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SHI releases Beginning Tlingit Workbook

Volume extension of Dauenhauers’ landmark work


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Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has published a workbook for students studying Tlingit that teaches words and concepts through imagery.

The volume, Beginning Tlingit Workbook, was written and compiled by Lance (̀±X’unei) A. Twitchell, a member of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Southeast Regional Language Committee and assistant professor of Alaska Native languages at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). It is an extension of the landmark book Beginning Tlingit—which was edited by the late linguist Richard Dauenhauer and his wife, Nora Dauenhauer, a fluent Tlingit speaker and scholar, and published by SHI.

Beginning Tlingit Workbook is part of an ongoing effort to revitalize Tlingit, and it underscores the commitment of young language learners and teachers to protect the existence of our languages for future generations, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“There was a time when people thought our Tlingit language and the ancient knowledge it embodied would die, but in recent years language learners and teachers, such as Lance, have come out in force to revitalize it. For the first time in many years, we are hearing our language spoken on the land by young people, and that is a powerful thing,” said Worl, noting SHI has posted a free .pdf version online to eliminate any financial barriers that might prevent language students from acquiring the book.

”From the elders who suffered as children when people were trying to kill off our language, to the generation that never had a chance to learn, to the generation that shifted their lives to create space for our language, to the children who are now being raised with our language, we watch this journey come around to a place of hope,” Twitchell wrote in the preface.

Twitchell discovered the Dauenhauers’ Beginning Tlingit in 1995 and soon after started studying Tlingit with his grandfather Gooshdehéen Silas Dennis Sr. He began developing the idea for the workbook in 2002 as a Tlingit language teacher in Skagway.

The new workbook is a must-have tool for any student studying the Tlingit language because it teaches Tlingit words and concepts through imagery, Twitchell said.

“While teaching the language, it became clear that associating Tlingit with images instead of English might make a clearer connection between the object and the Tlingit name for it,” Twitchell said. ”Out of that idea, and after interacting with fluent speakers, teachers and learners, the project began to take off.”

The workbook is based entirely on the teaching methods and steps developed by the Dauenhauers, as well as many other contributors over the years, but it also incorporates some of the ways people today are documenting and teaching various parts of Tlingit grammar, especially verbs.

A .pdf version of the workbook is available in the language resources section of  www.sealaskaheritage.org and hardcopy versions are available for sale at the Sealaska Heritage Store in Juneau and on the store’s website. The book is also available on Amazon.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy 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. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

 

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