(Video Short on SHI) (Video Short on Indigenous People of Southeast Alaska)
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. Sealaska Heritage also conducts scientific, and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.
We offer numerous programs promoting Southeast Alaskan Native culture, including language and art. We maintain a substantial archive of Southeast Alaskan Native ethnographic material. We partner with local schools to promote academics and cultural education. Biennially, we produce Celebration, Alaska’s second-largest Native gathering. We own and operate the Sealaska Heritage Store, and curate an ongoing cultural exhibit on the first floor of our headquarters in Juneau’s landmark Walter Soboleff Building.
In 1996, scientists in Southeast Alaska discovered ancient human remains in a cave on Prince of Wales Island. DNA analysis and other testing proved he was a Native male and that the remains were at least 10,000 years old. We named him Shuká Kaa (Man Before Us). For more than 10,000 years, we have been guided by ancient values that allowed our people to adapt to rapid cultural changes and to survive as a distinct cultural group. Today, we are seeking to integrate our cultural values into the institutions that directly serve our people. The values in Tlingit are:
- Haa Aaní: Our Land: Honoring & Utilizing our Land (Haida: Íitl’ Tlagáa; Tsimshian: Na Laxyuubm)
- Our ancestors, who have lived in this land for more than 10,000 years, taught us that everything has a Spirit. When we utilize our resources, we must acknowledge the Spirits of the Land, Sea and Air and tell them the benefits that their use will bring to our People. Our ancestors protected the ownership of our land for their children and grandchildren just as we must do for future generations. Watch a video short on Haa Aaní produced by students in SHI’s Voice on the Land Program.
- Haa Latseení: Our Strength: Strength of Body, Mind, and Spirit (Haida: Íitl’ Dagwiigáay; Tsimshian: Na Gatlleedm)
- The “Way of the Warriors’” path is to achieve physical and inner strength. Above all, young men and women are taught to protect and to care for their families and clans. They are taught to seek truth and knowledge and to adapt to changing times while maintaining the integrity of our ancient values. Watch a video short on Haa Latseení produced by students in SHI’s Voice on the Land Program.
- Haa Shuká: Past, Present, and Future Generations: Honoring our Ancestors and Future Generations (Haida: Íitl’ Kuníisii; Tsimshian: Na Łagigyetgm)
- We maintain strong bonds with our ancestors whom we honor through our lives and in our ceremonies. We also have responsibilities to our future generations, and we must ensure that we protect our land and culture for our children and grandchildren and those who will follow them. Watch a video short on Haa Shuká produced by students in SHI’s Voice on the Land Program.
- Wooch Yáx: Balance: Social and Spiritual Balance (Haida: Gu dlúu; Tsimshian: Ama Mackshm)
- Wooch Yáx must be maintained to ensure social and spiritual harmony lest ill will goes wandering and causes harm. Wooch Yáx governs
- Interrelationships between Eagle and Raven clans
- Interrelationships between the Tlingit and others, including tribes, nations and institutions
- Wooch Yáx includes Kaa yaa awuné or Respect for Others and Át yaa awuné or Respect for All Things. Wooch Yáx requires that our People and our organizations conduct business with Yán gaa doonéekw or “Dignity,” realizing that everything has its rightful place and that all action and business must be done with integrity. Watch a video short on Wooch Yáx̱ produced by students in SHI’s Voice on the Land Program.