Haa Shuká Community Language Learning Project
(Application) Sealaska Heritage is sponsoring the Haa Shuká Community Language Learning Project, a new program designed to help revitalize the languages of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian in four Southeast Alaska communities. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 10, 2017.
Funded by a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, the program builds on SHI’s previous Tlingit language mentor-apprentice program, which ended in December 2016.
The new project will pair fluent speakers of Lingít (Tlingit), Xaad Kíl (Haida) and Sm’algyax (Tsimshian) with intermediate and advanced speakers in those languages to increase learner proficiency. Language learning teams, made up of one mentor and two apprentices, will meet weekly to immerse themselves in their respective languages over the course of three years. Language learners will also enroll in language courses through the University of Alaska Southeast (enrollment will be paid by SHI) and work independently on transcriptions of language recordings and documents to build their fluency. Participating communities are Metlakatla, Hydaburg, Sitka and Juneau.
To be eligible to participate, an applicant must be an Alaska Native as defined as “Native” under the Alaska Native Settlement Act, 443 U.S.C.A. 1602(b), or enrolled to Sealaska or a descendant of an Alaska Native enrolled to Sealaska. Metlakatla applicants must be enrolled tribal members of the Metlakatla Indian Community. Applicants for language learners will be asked to substantiate their ongoing commitment as a language learner through past activities such as completion of a language class or workshop or dedicated work with a speaker. This project is not for individuals who have no prior knowledge of a heritage language.
As part of this project, SHI has established a Southeast Regional Language Committee to provide guidance for the language teams and to help integrate the project with existing initiatives across the region. The committee is made up of heritage language speakers and advocates Lance Twitchell (Lingít), Ben Young (Xaad Kíl), and Gavin Hudson (Sm’algyax). In order to encourage broad involvement, SHI will also work with the committee and regional groups to organize monthly language events and biannual immersion retreats in each partner community that will be open to the public. Project partners include the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Haayk Foundation, and Hydaburg City School District.
SHI’s Haa Shuká Community Language Learning Project is the most recent in a series of initiatives that SHI has implemented since the late 1990s to help document, preserve and revitalize Southeast Alaska Native languages. Though significant progress has been made in that time, most fluent speakers are elderly, and the need for projects such as this one remains urgent.
For more information, contact project coordinator Jill Meserve at Jill.Meserve@sealaska.com.
Lance X’unei Twitchell grew up in Skagway and now lives in Juneau. He is of Tlingit, Haida and Yup’ik heritage and carries the Tlingit names X’unei and Du Aani Kawdinook and the Haida name K’eijáakw.
Twitchell is currently an Assistant Professor of Alaska Native Languages at the University of Alaska Southeast and has been teaching the Tlingit language since 2004. He is also a doctoral student of Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization at Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. His studies are in creating safe language acquisition spaces and achieving revitalization through counterhegemonic transformation, which means a rejection of external definitions and fragmentation and a promotion of the thought world of the ancestors of language movements. He recently completed a Tlingit language workbook based on the teachings of Richard and Nora Dauenhauer, scheduled for release through Sealaska Heritage in early 2017. His grandfather, Silas Dennis Sr. of Skagway, was his first teacher.
Hudson is one of three founders of the Haayk Foundation, along with David R. Boxley and Kandi McGilton. The nonprofit’s mission is to preserve, promote and revitalize Sm'algyax, Ayaawx (traditional Tsimshian values and protocol), Adaawx (true history), and Luulgyit (validating cultural practice) in order to cultivate a positive and healthy identity for the people of Metlakatla. Although he is not yet a fluent speaker, Hudson has logged hundreds of hours working with fluent speakers and is proficient in reading, writing, and transcription in Sm'algyax.
In 2016, as Project Coordinator for the Tsimshian Education Achievement Model grant project, Hudson helped to create the Wap Lip Algya̱g̱m House of Our Language 0-3 Years Sm'algyax Curriculum. Hudson is also a Tribal/City Councilman at Metlakatla Indian Community.
Young learned X̱aad Kíl from his grandfather, Claude Morrison Kúng Skíis, a respected Haida elder who lived to the age of 100. As a teenager, Young taught his first language classes at SHI’s Latseen Leadership Academy. Through other language projects and programs, Young has worked with elders Woodrow Morrison, Alma Cook, Annie Peele, and Erma Lawrence.
Over the years he has also been influenced by linguist Dr. Jordan Lachler and Gwich'in instructor Hishinlai' Peter.
Young graduated from Butler University with a degree in secondary education and began teaching in 2014. He has had many additional roles in language revitalization such as language mentor, researcher, and curriculum developer. Young has also served as a cultural specialist with SHI, the Xaadas Kíl Kuyaas Foundation, and the Ketchikan Indian Community, among other organizations.