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Lt. Gov. Treadwell: Let's put more Native place names on the map

October 23, 2013, Fairbanks, AK - Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell asked Alaska Native Elders and Youth in Fairbanks today to help get more original and traditional Native place names on the map as part of Alaska Native language revitalization efforts. 

Treadwell chairs the Alaska Historical Commission, which works on geographical place names and name changes in Alaska. 

"In 2000, about 20% of the official names approved were Native names," Treadwell said. "Back in the 90s, that was just 12%. We want to see that number go up even more. I want to work with you to put more Native place names on the map." 

Last year, Lt. Gov. Treadwell worked with legislators to hold a Native Language Workshop to discuss paths forward in language revitalization. 

"Without the support and participation of the Native community, any efforts the State makes don't mean a thing," Treadwell said. "This is our shared future, but it's your heritage."

Treadwell cited three ways to proceed in this work, referencing Gary Holton of the Alaska Native Place Names Documentation Project:  official recognition through place names; archiving and record keeping; and revitalizing language use in communities and schools.

He noted that 6,000 languages were spoken on Earth after World War II, and more than half now have no living speakers.  Preserving language is important in Alaska as it preserves history and culture. 

"This is the generation when this battle can be fought and won," Treadwell said. 

The Historical Commission's next meeting is December 13 in Juneau. Information on recommending name changes is available on their website at http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/oha/histcomm/ahc.htm.

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