Grant funds expansion of 3-year language revitalization program — and ‘a whole different worldview’

Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl sits in her office. (Photo by Lakeidra/ KTOO)

Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl sits in her office. (Photo by Lakeidra/KTOO)

The Sealaska Heritage Institute has received a roughly $930,000 federal grant from the Administration for Native Americans to establish a three-year language revitalization program.

Rosita Worl, the nonprofit’s president, said the new program will be an extension of an existing one.

“We just completed three years of a master-apprentice program, which we viewed as very successful,” Worl said. “We really wanted to continue it, and also expand it to Haida and Tsimshian.”

Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian are endangered languages, according to linguists. Worl said that while the number of fluent speakers is declining, the number of people wanting to learn the language is increasing.

The institute hopes to have eight participants who will become proficient in one of the three languages over three years. Four mentors will each be paired with two apprentices.

The grant will serve people in Metlakatla, Hydaburg, Sitka and Juneau.

She said learning a language is about more than words.

“Native languages embody a whole different worldview than what we’re used to when we speak English,” World said. “Along with that worldview comes values, values to their environment, values to one another and that’s embodied in our language.”

Worl said she’s not fluent in an Alaska Native language, citing decades of systemic assimilation forced onto Alaska Natives.

“I mean, there was a whole generation where I come from where children were removed from their home and forced to learn another language,” World said, “and (they) tried to beat our culture out of us, but fortunately we survived.”

That’s why the program is all the more important, she said.

As a part of the program, SHI will also create a regional language committee to help establish future programs, according to the news release.

Recent headlines

  • Acting Alaska U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder speaks at a press conference in Anchorage on March 23, 2017.

    Veteran prosecutor nominated to be the US attorney in Alaska

    Trump nominated Bryan Schroder for the post, the acting head of the Alaska district since Karen Loeffler and 45 other U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama were asked to resign after Trump's election.
  • The Alaska Capitol Building in Juneau on June 6, 2017. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

    Alaska lawmakers to reconvene on capital budget next week

    A Senate spokesman says the third special session is likely to start Thursday, July 27, in Juneau, and it's expected to last one or two days. The House and Senate indicated an agreement had been reached.
  • A robotic camera provides for wildlife tracking across a meadow near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center for Wild Alaska Live. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO)

    Behind the scenes of Wild Alaska Live

    The BBC and PBS are teaming up on a special series of live, prime-time nature programs showcasing Alaska’s wildlife to tens of millions people around the world. Cutting edge technology and a lot of luck goes into the high stakes production.
  • Greens Creek Mine

    Juneau Assembly mining task force to add members

    The three-member Juneau Assembly mining task force is seeking to add two planning commissioners and two members of the public. The group is studying a proposal to streamline the city's mining review process.