Southeast Alaska Traditional Languages in a Critical State

Sealaska shareholders have told us that investing in traditional languages is a top priority. In 2019, Sealaska set up an endowment to support the revitalization of the Tlingit (Lingít), Haida (X̠aad Kíl) and Tsimshian (Sm’algya̠x) traditional languages.

Sealaska hosted an hour-long discussion on traditional languages on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. Sealaska Director Lisa Ka’illjuus Lang hosted the conversation with:

  • Dr. Lance X̠’unei Twitchell
  • David R. Gyibaawm La̠xha Boxley
  • Marita Ilskyalas Tolson
  • Benjamin K’uyáang Young
  • Miriah Káalaa Twitchell

Dr. Lance Twitchell earned a Ph.D. in Hawaiian and Indigenous language and culture revitalization through Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, University of Hawaii Hilo. During the Zoom webinar, Twitchell said the state of traditional languages in Southeast Alaska is in a state of crisis. “Plenty of people have been saying this for decades. But I continue to re-emphasize,” said Twitchell. “About 10 years ago Dr. Michael Krauss said we stand to lose more North American languages in the next 30 years than we lost during the entirety of contact with European nations. This is not going to fix itself; we need people to take control of the destiny of languages. It’s the work of our people to take the languages from past generations to future generations. Each of our languages are losing fluent speakers, but the good news is we have more people who are coming to learn the language.”

Each of the guests provided language resource links:

To hear the full conversation, click the video!

About Sealaska Language Fund

Sealaska established a $10 million language endowment to focus on the revitalization of Tlingit (Lingít), Haida (X̱aad Kíl) and Tsimshian (Sm’algya̠x) languages. Sealaska’s $10 million Language Revitalization Fund is expected to generate $500,000 in grants annually to invigorate Indigenous languages over the next decade.

Sealaska is welcoming applications to support language preservation efforts. To learn more or apply, please visit the online application.