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University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumnus receives Young Native Leader Award

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 5:03 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Dr. X’unei Lance Twitchell teaches Native languages at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). On Monday, November 30th, Twitchell was honored with the “First Alaskan Institute Young Native Leader Award.”

According to a press release from UAS, this award recognizes those who “have shown dedicated work to help Native Peoples and communities with significant and profound purpose.”

“It was a really nice surprise in a really difficult and challenging year,” Twitchell said.

Twitchell earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, studying there from 2007 to 2010. Now he participates in advocacy work aiming to bring recognition for Alaska Native languages, which he feels are threatened with being lost.

He explained, “In the next 30 years, we stand to lose more Native American languages than throughout the entire course of contact with European nations - and that should be alarming. That should be something that’s right at the forefront of peoples’ mind, because it doesn’t have to happen.”

Among Twitchell’s accomplishments is helping to gain designation of these languages as co-official, making Alaska only the second state to do so. “It’s more than just a symbolic gesture. It’s really a statement about value,” he said.

Twitchell’s future advocacy plans include creating a College of Alaska Native Languages within the University of Alaska system. Twitchell is currently raising three bilingual children with his wife in Juneau.

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