Haida Language Program
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SHI operates a Ketchikan office to perpetuate Haida, one of the most endangered Native languages in Southeast Alaska.
The number of fluent Haida speakers has dwindled to fewer than a dozen people ranging in age from early 80s to more than 100 years.
“The situation is urgent because time is running out,” said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting the institute will hire the remaining speakers to work on projects.
“This is our last opportunity to work with people who grew up speaking Haida as their first language.”
In 2003, SHI relocated sociolinguist Dr. Jordan Lachler to Ketchikan to open an office adjacent to the Sealaska Timber Corp. office. SHI also hired Dr. Jeane Breinig to coordinate Haida projects from the Juneau office. Breinig is a Haida student from Kasaan who earned a Ph.D. in American and Native American Literary and Cultural Studies from the University of Washington. She will help develop language materials and organize Haida language workshops.
SHI also hired Haida-language students Linda Schrack and Cherilyn Holter to work on Haida projects in Ketchikan and Hydaburg.
Haida staff will initially work on developing K-2 Haida language curriculum through a federal grant awarded to SHI in 2003. SHI will hire the remaining fluent speakers and develop the curriculum with assistance from Haida master-apprentice teams. The apprentices will record words and document activities they use to learn Haida from fluent speakers and report to SHI staff, which will use the findings to develop the curriculum.
SHI plans to eventually use the Haida curriculum in schools, and the institute is training new staff members Cherilyn Holter and Linda Schrack to teach the language. Both women are semi-fluent speakers and will apprentice with Haida Elders.
SHI also plans to publish a bilingual book of Haida stories collected from Haida Elders by Chuck Natkong in the 1970s. The book will include versions in English and Haida and may be used for language programs, including SHI’s summer Haida language workshops offered through the institute’s Sealaska Kusteeyí Program.
Haida Program at a Glance