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Author to do book signing, storytelling during Celebration

June 9, 2014 

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has published a children's book inspired by Haida stories in an effort to increase the volume of materials available to teach Southeast Alaska Native culture to young people.

Killer Whale Eyes was written and illustrated by Sondra Simone Segundo of the Raven Clan, Double Fin Killer Whale Crest, Brown Bear House. Segundo, whose maternal grandparents are Haida from Southeast Alaska, created the tale, which was inspired by Native beliefs and Haida stories that were passed down over the years. She dedicated Killer Whale Eyes to her uncle, Miijuu (the late Claude Morrison, a well-known fluent Haida speaker), and her aunt, Viola Burgess, both of whom helped translate some words to Haida. She also dedicated it to her aunt Louise (Morrison) Arrington, who supported her work on the book.

"It's very important to me to help preserve our culture in any way I can," Segundo said. "Creating this book has been a long journey and has brought me so much happiness and healing."

SHI will sponsor a book signing at 3pm, Friday, June 13 in Centennial Hall during Celebration 2014. She also will be a featured story teller at a children's event that will be sponsored by SHI and the Juneau library during Celebration. That event is scheduled at 11, Friday, June 13 at the downtown Juneau library.

Killer Whale Eyes tells the story of a young Haida girl born with blue eyes who has a deep bond with the sea and its creatures. As a young woman, she paddles out to sea in a canoe and is lost. Her family searches for her for four seasons. Then, one day, while singing I am a Child of the Ocean, their dagwáang's (dear one's) special song, they are suddenly surrounded by killer whales. As her chanáa (grandfather) looks into the eyes of one of the whales, he recognizes his granddaughter. What they discover is that ever-so-quiet wonder that tells them this world is truly magic.

The tale reflects her people's spiritual connections to the life surrounding their land, Segundo said.

"Many Native people call orcas killer whales because they are natural hunters and protectors. They are known not to harm people. On my tribal lands, there have been many true instances of killer whales helping us. One example is of them guiding boats back to shore during a storm," she said.

SHI sponsored the project because there is a dearth of Northwest Coast children's books on the market, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

"We know Native children do better academically when their culture is integrated into schools—our past studies have shown that. But we need more tools to do this, and this book is part of that effort," said Worl, noting the book also will help teach non Native readers about Native cultures.

The book was also supported by grants from Potlatch Fund and Evergreen Longhouse. Segundo made an audio recording of "I am a Child of the Ocean" and a CD in included with the book sold through SHI. Readers also may listen to the song on their smart phones by scanning a QR code in the book or by going to Her cousin, Ben Young, also helped with Haida translations and linguist Jordan Lachler helped with the spelling.

Segundo, who also illustrated the book, is an artist known for creating wearable art, such as shoes, painted with Haida designs. Her work is featured on She works full time as a teacher for grades 6-8 in Seattle. Age level 4-12.

‹Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 907.463.4844; Sondra Simone Segundo, 209-790-6386