ḵúx̱de kei nas.áx̱ haa yoo x̱ʼatángi | our language is echoing back
Ever since non-Indigenous peoples came to Alaska, the Lingít language has entered a state of endangerment. That was accelerated by racist policies in American government and education that stripped Indigenous peoples of their lands, rights to education, food access, self-identity, and attempted to eradicate languages. The result was child torture and endangerment, public shame, and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual attacks and abuses. However, one of our cherished elders and teachers, Lʼeiwtu.éesh Herman Davis, told us that our language is echoing back with the work we are doing now, which is what this phrase states.
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.