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TLINGIT

John Lawrence is a cultural interpreter for the Sealaska Heritage Institute visitor center. His father was Tlingit, and his mother was Haida. Those two groups, along with the Tsimshian people, make up the three major Alaska Native groups of Southeast Alaska.

As a cultural interpreter, Lawrence tries to answer any questions visitors might have. Questions like, “What’s that thing on the wall?” or, “What kind of paint did they use on that thing?”

Native American rights attorney lays out 1955 Tlingit land-rights loss

Nov 22, 2019

Walter Echo-Hawk is, essentially, a walking law library. It makes sense, given that he’s been practicing law since 1973.

He rattles off cases from memory — from the WWII-era Korematsu case that was used to uphold internment of Americans of Japanese descent, to the Dred Scott decision from 1857, when the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Constitution didn’t include citizenship for black people.

For the third year in a row, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska partnered with the Forest Service to grow Tlingit potatoes. Alaska Natives have cultivated these tubers in Southeast for several hundred years. Now, the Tribe is trying to raise the profile of the crop both as an important cultural link and as a potential tool in its drive for food security.

‘Landless’ tribes stake out selections of the Tongass

Nov 4, 2019

Some Southeast Alaska tribal communities who were excluded from forming village corporations in the 1970s continue to push for a land settlement. Residents and descendants of natives in Wrangell, Petersburg, Tenakee Springs, Ketchikan and Haines call themselves landless tribes. The effort backed by Sealaska Corporation, has released a series of maps with acreage they’d like sliced out of Tongass National Forest.

Most fluent speakers of the Lingít language are elders. But the instructors of an immersion classroom in Juneau have high hopes: to raise a new generation of Lingít speakers.

When you step inside the Haa Yóo X̱ʼatángi Kúdi classroom, two rules are immediately clear: shoes off, and Lingít only. At least for the adults.

Haa Yóo X̱ʼatángi Kúdi means “our language’s nest,” or “our language nest.”

Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center unveils Frog House artifacts in Klukwan

Jul 17, 2019

Frog House poles returned to Klukwan after 43 years in limbo. The Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center unveiled the treasured artifacts at an emotional ceremony.

Dozens of Klukwan residents and their guests filed through the exhibition rooms at Klukwan’s Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center to the beat of drums. They came to see the carved wooden poles that once held up the Frog House and a replica of the raven screen that adorned it.

Juneau Assembly renames downtown district to honor original residents

Jul 9, 2019

A downtown Juneau neighborhood has a new name. Formerly known as the Willoughby District, the area will now be known as the Aak’w Village District, paying homage to its original residents.

In a science classroom at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, students are holding carving knives. Teacher Henry Hopkins walks up and down the rows of desks, showing them how to shape the hunks of yellow cedar in their hands.

“The students were working on traditional Tlingit halibut hooks, which sounds like it’s primarily a Tlingit carving project, but it’s actually a science project,” said Hopkins.

  A rare wooden rattle attributed to a famous Tlingit artist sold at an art auction in California last month. The 230-year-old piece came from a private collector and sold for a half-million dollars.

When Sealaska Heritage Institute Native arts curator Steve Brown first laid eyes on the shaman’s rattle, he was amazed by the piece’s excellent condition.

“Nobody had ever seen this before,” Brown said. “It had just kind of come out of the woodwork.”

About 100 fluent speakers of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages are left in Alaska and Canada’s Interior. And a Southeast Alaska cultural center invites them to Juneau for an Alaska Native language summit.

Voices of Our Ancestors” will invite fluent speakers of Lingit, Xaad Kil and Sm’algyax. The three-day regional summit will be Nov. 13-15.

Sealaska Heritage Institute will cover transportation and hotel costs for fluent speakers living in Alaska.

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