The number of people in Southeast Alaska who can speak one of the three Native languages there -- Tlingit, Haida and Coastal Tsimshian -- has dropped to perhaps 250, reports Lance A. Twitchell (Xh'unei), an assistant professor of Native languages at the University of Alaska Southeast. In a Juneau Empire column, he calls for a new individual and institutional commitment to revitalizing the languages.
This is not a race issue. This is a human issue. I think of it as this: You are walking past a dying person. Do you just walk past? It does not matter how it happened or what you may think of that person. What type of human are you? When we examine the history of this area, we can see that the human obligation is to help people survive and to be kind. Recently, I heard a wise man say that politics is bullying, and Alaska Natives do not make good bullies.
The goal of Alaska Native language revitalization is not to force anyone to do anything or to try and destroy anyone else's identity or sense of place. Ironically, there seems to be a real fear of the revival of Alaska Native languages, or at the very least a reluctance to see it. But it is coming. Our languages are now beginning to go through the process of death, the result of decades upon decades of a killing machine that we can call assimilation. We will no longer allow that to happen.
Read more at the Empire: Alaska Native languages: It all comes down to choices.