The meaning of names Part 5: The world of social media

With social media, people have the opportunity to project their best selves. We pick and choose what we share and how we share it. For Kyle Wark, that meant placing his Tlingit name in front of his English name on his Facebook profile. That small act translated into real life when people at work started calling him Dlaakaw Éesh.

Dlaakaw Éesh Kyle Wark. (Photo courtesy of Dlaakaw Éesh Kyle Wark)
Dlaakaw Éesh Kyle Wark. (Photo courtesy of Dlaakaw Éesh Kyle Wark)

In this final installment of a five-part series, Wark talks about the meaning of using his Native name online and how people are sometimes hesitant to speak it for fear of mispronouncing it.

Dlaakaw Éesh Kyle Wark

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I’m really happy to see the proliferation of Native names in public life. I don’t know exactly how using my Native name in public has changed people’s perceptions of me. I think in a lot of instances, even when I introduce myself in Tlingit at gatherings, very few people call me Dlaakaw Éesh. It’s not the hardest name that I’ve heard of Native names to pronounce, but it’s still, I think, enough of a stumbling block that people don’t want to take the chance and pronounce it wrong or something like that. So most people still call me Kyle.

But Dlaakaw Éesh, it’s a specific incident within my clan. It’s a specific individual who had a particular lived experience and that particular lived experience was recorded as a name that was given to him and that particular experience gets reincarnated down through the generations as that name is passed on and invested in new clan members. There’s a lot more meaning to having the name Dlaakaw Éesh than there is meaning to having the name Kyle Wark.

There’s something that transforms about us when we get a name invested in us. Being able to put that on my Facebook page is somehow giving that part of me room to breathe and giving it acknowledgement in this digital space. I think that there’s something worthwhile about being able to incorporate it into this modern space.

This is part five of a five-part series:

Part One: Indigenizing government

Part Two: A family history

Part Three: A time for change

Part Four: The aftermath of generational trauma