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FEMA mistranslations latest chapter in suppression of Indigenous languages

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Mark Thiessen in Anchorage spotted a small item on the website of a radio station that serves a remote part of Alaska that described how a Federal Emergency Management Agency contractor had badly botched the translation of brochures into Alaska Native languages. Thiessen then transformed a local story into one about accountability that went beyond the bizarre phrases that the mistranslation produced and also delved into how Indigenous languages had been suppressed for decades by white settlers, with some dialects bordering on extinction.

The story was an instant hit with readers and members. The Anchorage Daily News, the state’s largest paper, used the story on A1 and on its homepage, as did the Juneau Post. The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, The San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune and dozens of other major newspapers used the piece prominently online.

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