Sealaska Heritage


<<back to news page


Lingit, Xaad Kíl and Sm’algyax language teams launch Haa Shuká journey

By Katrina Hotch, SHI Language Project Coordinator

Language teams gathered at Sealaska Heritage Institute April 6-8 for orientation and training to begin their involvement in the Haa Shuká Community Language Learning Project. The Haa Shuká project builds on Sealaska Heritage’s previous Tlingit Mentor-Apprentice Program and has expanded to include Xaad Kíl and Sm’algyax languages...(more) (4-21-17)

Photo essay: a peek into one of SHI's Baby Raven Reads family events

Sealaska Heritage sponsors Baby Raven Reads, a program that promotes early literacy, language development and school readiness. The program is for Alaska Native families with children up to age 5. Among other things, events include family events at the Walter Soboleff Building clan house, where families are invited to join us for storytelling, songs, and other cultural activities. Parents and guardians also receive free books through the program. New books published through the program are available online or through the Sealaska Heritage Store on Seward and Front Streets in Juneau at the Walter Soboleff Building or by contacting the store at or 907.586.9114 (more on Baby Raven books). The following shows a family event that focused on SHI’s newly released book, Raven Brings Us Fire. To help bring the story to life and make connections to literature, we acted out a version of the story and invited local firefighters...(more) (3-27-17)

Learning about regional history through Tlingit art

New third grade lesson plan on Tlingit-Russian Battles of Sitka includes study of Tlingit helmets

Third grade students in all six Juneau elementary schools will be broadening their understanding of regional history over the coming weeks through an art-based lesson plan designed to accompany district curriculum. Led by Juneau School District Art Specialist Nancy Lehnhart, the lesson focuses on the Battles of Sitka, fought in 1802 and 1804 between Russian fur traders and the Tlingit Kiks.ádi clan and other clans. The lesson, introduced Monday at Glacier Valley Elementary School, also highlights the artistry of Tlingit warrior helmets, known for their dramatic and intimidating depictions of animals and spirits.

Teachers are breaking new ground by including the Native worldview in their classrooms, said SHI President Rosita...(more) (2-10-17)

Photo essay: a peek into one of SHI’s skin sewing classes

Since time immemorial, our ancestors have lived off of the land—taking trees for dugout canoes and clan houses, roots and bark for baskets and fish and animals for nourishment. And we’ve used skins and furs to make regalia, moccasins and other pieces. In recent years, we were in danger of losing our ancient knowledge on how to sew skins. In response, Sealaska Heritage launched a skin-sewing program through which hundreds of Native people have since learned to make skin clothing and other items.

SHI’s goal is to revitalize skin sewing and to create a cottage industry, especially in rural areas where unemployment is high. Skin sewing can be a financial boon: studies have demonstrated that a single craftsperson can earn up to $35,000 a year sewing and selling products made of sea otter, which has one million hairs per square inch, making it the most luxurious fur in the world.

We have found there is tremendous demand for skin-sewing classes and thought it would be useful for people to see some of the processes and secrets to sewing furs. The following photo essay shows our most recent workshop, which was held in Juneau and taught by Louise Kadinger...( more) (2-6-17)

Rising stars in language revitalization spearhead new language committee

The first meeting of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Southeast Regional Language Committee began Friday morning with traditional introductions by the committee’s three members: Lance Twitchell, who spoke in Lingít (Tlingit language), Gavin Hudson, who spoke in Sm'algyax (Tsimshian language), and Benjamin Young, who spoke in Xaad Kíl (Haida language).

Hearing the three young men express themselves in Southeast Alaska’s indigenous languages was an uplifting way to begin, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“It is like music to my ears to hear you speak,” Worl said. “It is so wonderful. (Tlingit elders) Dr. Soboleff and Clarence Jackson would be so happy to hear the voices of our ancestors speaking at this time"...( more) (1-20-17)

It's time. Nix Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day.

By Rosita Worl
President, Sealaska Heritage Institute

As a child in school, I was taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America. As a Tlingit who was raised to know Native people have been here since time immemorial, the curriculum was baffling to say the least. The celebration of Columbus Day is a black mark against Native people who called this land home thousands of years before Columbus’s “discovery.” While we recognize that Christopher Columbus was among the first Europeans to land on the shores of the North American continent, it is time for Alaska to eliminate Columbus Day and recognize the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska. It is in that spirit that I submitted testimony today urging the Alaska Legislature to pass HB 78, which would officially establish the second Monday of October of each year as Indigenous Peoples Day...(more) (1-25-17)

Elder reveals the history, knowledge embedded in Tlingit place names

Students from Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School were given an opportunity to learn about traditional Tlingit place names Friday morning at the Walter Soboleff Building as part of Sealaska Heritage’s Telling Our Stories: Voices on the Land program. As Tlingit elder David Katzeek shared his knowledge of place names, he helped students understand what those names can reveal about history, about natural resources, and about the deep connections that exist between the Tlingit people and the lands where they have lived for thousands of years.

Katzeek began with familiar names such as Dzantik’i Héeni and T’aaḵú, both of which point toward the resources that were abundant in those areas. Katzeek translated Dzantik’i Héeni as “precious water for the starry flounder.” Starry flounders weighing between 5 and 20 pounds were once abundant in Gold Creek, Katzeek said, noting that the name refers not only to the creek but to the whole area...( more) (1-13-17)

SHI, UAS weaving language and culture training into public schools

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and the University of Alaska Southeast’s PITAAS (Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools) program co-hosted a series of presentations for UAS faculty at the Walter Soboleff Building Thursday as part of an ongoing partnership designed to provide cultural training for Alaska teachers.

Thunder Mountain principal Dan Larson, assistant principal Rhonda Hickok, teacher Annie Janes, and Alaska Native Student Success Coordinator Barbara Cadiente Nelson spoke about Alaska Native student success at TMHS, and Lori Grassgreen, director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, gave a talk on the impact of educational climate and connectedness on student performance...(more) (1-13-16)

A win for Alaska's School of Education at UAS

By Rosita Worl
President, Sealaska Heritage Institute

On Dec. 14, the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted unanimously to keep the University of Alaska Southeast School of Education at that campus, rather than moving it to Fairbanks. The move came after UA President Jim Johnsen amended his recommendation during a special Board of Regents meeting Wednesday morning. His original recommendation was for University of Alaska Fairbanks to be the administrative head of a single college of education.

I am grateful to the Board of Regents and President Johnson for reassessing the issue and making the right decision in the best interest of the State that will serve generations to come. Our greatest resources lie within our youth and the Regents and President have now assured that they will receive the best education with home-grown teachers.  I am also very proud of the way our community came together to support our educational needs. The avalanche of opposition to the Fairbanks move in the end triggered the amendment to keep the school at UAS...(more) (12-18-16)

Mentor-apprentice program wraps up

Participants in SHI’s Tlingit language mentor-apprentice program met Saturday at the Walter Soboleff Building to close out the project and assess its success at the end of its three-year term. The program, funded through an Administration for Native Americans (ANA) grant that ends December 30, has paired fluent Tlingit speakers with advanced language students to accelerate their progress. Through the project, mentor-apprentice teams from Juneau, Sitka and Yakutat engaged in 260 hours of one-on-one language immersion and participated in annual Tlingit immersion retreats that rotated between participating partner communities.

Language teams included mentor Ethel Makinen and apprentice Jamie Bradley, Anne Johnson and Duane Lindoff, Lena Farkas and Devlin Anderstrom, Selena Everson and Jessica Chester, Florence Sheakley and Hans Chester, Paul Marks and Ishmael Hope, and David Katzeek and Joshua Jackson. Community liaisons and facilitators were Marsha Hotch in Juneau, Heather Powell in Sitka, and Amanda Porter and Gloria Wolfe in Yakutat...(more) (12-15-16)

Tlingit weaver Clarissa Rizal passes away

The world has lost another luminary. It is with great sadness that we note the passing of the renowned Chilkat and Ravenstail weaver Clarissa Rizal, a Raven of the T’akdeintaan (black-legged Kittywake) Clan.

Not so long ago, we were in danger of losing the knowledge on how to make our sacred Chilkat weavings. We as Native people owe a debt of gratitude to Clarissa for mastering our sacred art traditions and for teaching others to weave. Clarissa trained under the late master weaver Jennie Thlunaut, and Clarissa has said that she made a promise to Jennie at that time: She would help revive Chilkat weaving through workshops and apprenticeships. It was a promise Clarissa kept...( more) (12-7-16)

The Way of the Warrior

The fourth lecture in Sealaska Heritage’s Native Heritage Month Lecture Series was led by Kai Monture of Yakutat, who spoke Tuesday about traditional warrior training as he learned of it in his clan, K'ineix Kwáan. Dressed in his own leather and slat armor, Monture began by singing an Honor Song as a way to acknowledge the contributions of Tlingit warriors past and present. Throughout his 90-minute talk, Monture emphasized that the warrior training he described was based on his own experience, as he was taught by his grandfather, George Ramos, and by his uncle and other Elders.

Monture described the training process for boys beginning at age 6, overseen by their maternal uncles. The training was harsh, and included going into the water every morning regardless of the season, fierce competition with other boys, and weapons training. However, warrior training was never limited to the physical realm, Monture said...( more) (11-29-16)

Alaska Native veterans speak out at SHI lecture

Sealaska Heritage Institute hosted a panel of Alaska Native veterans at an event held as part of Native American Heritage Month, on the eve of Veterans Day. Panelists Fred Bennett, Donald See, Royal Hill, Warren Sheakley, George Lindoff and James Lindoff spoke about their experiences during and after the Vietnam War, following a showing of the documentary “Hunting in Wartime.” The film, made by Samantha Farinella, features interviews with the men, who all served in Vietnam and who all came from Hoonah. “We weren’t the same people when we came home – and we’re still not the same,” said veteran and panelist Fred Bennett. “It took a long time to get where we are today, to where we can talk about it – and we’re real careful when we do.” The veterans spoke of the harsh treatment they received on returning to the United States after serving in the brutal conflict, of keeping quiet about their service, and of the devastating media stereotypes perpetuated about Vietnam veterans. The panel was hosted by Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander Ozzie Sheakley...(more) (11-10-16)