Sealaska Heritage Institute recruits 18 scholars for Native language program

(Image: Sealaska Heritage Institute)

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Initiative to offer full scholarship to University of Alaska Southeast for Native language students

News Release

Sealaska Heritage Institute

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has recruited 18 Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian scholars to revitalize and perpetuate Southeast Alaska Native languages through a program at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS).

Through the initiative, Haa Yoo X̱’atángi Deiyí: Our Language Pathways, Sealaska Heritage Institute and University of Alaska Southeast are offering immersive language training for the scholars, who are committed to learning and teaching the languages.

Students will receive a full scholarship to University of Alaska Southeast that includes tuition, room, board and other expenses plus part-time employment that provides additional language opportunities. The program will include annual summer language institutes open to language scholars, University of Alaska Southeast students, professors and community members.

Selected students include Tlingit scholars Aidan Bowers, Anna Clock, Austin Tagaban, Frank Katasse, Herb Sheakley, Jalynn Gregory, Liana Wallace, Rochelle Smallwood, Rose Willard and Shiann Kookesh; Haida scholars Andrea Peele, Brianna Frisbee, Joseph Hillaire, Lauryn Framke, Robert Yates and Sarah Peele; and Tsimshian scholars David Lang and Victoria McKoy. The students will meet for the first time this week via Zoom.

The program is largely supported through nearly $1.9 million in funding over three years secured by Sealaska Heritage Institute. Language revitalization has been a priority of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s board of trustees since the 1990s, said Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl.

“Our languages are the very foundation of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, and these scholars are doing the work to ensure our languages survive. We’ve made a lot of progress since we first began revitalizing our languages in earnest but we need to do more, and our language scholars are a key part of that,” Worl said.

The scholars will provide much needed language learning and teaching support in communities throughout the region once they complete the program, said Éedaa Heather Burge, Haa Yoo X̱ʼatángi Deiyí project coordinator and adjunct faculty member at University of Alaska Southeast.

“Some have already been doing wonderful work within their heritage language and others are just beginning their language learning journey, but whatever stage these scholars find themselves in, as well as any current or future student interested in learning Tsimshian, Haida and Tlingit, we hope that University of Alaska Southeast can continue be a positive part of that journey,” said Burge, an adjunct faculty member at University of Alaska Southeast.

Participants may earn a Type M Certificate through the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development or work toward a bachelor’s degree. The initiative is one of several education programs at University of Alaska Southeast that Sealaska Heritage Institute is helping to fund. Since 2012, Sealaska Heritage Institute has contributed more than $4.4 million to University of Alaska Southeast for programming.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. Sealaska Heritage Institute also conducts scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

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