2019 Juneau Municipal Elections
Indigenous language policy
The Juneau School District recently adopted an indigenous language policy that affirms the district's commitment to supporting Tlingit language revitalization. How would you hope to see this policy put into practice?
The Juneau School District recently adopted an indigenous language policy that affirms the district’s commitment to supporting Tlingit language revitalization. How would you hope to see this policy put into practice?
The Tlingit language project is ambitious and timely. Historically, government education institutions were largely responsible for the diminishment of Native languages across the entire country. It is incumbent upon us to do what we can to help restore pieces of the Native culture that schools essentially drummed out in earlier centuries. I do not have a clear vision of how the revitalization of the language within our schools is going to work. I mean, we have the (Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy) program, which does introduce Tlingit language to a number of students in that program. However, how the expansion is going to work beyond that program, I really don’t have a vision for.
I’m really proud of the current school board’s work on the Tlingit languages. We have a school board and a community that supports Tlingit language (and) culture. And I want to see that go forward. I want to see the program, TCLL (Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy) specifically, I want to see it grow. I want to see a second location opened up here in Juneau, preferably in the valley. The one that we have right now is in downtown. So right now everybody that wants to be in TCLL, a student or a parent’s student, is not, because there’s just not enough room for the students. Just like there’s not enough room for Head Start, there’s not enough room for TCLL students. We need to provide at least enough for those students who want to be in TCLL to get into TCLL.
This is something that my children have already started, and they love it. So starting that at a young age I think is extremely important. And it should be followed through. There should be options for middle schoolers and high schoolers as well. I don’t know how the Juneau School District will be able to put it in place, that would definitely be a conversation that I would like to collaborate with the board on.
So we already have some programs like TCL (Tlingit Culture, Language, and Literacy Program at Harborview Elementary School), that starts kids learning the Tlingit language and culture really the instant they start school. I would like to see that basically continued and possibly expanded. I’m also open to, it’s not a priority, but I would like for us to see really the feasibility of possibly even a charter school. And the reason I say that is because, if we can do a Tlingit language charter school for elementary kids, in addition to actually consolidating the TCL program and finding some efficiencies, it could actually improve the Tlingit language. It could also help really capture that population that needs that ESL-type (English as a second language) approach in order to really get them on track. I also think that culturally, it’s just responsive and responsible. And it could also bring more money, because charter schools get a little bit of extra money, and if we can do a charter school inside a school, I think that would be an interesting proposition.