Interview - Tlingit linguist says language carries wisdom of elders

May 2, 2016

Knowing Tlingit makes possible a life of understanding the ways of our elders

By Johanna Eurich

University of Alaska Southeast Assistant Professor Lance Twitchell.
Credit KTOO - Juneau

Most of Alaska’s twenty Native languages are going extinct. However, a Native languages assistant professor at the University of Alaska Southeast is bucking that tide. Lance X’uneit Twitchell worked hard to learn Tlingit, a language used by his family for thousands of years. Tlingit people have a rich and complex high civilization along the Pacific coast in Southeast Alaska famous for its totem poles, clan system, regalia, rich poetry and formal rhetoric.

Lance is one of a growing number of young Tlingit people who sought out elders and others to help teach themselves to speak the language, trying to make it an everyday reality for their families. He dreams of seeing and hearing his language everywhere – on the radio, in newspapers and on the web. Here, he speaks with monolingual reporter Johanna Eurich about his interest in reviving Native languages. Lance starts out by introducing himself and his clan relations in Tlingit.

Note: the discussion moves between Tlingit and English without translation.