Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI to sponsor lecture on status of Lingít by Tlingit language professor

<<back to news page


Free event to be offered in-person, virtually

Sept. 14, 2022

(All Lectures

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture this Thursday on the status of Lingít by a Tlingit language professor as part of its fall series covering a wide variety of topics.

In his lecture Hél Dutóow: The Health and Future of the Lingít Language, X’unei Lance Twitchell, Ph.D. will describe his work over the past decade as he has been working with language teachers, speakers and learners to try and accurately document the number of Tlingit language speakers.

“This started as an attempt to determine the state of the language, because published records and linguists were estimating somewhere between 50 and 500 speakers of the language,” Twitchell explains, “Through research with community leaders and language teachers, it was determined that the number was closer to 100 and dropping.”

However, it became apparent that the number of language speakers was growing once research included all known learners and approximate language levels.

Twitchell is of Tlingit, Haida, Yupʼik and Sami heritage. He is a professor of Alaska Native languages at the University of Alaska Southeast and is a multimedia artist who works in Northwest Coast design, poetry, screenwriting, music, film and photography.

Twitchell holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and a doctorate in Hawaiian and Indigenous language and culture revitalization from Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

His studies focus on creating safe language acquisition spaces and achieving revitalization through counter-hegemonic transformation, which means a rejection of external definitions and fragmentation and a promotion of the thought world of the ancestors of language movements.

The lecture is scheduled for 12 pm, Thursday, Sept. 22, in Shuká Hít within SHI’s Walter Soboleff Building, 105 S. Seward St. in Juneau. The lecture will be livestreamed and posted on SHI’s YouTube channel.

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. SHI also conducts social 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.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Communications and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

Caption: Photo by Stacy Unzicker, courtesy of SHI. Note: News outlets are welcome to use this photo for coverage of this story. For a higher-res image, contact