The 2024 - 2025 Sealaska Language Application Period is Now Open!

I just want to briefly give a very quick statement about the state of our languages in Southeast Alaska, and the state is one of crisis.

Dr. Lance (X̱ʼunei) Twitchell, associate professor of Alaska Native languages, University of Alaska Southeast

In Alaska, very few birth speakers of our Southeast Alaska traditional languages – Sm’algyax, X̱aad Kíl and Lingít – remain. All are older than 70, and a majority are 80 or older. The group includes four birth speakers of Sm’algyax, three birth speakers of X̱aad Kíl, and 63 birth speakers of Lingít.

There is an urgent need to develop new, advanced speakers of our languages, and Sealaska is committed to the task.

In November of 2019, the Sealaska Board of Directors approved the creation of a $10 million endowment aimed at urgent action to preserve traditional languages with particular focus on developing advanced speakers of each of the three languages. Sealaska’s endowment is designed to amplify the efforts of other individuals, informal groups and formal institutions throughout Southeast Alaska. At a board meeting held on Friday, Jan. 27, Sealaska’s Board of Directors approved a one-time $250,000 increase in funding for language programming from the Sealaska language fund, bringing this year’s contribution to $750,000. 

Supporting and prioritizing advanced second-language learners is critical,” said Richard (Chalyee Éesh) Peterson, president of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. “We have limited time. We must act now to create new, young, adult fluent speakers while the birth-speaking Elders are still with us.

The fund is expected to generate $500,000 in grants annually to invigorate indigenous languages over the next decade.

Projects that have been funded so far include support for part-time, paid language mentors to assist students in the process of learning their language and create learning materials to assist them, and developing curriculum for the community of Hydaburg’s Xaadas Kíl Kuyaas Foundation in its work to preserve the Xaad Kíl language.

Sealaska is welcoming applications to support language preservation efforts. To learn more or apply, please email Tasha Heumann at

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