By Sam Wildow
TROY — A local Tiktok influencer, who has amassed a following of over 119,900 users, is using his platform to educate viewers on Indigenous history, languages, tribes, and more.
Zane Switzer, who also goes by the name Zane Achak Ashkii, is a Tiktok influencer from Troy whose username is @indigenouszane.
“I started my Tiktoks because I wanted to educate people on Indigenous history,” Switzer said.
Switzer, 19, was born and raised in Troy, and he is also Indigenous, a descendant of the Nahua and Otomi peoples. His family also recently found out that his father is a direct descendant of Naia, a 13,000-year-old human skeleton of a teenage female who was found in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. Naia was discovered in 2007 in an underwater chamber in the Sistema Sac Actun with animal bones, including bones of animals now extinct.
Switzer’s videos have received over 3 million “likes,” and his page features a number of popular series, including ones covering different languages, others of restored photos of Indigenous people, and other series educating viewers on cities and states that were named after Indigenous words. Some states named after Indigenous words include Iowa, named after the Ioway tribe; Mississippi, named after the Choctaw word for “Great water” or “Father of waters;” Nebraska, from the Otoe word meaning “flat water;” Tennessee, from the Cherokee “Tanasi,” which was a village; Texas, a Caddo word meaning “allies;” and more. Ohio also comes from the Iroquois word meaning “great river.”
“I do videos on the tribes that are in the state,” Switzer said.
He also has highlighted Indigenous languages that are extinct, notable Indigenous figures in history, inventions like kayaks and raised gardening beds that came from Indigenous people, and foods that came from Indigenous people and cultures.
“I just like reading the comments of people saying, ‘Thank you for teaching me this,’” Switzer said.
Switzer has also highlighted the human-rights crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and people, affecting Indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, approximately 1,500 Native American and Alaska Native missing persons have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) throughout the U.S., and approximately 2,700 cases of murder and nonnegligent homicide offenses have been reported to the Federal Government’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.
In addition to educating his viewers on Indigenous history, Switzer is also an advocate of schools teaching more Indigenous history in the classroom.
“I think it should be mandatory in Ohio schools to learn about Indigenous people,” Switzer said
He said he felt like, once people learned more about Indigenous people and history, they showed more appreciation for them and the connection that their states and the land in the U.S. and Canada have to Indigenous people.
In addition to covering Indigenous people in the U.S., he also covers Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. He said he likes to cover Indigenous people and their histories so they continue to be remembered.
“I don’t want it to fade away,” Switzer said.
Switzer plans to continue building his platform and using it to educate his viewers.
“I want to have an influence on people … (and) keep educating people on this history,” Switzer said.