Governor orders future state signs to include Native language



Gov. Bill Walker signed Administrative Order 300 on Sunday, with specific instructions to state departments, including an order that each department come up for a plan for addressing racism against Alaska Natives.

The order is race-based for indigenous people in Alaska to the exclusion of other races and languages. The order is part of the governor’s linguistic emergency declaration.

Every department is now required to appoint or hire a tribal liaison to work closely with the commissioner and produce a written plan for engaging tribes and something the governor calls the “Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) endeavor.”

The plan will include steps to facilitate direct government-to-government relationships between each department and the 229 federally designated Alaska tribes, with specific actions departments will take in the “Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation” process.

Additionally, the governor has ordered all signs that are created, replaced or reprinted for state and local highways, and marine signage, will contain “accurately spelled traditional Alaska Native place names.” The cost of doing this is unknown.

Metlakatla is Maaxłakxaała in Tsimshian; new signage would need to contain both spellings.

The Tlingit name for Juneau is Dzántik’i Héeni, which means Base of the Flounder’s River. It is also the name of one of the middle schools in Juneau.

Glacier Bay is Sit’ Eeti Geeyi, or Bay Taking the place of the Ice or Glacier.

Wrangell is  Ḵaachx̱aana.áakʼw, while Klukwan is Tlakw Áan.

The Chandalar River is either Teedriinjik and Ch’idriinjik in Yup’ik, but there may be other variations.

Alaskans can be sure the lettering on the signs will be in the English-Latin alphabet with its 26 letters; there were no written languages in Alaska before the arrival of Russians.

The State website got things going with a bilingual welcome that is now featured and it includes an audio version that will help you with pronunciation of “Hello, how are you?”

English was made the official language of the state in 1998 by voter initiative, but House Bill 216 in 2014 made 20 Alaska Native languages also official languages, bringing the total to 21 official languages.

According to the 2007 American Community Survey, 85 percent of Alaskans speak English at home, 4.3 percent speak an Asian language, 3.5 percent speak Spanish, 2 percent speak an Indo-European language other than Spanish or English.

It is documented that 5 percent of Alaskans can speak one of the 22 indigenous languages in Alaska. About 11,000 Alaskans, for example, speak some version of Yup’ik.


  1. Every department has to have a tribal liaison?! That means every agency like AHFC, the Permanent Fund, etc. also has to hire one – easily 20 to 25 people in total. With added payroll costs and travel that is $5 million. But there is more; if Alaska statutes and regulations, and manuals must be translated into Native languages that will easily cost $100 million. No question, Walker and Begich are correct (and it’s all they agree on, except of course they agree about Mike Dunleavy) when they say Alaska needs an income tax. Are these people completely nutty? Is there absolutely no anchor in reality?

  2. That’s gonna be some huge sign if you have to write the same thing in 22 languages!
    And what if some of those languages don’t have a written form, maybe use an endless, loud, repeating, recording?
    And what about blind folks and public school alumni who can’t read?
    This could be big, a whole new State Department of Sign Language!

  3. The Governor has declared a state of emergency on Alaska Native Languages! Horrors! He and Byron need to claim a state of emergency on the lives of Alaska Native women and children because, without them, there will be no language. We just had one choked out, masturbated on and the perp walked. A beautiful child murdered in Kotzebue. And now, this woman is missing: This is just September’s news. Let’s get this house in order first……

  4. Where in Hades does he have the authorization for new personnel slots or the funds for them or anything additional?

  5. You are crazy Governor Walker and you are wasting state funds, all to play to the native voters. Anyone who has a drivers license had to be able read English, take a written exam in English, then pass a driving exam following road signs written in English, while understanding instructions from the DMV examiner spoken in English.

  6. Today Walker reemphasizes his demand for a carbon tax. Clearly climate change and Native languages take precedence in the Walker-Mallott offices over unemployment, crime, terrible education results, and all the other problems Walker has created.

  7. More insanity!
    The state is broke, yet he wants to spend spend spend.
    He figures spending the states $, will help him in the election.
    We need to send him packing!

  8. I have been a hardcore Democrat my whole life but I am voting Republican this year. I attribute the rise in tribalism in this country to the Democratic Party and tribalism is going to rip this country apart.

  9. Hmmm – I’m all for better relations with the Native Alaskan community and respect for retaining culture and language, but this doesn’t seem like the way to make it happen. Our villages need industry & jobs, affordable and sustainable infrastructure, and weaning off entitlement programs. Some tourism & cottage industry consultants would be a better investment.

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