Almost fluent in the Tlingit language, Lance Twitchell (alias Michael Jackson) spoke entirely in Tlingit with an occasional English word - and when he spoke the English word, oddly enough that's when we laughed!

On Friday, November 12th at the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) Hall, Michael Jackson (alias Lance Twitchell) made a cameo appearance during the Mark’s Family pay-off potlatch for their three siblings who passed away last year.  “Michael” was a highlight of the 19-hour event.

Eagle and Raven clan members' mouths hung open in laughing shock

When I watched in awe of Lance, I realized suddenly that while I was growing up, the potlatches were spoken in the Tlingit language.  I remember always asking my mother what was being said.  During the past 20 years or so, little by little, English has been replacing the language during the potlatches.  There are few fluent Tlingit speakers now.  10 years ago, when Lance was in his early 20’s, he set a goal of learning the Tlingit language – this is a big deal as our language has less than 200 fluent speakers; most speakers are in their 70’s to 90’s.  We know in just 10 years our language will be die with these folks, if it were not for a few young folk as Lance who are determined to help retain it and bring it back to life!

I had better get on the ball and learn the language – yet, I currently have so many other things I am doing and want to accomplish in this immediate now and future.  We’ll see.  it would be good to begin learning while I am living here with my mother though!  Now THAT”S an idea!