Holding our tongues.
Restoring the vanishing Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages is a priority. Across Southeast Alaska, we sponsor programs that document, preserve and revitalize Native languages. We also provide numerous online tools for teachers and students. Our Mentor-Apprentice program is revitalizing rich Native languages one speaker at a time, while our Latseen Hoop Camp uses basketball as an entry point. Our Resources page offers a variety of learning tools, including dictionaries, vocabulary lists, teaching aids and much more.
Through the work of fluent Native speakers working with linguists, we have been on the forefront of documenting Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian and developing orthographies for these historically oral languages, which have appeared in written form only in recent times. The Sealaska Heritage Institute has produced numerous language books, including the most comprehensive dictionaries ever produced for Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian.
In the late 1990s, our Board of Trustees, realizing that time was running out, steered the institute more toward revitalization of the languages. Most fluent speakers are elderly, so the institute's early efforts began with an immersion program where students and fluent speakers spoke only in a Native language to create language habitats. Over the years, some advanced language students began to emerge and today, they are teaching some level of Native languages in public schools.
In recent years, Sealaska Heritage Institute launched our intensive Mentor-Apprentice Program, which pairs fluent Tlingit speakers with advanced language students to accelerate their progress. That program is in effect in three communities.