Tlingit Culture Specialist Honored for Work in the Juneau School District

Tlingit cultural icon David Katzeek was honored by the Juneau School District Board of Education and issued a legislative citation from the 31st Alaska State Legislature.

David Katzeek receiving an Alaska legislative citation from Rep. Andi Story, December 17, 2019. (Image by Brian Wallace for Sealaska)

Representative Andi Story (District 34) presented Katzeek with the legislative citation. Story says members of the Alaska State Legislature commend Katzeek on his dedication to the revival of Tlingit language and culture, for bringing relief and healing to many while enhancing Alaska’s cultural understanding and appreciation.

Highlights from Legislative Citation

  • David Katzeek has been a Tlingit clan leader since 1972.
  • He was the first president of Sealaska Heritage Foundation.
  • He has served as a traditional scholar for Sealaska Heritage Institute for nearly two decades.
  • With others he helped implement the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
  • He worked with others to establish the first Celebration organized in 1982.
  • He has been an advocate of legislative changes.
  • He has provided guidance to many individuals to increase cultural identity and language instruction programs.
  • He is a respected speaker and culture bearer.
  • As a Tlingit leader he has educated teachers, support staff, administrators, community and school board members on the rich history and culture of Alaska.
  • He bases his teachings on ancient Native values and Tlingit worldview.
  • He passionately teaches how traditional ways of knowing about this land, language and place benefit all children, their family and community.
  • He is known for identifying children as precious people of the earth.
David Katzeek on December 17, 2019. (Image by Brian Wallace for Sealaska)

“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this acknowledgement,” said Sealaska Board Chair Joe Nelson. “David has very generously shared his charm and wisdom with countless people from every age and background over the years. He considers himself to be merely a messenger, but he is so much more. It’s out of our respect for David and many other elders and leaders who are working to revitalize our language that the Sealaska board stood up a new language endowment to support their efforts.”​

Juneau Board of Education President Brian Holst says the district is fortunate to have a master teacher who is a clan leader, a mentor, a teacher of teachers, administrators and students. “David Katzeek has helped to envision and support Tlingit culture language literacy programs along with the Indian Studies Program,” said Holst. “Through his status as a contractor with Douglas Indian Association, Goldbelt Heritage and Sealaska Heritage Institute, he has contributed to the development of the K-12 social studies curriculum framework, K-12 math, science and art curriculum, given time to the Tlingit language restoration task force policy and workplan, and support in the naming of the Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School and its meaning, Kalé (Juneau-Douglas High School) and Sayéik: Gastineau Community School. His numerous contributions are measured in how positively we value the worth of all children.”

Katzeek was recognized at a community event on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. At the event he said, “As I look into your faces this evening, my spirit is encouraged, and my heart is full of joy because of the ways that this body has embraced another people’s way of life. For any human to be accepted and to be acknowledged, to be recognized regardless of their state in life, is a very grand gesture to any human being. This is the same way our ancestors believed.”

Daivd Katzeek and Anne Stepetin. (Image by Brian Wallace for Sealaska)

Katzeek graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School. He recalled many teachers who helped him feel confident as a Native student. “I wish teacher Jean Harlow was standing next to me or the others who acknowledged me when I was walking up and down the hallways of this school. I will always remember one conversation with Ms. Harlow. We were discussing Shakespeare. I told Ms. Harlow that I have heard speeches that are as good as Shakespeare. Her response and words, “And don’t you ever forget it,” I carried throughout my college years and beyond.”

David Katzeek is Chilkat Eagle Tlingit of the Shangukeidí Clan. His Tlingit name is Kingeistí.