By Katrina Hotch, SHI Language Project Coordinator
Language teams gathered at Sealaska Heritage Institute April 6-8 for orientation and training to begin their involvement in the Haa Shuká Community Language Learning Project. The Haa Shuká project builds on Sealaska Heritage’s previous Tlingit Mentor-Apprentice Program and has expanded to include Xaad Kíl and Sm’algyax languages.
(Hydaburg language team: Apprentice Bonnie Morris, Mentor Cherilyn Holter, Benjamin Young of SHI’s Southeast Regional Language Committee and Apprentice Andrea Peele.)
Haa Shuká pairs two language apprentices with one language mentor.
(Left: Metlakatla team. Apprentice David R. Boxley, Apprentice Kandi McGilton, Mentor Sarah Booth and Gavin Hudson, member of SHI’s Southeast Regional Language Committee. Right: Sitka team. Apprentice Lakrisha Brady, Mentor Ethel Makinen, Lillian Young from Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Apprentice Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield.)
Funded by a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, the project incorporates time with mentors, language courses, community language sessions, and a time requirement to listen to audio in the language as a way of increasing exposure to the participant’s heritage language.
(Juneau teams. Left: Apprentice Michelle Martin, Mentor Florence Sheakley and Apprentice Mary Folletti. Right: Apprentice Michael Hoyt, Mentor Paul Marks and Apprentice Kyle Worl.)
During the three-day training session, Haa Shuká language learning teams focused on defining their goals and developing a plan to achieve those goals.
Participants were oriented to the project management tools and new equipment for recording their language sessions. Each day included special topic presentations to help both the apprentice and mentor in this approach to language acquisition.
Hishinlai’ Peter, of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, shared some of her teaching methods and activities while giving pointers on goal setting. Hishinlai’ challenged apprentices to move beyond their comfort zones in the language and reminded mentors to speak slowly to allow learners to hear all the sounds of the language. Benjamin Young, Haida, Southeast Regional Language Committee member, presented on his experience with the mentor-apprentice model. Benjamin shared about the pitfalls on his journey and his comeback strategy for gaining momentum in Xaad Kíl language learning. Alice Taff, Ph.D., of the University of Alaska Southeast, gave a presentation about the link between language and wellness.
The orientation closed with the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Haa Shuká teams sharing language learning activities, songs, and the encouragement that they are all in this effort together.
(Our team: from left, Kyle Demientieff-Worl, Gavin Hudson, David R. Boxley, Kandi McGilton, Mary Folletti, Michelle Martin, Florence Sheakley, Michael Hoyt, Paul Marks, Benjamin Young, Andrea Peele, Cherilyn Holter, Bonnie Morris, Lillian Young, Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield, Lakrisha Brady and Ethel Makinen.)
(Photos by Nobu Koch)