JUNEAU, Alaska — A Juneau-based organization has received nearly $930,000 in federal funds to help revitalize Alaska Native languages.
The Sealaska Heritage Institute will use the grant from the Administration for Native Americans to support a program dedicated to teaching the languages of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. The project will serve participants in Juneau, Sitka, Metlakatla and Hydaburg over a three-year period.
The institute is looking for eight participants to become proficient in one of the three languages. Four mentors will be paired with two apprentices.
Their studies will be supplemented by language, orthography and transcription courses through the University of Alaska Southeast, which collaborates with Sealaska Heritage Institute on projects through a memorandum of agreement. Apprentices will also transcribe language recordings and documents for the material to be accessed by students through an online database, according to The Juneau Empire.
Rosita Worl, the institute’s president, said the new program, “Haa Shuka: Voices of Our Ancestors Through Our Elders, Current and Future Speakers,” will help the organization build on a previous language program that just wrapped up.
The grant will also be used to create a regional language committee, which will be comprised of members from the partner communities in southeast Alaska to oversee the language revitalization efforts.
Worl said the program offers participants much more than just the ability to speak a new language.
“Native languages embody a whole different worldview than what we’re used to when we speak English,” Worl said. “Along with that worldview comes values, values to their environment, values to one another and that’s embodied in our language.”