By Breanne Massey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A 20-year-old member of the Tobacco Plains Indian Band has recently opened an educational account on social media to raise awareness about Ktunaxa language and culture with her peers.

Aiyana Twigg, the content creator behind the @KtunaxaPride Instagram account, is a member of the Ktunaxa Nation and has roots with the Blackfoot too.

She is currently in the process of completing a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in anthropological linguistics and First Nations’ endangered languages remotely through the University of B.C. (UBC). Her goal is to curate culturally educational content for other youths between the ages of 20-and-30 years-old.

“I had a lot of cousins who grew up and didn’t really have the opportunity to understand the language, our culture and our people, so I wanted to educate people who didn’t have the same opportunities that I did growing up,” Twigg told the Pioneer.

She is currently in her third year of post-secondary education at the UBC and is completing this pandemic school year remotely from Kelowna.

Twigg hopes to become a linguist that focuses on Indigenous language reclamation with aspirations to better understand how Indigenous dictionaries and dialects for under-resourced languages by creating and using tools from communities and scholars alike.

“An example is that in (the field of) linguistics, oftentimes, is that they don’t think about the people that they’re researching the language on,” Twigg said. “(Linguists) just dissect the language. But a lot of elders from Indigenous communities find distrust in that because the culture tells you a lot about the language, so you’re overlooking the worldview of the people speaking the language… Lots of times, (linguists are) comparing the language to English, which isn’t really good because they’re not looking in the language in the way that they should be.”

Her goal is to change the attitudes of Indigenous communities to advocate for language preservation. She believes that the most important thing language learners need to understand about the Ktunaxa people is the importance of the lands as well as their connection to animals and people.

This winter, in January, Twigg plans to work with Anthropological and First Nations educational professors to build a relational lexicography and work toward developing teaching strategies to benefit Indigenous communities to improve community-based learning through unique relational lexicographies and orthographies. She hopes to continually learn and develop new educational tools for others.

In the summer of 2021, Twigg remains optimistic about returning to the East Kootenay region known as home. She plans to work with the Ktunaxa communities in Canada to focus on developing learning resources for Indigenous language learners to promote language reclamation by creating documentation about the writing conventions and differing dialects from Tobacco Plains, Akisqnuk First Nation, Aq’am and Yaqan Nuki.

“Language and culture are connected, and that’s what I really want to bring awareness too,” she explained. “Linguistics tends to constrain our Indigenous voices, and our Indigenous languages. It doesn’t really allow our cultural view, so that’s ultimately what I’m trying to deconstruct and decolonize and my linguistics studies.”