As part of its Baby Raven Reads program, Sealaska Heritage Institute will release six culturally-based children’s books that reflect the Native worldview.
Included is a three-book set derived from ancient creation stories that have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. The set includes Raven and the Box of Daylight, Raven Brings us Fire, and Origins of Rivers and Streams. The books were adapted from oral histories by Pauline Duncan and illustrated by Lindsay Carron.
There is also a book that teaches the Lingít words for colors. “In the Lingít language, words for colors come from comparisons to animals, plants and natural objects found in Southeast Alaska,” SHI President Rosita Worl said in a press release. “For example, the word for ‘blue’ comes from the Steller’s jays common to the region, so to describe something as blue, you would say ‘it is like a Steller’s jay.’ ”
The words in Colors were compiled by Yarrow Vaara, and the book was illustrated by David Lang.
The final books being released are Tlingit Alphabet, a two-book set edited by Katrina Hotch, Linda Belarde and Keri Eggleston, reviewed by traditional scholar Dr. Walter Soboleff and illustrated by Crystal Worl. Readers who want to hear the sounds that comprise the Lingít alphabet may do so through SHI’s new app Learning Tlingit or through an interactive tool on the institute’s language resources page at SealaskaHeritage.org.
Illustrator David Lang will be signing copies of Colors on Friday, December 2 from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Walter Soboleff Building in Juneau, Alaska. All are welcome. Those enrolled in Baby Raven Reads, a program for Alaska Native families with children up to the age of 5 that promotes language development and school readiness, will receive copies of the books on Saturday, December 10 at the program event from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
SHI has called the release of these books “groundbreaking” because so few culturally-relevant books from Southeast Alaska exist that are not tailored to a commercial market. Worl pointed out how research has shown that Native students do better academically when their cultures are incorporated into learned materials.
“We know that schools sometimes allow our children to fail and that they’ve stumbled in the past by supplying books with distorted depictions about Native cultures,” Worl said. “With this series we are aiming to meet the demand for books that reflect the Native worldview and to give our children some of the tools they need to succeed.”
Tlingit Alphabet and Colors are geared toward children up to age 3, and the creation stories are intended for children up to age 5. All the books will be available in the Sealaska Heritage Store in Juneau this month. In May, SHI released three other books: the counting book 10 Sitka Herring, and Baby Raven and Baby Eagle, which teach the English and Tlingit words for clan crests. SHI plans to also release books that will teach the English and Haida words for Haida crests.
This story was originally published December 1, 2016.