Juneau high school incorporates Alaska Native name

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A Juneau high school incorporated Alaska Native culture into its name following a yearlong effort led by students.

The school district board adopted the name change Tuesday for Juneau-Douglas High School, adding "Yadaa.at Kale," the Juneau Empire reported .

The name addition translates from the Tlingit language as "beautifully adorned face" and is the name of a nearby mountain.

The process started in teacher Henry Hopkin's science class. Hopkins said he has worked to make Tlingit culture more visible, and his students began to wonder why their school didn't have a Tlingit name while others did.

Student Arias Hoyle took charge of the effort and — with other students — gathered signatures in support and met with the student council, the Douglas Indian Association and the school's site council to figure out how to get the ball rolling.

"This is the opportunity for our school to finally be embraced in Alaska Native culture," Hoyle said. "All of my elders have gone to this school. And this time we actually get to see a Tlingit name on a building and embrace who we are and make future generations comfortable and welcome them in."

With permission from Auk'w Kwaan tribal leader Rosa Miller, the name was gifted to the school, said Fran Houston, Miller's daughter. She said she would like to see more Juneau schools given Tlingit names to boost unity.

"I think it's started a fire inside kids to know that they really can take action like this and that there are staff members that are willing to help them, and help them figure out the process if there hasn't been a pathway that's already set," said Katie McKenna, a student representative for the school board.

The name change went into effect immediately, but more visible changes like signs might take time to implement, said Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, the district's Indian Studies program director.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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