Sealaska Heritage

TLINGIT language CURRICULUM - Primary Grades


SHI encourages teachers to download its units and resources for use in class. Use the audio tools in conjunction with the pdf units.

  • Alder: Alder and cottonwood trees are the focus of this unit --“ other units feature spruce, cedar and hemlock. As residents of the lush rainforests of Southeast Alaska, Tlingit people were in touch with the land, plants and animals that share this home. They strived to live in harmony with the land. Nowadays, we have steadily increasing populations, massive increases in tourism and more demand for products from the land and seas. We, and the generations to follow, need to understand the complexities of this ecosystem to ensure resources are sustained not only for our children, but for our children's children, and for centuries to come.
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Beach: In this unit, students study beach creatures and gathering and processing techniques. Since time immemorial, Tlingit people have survived using what nature provides. Southeast Alaska has a rich extensive coastline, so Tlingit people gather numerous beach creatures that nourish them. They in turn respect the creatures of the tides and beaches that sustain them. This unit is best suited for the spring because many schools conduct Sea Week/Month activities during April or May.
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Berries: Of all the natural subsistence foods of the Tlingit people, the wild berry, rich in vitamins and minerals, balances their diet. Before refined sugar was introduced into the Tlingit diet, berries were the sweeteners. Wild berries are still very special traditional foods. Some wild berries are not exactly palatable eaten alone. For example, currents and soap berries are best mixed with sweeteners. Some berries, like the salmonberry, are usually served mixed with cultivated berries or other fruits such as bananas. This mixture is a common food at Tlingit events and ceremonies. 
    (Unit) (Audio)
  • Canoes: Southeast Alaska is made up of many miles of coastline and hundreds of islands, with a wide variety of resources and villages scattered throughout. Canoes were the primary mode of transportation used by the people of Southeast Alaska for hundreds of years. Tlingit people use canoes and other watercraft to support their coastal lifestyle, to gather resources, and for basic transportation. Canoes were used for hunting, fishing, gathering and traveling between villages to trade or take part in a traditional party. Canoes vary greatly depending on their function. 
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Hemlock: The forest in Southeast Alaska is a Sitka Spruce/Western Hemlock rainforest. Western hemlocks are shade-loving trees. They begin their life cycle in the under­growth of the Sitka Spruce. The old-growth forest provides habitat for many birds, animals, insects and plants that young students can explore to begin to under­stand a forest ecosystem. Children will recognize the short, flat needles of the hemlock as œfriendly to touch. Historically, Tlingit people had many uses for hemlock trees. The rough, red­dish brown bark is used for tanning hides and producing the black dye for Chilkat Robes.
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Herring: Herring have played an integral role in Tlingit life. They provide food for consumption and trading in the form of fish, oil, and eggs to providing jobs in canneries. Life would not be possible with them. In addition many of the animals in the ocean life cycle are dependent on herring. The animals that provide Tlingit people with food need herring for their survival. Herring may not be a primary food source to Tlingit people; but those foods that we are so dependent on use herring as their primary food. Herring help teach us to respect all life and recognize how we are all linked to one another.
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Hooligan: The Chilkoot and Chilkat Rivers, near Haines and Klukwan, have been a rich food source for Tlingit people for hundreds of years. The first high tide in May brings the celebration of returning hooligan, with seagulls, seals and seal lions, eagles, ra­vens, crows and people all joining in this welcoming of spring. Students learn the cultural and ecological rules to guarantee the return of this valuable food source in this unit. 
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Kaaxgal.aat, Elizabeth Peratrovich: In this unit, students study the life and work of the remarkable Elizabeth Peratrovich, civil rights champion of Alaska. They learn about the importance of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) and the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS), and how these organizations continue to promote civil rights for everyone. The rich historical context of events in the 1940s provides the backdrop for research and discussions contained in unit activities.
    (Unit) (Resources)  (Resources revised 02-08 to include student booklets)
  • Literacy
    • The Girl Who Lived with the Bears: The book, The Girl Who Lived with the Bears, retold by Barbara Diamond Goldin, forms the basis for this literature unit. Listening to the story, as read from the book and/or as told by a storyteller, provides the knowledge needed to complete other activities in the rest of the unit. 
      (Unit) (Resources)
    • How Raven Stole the Sun: The book, How Raven Stole the Sun is one version of how light was brought to the world. Listening to this story is necessary before introducing other activities in the unit. Viewing a video version of the story provides opportunities for comparison activities. Guided reading (for older students), retelling the story, studying the setting and writing additional "Raven as Trickster" stories are also part of the unit. 
      (Unit) (Resources)
    • Tale of an Alaska Whale: The book, Tale of an Alaska Whale, tells a story of the origin of the killer whale and is also known as Naatsilanei. Listening to the story, as read from a book or told by a culture bearer or storyteller, is the basis for the unit. Viewing a video of a storyteller adds another dimension to the experience and provides opportunities for comparison activities. Guided reading (for older students), retelling the story and writing a story extension are also part of the unit. 
      Unit) (Resources)
  • Plants: Traditionally, Tlingit people gathered plants for food, medicine, making rope and nets, baskets and clothing, baby carriers and diapers. Trees provided shelter, tools, transportation and firewood for winter warmth. Although many needs are now met with commercially produced plant products, Tlingit people continue to gather plants for nutritious food, herbal medicine and to create cultural treasures. Tlingits believe everything has a spirit. Respect and thanks are expressed when gathering what nature provides. 
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Red & Yellow Cedar: For hundreds of years, the ocean and the forest have provided life sustaining resources for the Tlingit and Haida people of Southeast Alaska. Using red and yellow cedar trees they made their homes, canoes, clothing, tools, dishes, baskets and monument poles. Today, Tlingit and Haida people continue these traditions, holding deep respect for the cedar and the gifts that it provides to sustain and enrich peoples'™ lives. 
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Salmon: Southeast Alaska has abundant resources. Upon settling in the region the Tlingit people adapted and developed their traditional food gathering around these resources, the primary one being salmon. Five species of salmon are found in Southeast and the Tlingit people caught and preserved and continue to preserve“ each of them for both summer and winter use.
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Salmon II: Southeast Alaska has abundant resources. Upon settling in the region the Tlingit people adapted and developed their traditional food gathering around these resources, the primary one being salmon. Five species of salmon are found in Southeast and the Tlingit people caught and preserved“ and continue to preserve“ each of them for both summer and winter use.
  • Sea Mammals: Tlingit people have occupied Southeast Alaska for thousands of years. Their tribal land covers a wide coastal region from Yakutat to Ketchikan. Tlingit people traditionally subsist on the area'™s wealth of natural resources. A way of life suited to the resources and demands of the environment was adopted. Hunting activities were determined by the seasonal availability of local resources. Tlingit people continue to have a great understanding of the environment. The techniques used to gather food have changed but subsistence hunting and fishing continue to be important today.
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)
  • Spruce Trees: Upon settling in Southeast Alaska the Tlingit people evaluated their environment. They adapted their lives to what nature provided, which is a lot of species of trees. This unit explores the use of the spruce tree. The roots provided containers for cooking, hats to keep people dry and lashings for many of the tools used. The trunk gives us canoes, paddles and temporary shelters, and the pitch was melted down and used as an antiseptic on cut and burns. Many atóow--”clan treasures--”are carved from the trunks of spruce trees or woven from the roots. 
    (Unit) (Resources) (Audio)