Sealaska Heritage Institute has received a federal grant to revitalize the languages of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian in four Southeast Alaska communities.
The $927,000 grant from the Administration for Native Americans will fund four mentor-apprentice teams of Lingít (Tlingit), Xaad Kíl (Haida), and Sm’algyax (Tsimshian) speakers and students in Metlakatla, Hydaburg, Sitka, and Juneau to study the languages over three years.
The program Haa Shuká: Voices of Our Ancestors Through Our Elders, Current and Future Speakers, will build on the institute’s previous language revitalization efforts, including a Tlingit language mentor-apprentice program that recently ended, said SHI President Rosita Worl in a press release.
“We learned a lot from our recent Tlingit language mentor-apprentice program that we will incorporate into this expanded effort,” Worl said in the release. “The language program has to be community-based and we found it is important to have a regional language committee empaneled by people who are envisioning the future of language programs and who keep tabs on all language work region wide.”
SHI will establish a Native Language Committee with committee members from partner communities to serve as liaisons. Each mentor will team up with two apprentices, and those teams will immerse themselves in their respective languages over three years. Their studies will be supplemented by language orthography and transcription courses from the University of Alaska Southeast, which collaborates with SHI. More advanced apprentices will transcribe hours of language recordings and documents that will be made available to other students online.
“In recent years, we’ve had intermediate speakers transcribing language recordings in our archives, which includes more than 5,000 recordings, most of which cannot be found in other libraries or archives,” Worl said in the release. “What we learned from that is how helpful it is to students to go through that process of transcribing—it accelerates their learning.”