakw. X̱ʼunei is an Associate Professor of Alaska Native Languages at the University of Alaska Southeast and is a multimedia artist who works in Northwest Coast Design, poetry, screenwriting, audio, film, and photography. His studies are in creating safe language acquisition spaces and achieving revitalization through counter-hegemonic transformation, which means a rejection of external definitions and fragmentation and a promotion of the thought world of the ancestors of language movements.