Oct 22, 2015 - How I got Facebook to honor my Indigenous name by Nahaan
Like many Native/Indigenous Peoples’, Nahaan has had his Facebook page periodically shut down by Facebook over his use of his Native name. Below is his letter to Facebook to over-turn their actions. editors note
My Łingít name is Nahaan. It was “legally” given to me by my grandmother. It was her older brothers name. There are no first or last names in our Tlingit culture.
Our Indigenous process of naming has used an oral and legally binding declaration that has remained intact for over 10,000 years in the lands which are now called “Alaska”. We are a people and a culture that existed far before so called “America”.
I am known internationally as Nahaan because of my cultural presence and artistic involvement which is largely defined by my Indigenous name Nahaan. If I were to use my english name then no one would know who I was referring to.
My english name is not who I am, nor does it honor my history as an Indigenous person. My Łingít identity is the guiding force in my life, it has taken me across the continent and now to New Zealand, and the Nass river, BC, Teslin, YK, Juneau, AK, Washington Dc, and many villages and reservations locally and far. I am constantly employed through my cultural knowledge and strength in my identity. My cultural contract work is in fact my primary and only means of income in my life.
I receive mail that is addressed only to “Nahaan” from international sources as well as local people. It is my true identity and I find it highly disrespectful that Facebook would honor the LBQT/ Drag Queen community with their names but not Indigenous people with their HEREDITARY names! That is discrimination! Do I need to remind you that our Indigenous people are continually invisible-ized by actions like what Facebook did to me and many other Native people!?
Facebook is a social network but it is also a platform to inspire a lot of positive awareness and change for our shared communities, don’t let your disregard for Indigenous names interrupt that process.
Nahaan (Killerwhale Standing Up In The Water) Fastsfrom English (because the english language is invasive to Indigenous people)
The name I carry comes from before the last ice age, from the time of the great flood that surrounded the world. I am Dak̲ł’aweidi (People of the Upper Sand Bar). I teach our Tlingit language and started several groups on Facebook that have become a mainstay and resource for people who are learning our language. By removing me from those groups which I started you also are removing me from the work I have initiated for my communities. I also organize several Indigenous communities, events and groups through Facebook.
I ask you folks reconsider your removal of my Facebook account. I hope my words and point of view help to raise the awareness to the staff of Facebook and that the removal of people who actually use their Indigenous names no longer be removed from our networks.
When we receive our names there is no ID card that is given! Our culture has always been an oral based one!
Nahaan (center) at Seattle’s 2nd Annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day march. Photo by Damien Conway
Nahaan is of Łingít, Iñupiaq, and Paiute tribes. His work reflects his teachings and cultural background. As a tattoo artist of 5 years and running he focuses exclusively on working within the spirit and design style of northern formline. As a carver, painter and designer he emulates the visual storytelling crafts so dear to his people of Southeast Alaska. He is a spoken word poet and helped to found “Woosh Kinaadeiyeí” in Juneau Alaska which has since grown into a thriving creative mainstay in the capitol city. He teaches the Tlingit language and song, and is the spokesperson for Náakw Dancers, a group which he started in Seattle, Washington in order to perpetuate the rich expressions of the Pacific Northwests native population. He focuses on the aspects of community empowerment and self mastery through the methods of decolonization indigenization and activism.
*Cover photo by Danien Conway