Sealaska Heritage Institute

August 17, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Alaska, Education, Research | Leave a comment
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Another interesting website for Sunday:

Sealaska Heritage Institute

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is a regional Native nonprofit organization founded for the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. SHI was established in 1981 by Sealaska Corp., a for-profit company formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). SHI, formerly Sealaska Heritage Foundation, administers Sealaska Corp.’s cultural and educational programs.

You can view their programs page here. The list is quite long! You can also take a look at their online language resources page here. Sealaska Heritage Institute produces Native language curriculum and other education tools through its Language and Education Programs. The institute encourages students and teachers to use its online resources to perpetuate and revitalize Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages.


Sealaska Heritage Institute has produced numerous books and videos relating to Alaska Native cultures, languages and historical events. The book collection includes language texts used in Native language classes. SHI is constantly developing new materials to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, the mission of the institute. Check them here.


The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) houses more than 3,000 publications, approximately 20,000 photographic images, roughly 300 cultural objects, nearly 2,500 media items, and more than 750 linear feet of manuscript material that document the history, culture, heritage, and language of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Below is a sample of some of the center’s special holdings, including digitized photograph and manuscript collections and
views of artifacts:

    Dr. Walter A. Soboleff ANB Papers: In 2007, Dr. Walter A. Soboleff officially donated to SHI his papers, which document his time as a ranking official within the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB). Funded by IMLS from 2005-2007, SHI staff arranged and scanned a significant
    portion of Soboleff’s ANB papers. The scanned papers are now available online and consist of over 1,000 pages of material that span 1929 to 1995. Scanned papers include issues of the ANB periodical “The Voice of Brotherhood,” ANB meeting minutes, correspondence, working files, camp files, and papers that show how ANB fought to improve the lives of tens of thousands of Alaska Natives.

    Digital Photo Collections: This link takes researchers to a selection of online photographs from
    the Special Collections Research Center’s holdings. These images date from 1880 to the present and document various aspects of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian life. This web album will continue to grow as materials are added by Special Collections staff.

    Digital Celebration Photo Archive:This digital interface is a searchable database of historical photographs from the institute’s collection showcasing select photographs from SCRC’s Celebration Photograph Collection. The database includes images of the first Celebration festival in 1982 and from various festivals that followed. The creation of this photo database was funded by a two-year
    grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services.

    Bowlsby Collection: In July 2002, a private collector donated more than 50
    Alaska Native cultural objects and a slide collection to Sealaska Heritage Institute. It is the largest private collection of cultural objects ever given to SHI. The collection includes baskets, halibut hooks, carving tools, spoons, a rattle and a number of stone objects that appear prehistoric, said SHI President Rosita Worl, a Tlingit anthropologist.

    William Paul, Jr. Photos
    :This photography collection features Southeast Alaska Native people during the 1940s through the 1950s, and they are a joy to view. However, much of the information identifying people, places and events depicted in the photographs has been lost. We are hoping you
    will help! We are interested in anything you have to say about the photos — perhaps you remember some of these events and have stories or memories to share?

    Tlingit Fighting Pick: An old, stone artifact received by Sealaska Heritage Institute in 2003. The object was discovered in the early 1950s in the village of Kake by Lloyd Davis during
    a construction project and later presented to SHI by Davis’ son, John Davis. The artifact measures 16 inches in length and weighs about 5 pounds. SHI is trying to determine the age of the artifact and the type of stone used. SHI asked Native elders, museum personnel and academic experts to view the artifact and to consult with the institute about the object’s potential historical use. Two theories have emerged.

    Curry-Weissbrodt Collection
    : In 1981 a wealth of Alaska Native land-claims documents were donated to SHI by I.S. Weissbrodt and James E. Curry, tribal lawyers who represented the Tlingit and Haida Indians from the 1940s. SHI has scanned and digitized a selection of key documents from
    this collection and they are posted on our website for public use. The project was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Impressive! They run also a blog, you can check it here if you want to keep in contact with them.

Indigenous People Issues & Resources

August 15, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Education, Links, News, Organization | Leave a comment
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Thanks to a comment, two weeks ago I found this site, dedicated to indigenous people. It does not have information about all the tribes, but it keeps growing and its future seems promising!

Welcome to Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resource

Today, our world is experiencing a rapid decline in cultural diversity. One in five people in today’s world speak the same language: the Mandarin Chinese spoken by the largest single ethnic group in the world – the Han – whose 1.3 billion population represents 92 percent of the mainland Chinese population and 19 percent of the world’s population. Likewise, in India – the world’s second most populous country – there are 415 living, recognized languages, but the majority of people speak either Bengali or Hindi. Linguists recognize some 6,000 to 7,000 spoken languages, of which 5,000 or so are spoken by indigenous peoples who represent an estimated 6 percent of the world’s population.

Many of these people, and their language and culture, face a questionable future. The relatively rapid decline in language diversity parallels the decline in cultural diversity. These changes are due in part to the product of both historical relationships – imperialism, colonialism, Cold War economic development, and militarism – as well as cultural beliefs that rationalize or justify actions that serve the powerful at the cost of lands and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources is a new site that is slowly developing. Our goal is to provide information and resources for those concerned about, and for, indigenous peoples around the world. We recognize that our actions in the West effect indigenous peoples in all parts of the world – the consequences of water diversion and hydroelectric energy projects, militarization, global and national events, and consolidation of natural resource access, and the like are all having an unprecedented impact on the world’s indigenous peoples. But we can do something.

It is our belief that cross-cultural communication and understanding – as well as easily accessible information and resources – is one of the keys to helping indigenous peoples maintain their language, culture, and identity. We hope that you also share this belief. Diversity is one of the strongest components to a healthy world. Together we can help and make a difference – from large to small.

I will dig into it later on. Looks promising, doesn’t it?

CINE, investigating indigenous diet in Canada

August 5, 2008 at 7:04 pm | Posted in Canada, Health, Research | Leave a comment
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A good friend of mine, whose eyes are open and awake even in the 5th of August, found this information for me in the CINE (Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment) website:



The Territory of Nunavut was formed in 1992, and represents an Inuit self-ruled territory. The Baffin Region of Nunavut is the most traditional of Canadian Inuit Regions and is home to Inuit (Figure 1).

Studies in this region have shown that traditional food has a central role in the life of Inuit. Therefore, with support from the Northern Contaminants Program and with participation and guidance of the Inuit Tapiriit of Canada, the research took place from 1997 -2000 in 5 regions of Inuit communities with the objectives:

– To derive quantitative estimates of traditional/country and market food intake among Inuit in 5 regions (Inuvialuit, Kitikmeot, Keewatin, Baffin and Labrador), representing approximately 50 communities.
– To complete databases of nutrient and contaminant contents of traditional foods.
– To define benefits of traditional foods in terms of nutritional, socioeconomic and cultural significance.
– To define the levels of dietary exposure to contaminants (mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead and several organochlorines).

A total of 1929 participants were randomly selected for interviews. The information on food consumption took place during fall of 1998 and winter of 1999, using 24- hr recalls, food frequency interviews, and 7-day food records.

The study team was comprised of the following:

Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE), McGill University, Québec, Canada, H9X 3V9.

1. Grace M. Egeland, Ph.D.
2. Rula Souieda
3. Harriet Kuhnlein, Ph.D., R.D

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Health Office, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

1. Looee Okalik
2. Eric Loring

Notes on food groups

Seventy-nine different foods were identified for use in Baffin region, where Pangnirtung is located and among these are numerous species of fish and shellfish, marine and land mammals, birds, plant and berries as part of the traditional food system. The analyses of all foods were carried out in the CINE laboratory.

Information on 79 foods collected was divided into five groups:

1. Fish and Seafood
2. Sea Mammals
3. Land Mammals
4. Game and Birds
5. Berries

Nutrient composition of Baffin Inuit foods is presented in CINE’s Arctic Nutrient File providing access to nutrient information on traditional food (country food) for Canada’s Northern Indigenous Peoples.

The purpose of this resource is to present a reflection of the usual composition of foods available and/or consumed among Inuit community members. This is a living document and nutrient information will be added and/or updated when available.

Seasonality of use, harvest information, type of procurement and other relevant information were collected through household and key informant interviews.

Notes on food components

Vitamin A values are reported in both Vitamin A retinol equivalents (RE-µg) and in retinol activity equivalents (RAE-µg). These values are calculated and reported for only those foods for which retinol, beta carotene and total carotene values are available. Vitamin A (RAE-µg) values are reported for compatibility with the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) recommendations.

Folate values are reported in Dietary Folate Equivalent (DFE), in addition to reporting of natural folate present in foods


1. Fediuk, K., Hidiroglou, N., Madère, R. & Kuhnlein, H.V. (2002) Vitamin C in Inuit traditional food and women’s diets. J. Food Compos. Anal. 15: 221-235.
2. Kuhnlein, H.V., Receveur, O., Chan H.M., and Loring E. August, 2000. Assessment of Dietary Benefit/Risk in Inuit Communities. Technical report (ISBN # 0-7717-0558-1). Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE), McGill.
3. Kuhnlein, H. V., Kubow, S. & Soueida, R. (1991) Lipid components of traditional Inuit foods and diets of Baffin Island. J. Food Compos. Anal. 4(3): 227-236.
4. Kuhnlein, H. V. & Soueida, R. (1992) Use and nutrient composition of traditional Baffin Inuit foods. J. Food Compos. Anal. 5(2): 112-126.
5. Kuhnlein, H. V., Receveur, O. & Ing, A. (2001) Energy, fat and calcium in bannock consumed by Canadian Inuit. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 101(5): 580-581.
6. Kuhnlein, H. V., Chan, H. M., Leggee, D. & Barthet, V. (2002) Macronutrient, mineral and fatty acid composition of Canadian Arctic traditional food. J. Food Compos. Anal. 15: 545-566.
7. 7. Kuhnlein, H. V., Barthet, V., Farren, E., Falahi, E., Leggee, D., Receveur, O. and Berti, P. (2006) Vitamins A, D, and E in Canadian Arctic Traditional Food and Adult Diets. J. Food Compos. Anal. 19: 495-506.

The pity is that this study is not completely available on-line right now, only a part here. I already told about the side effects of the non-indigenous diets on indigenous populations, and it seems that this institute in Canada investigates in this directions. Good to know that, then! They have more information, so I will be posting about them for a while.

Deepening in Alaska indigenous languages

July 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Language, Naming | Leave a comment
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Few months ago I promised to deepen in the Alaska Native Languages Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. So did I, and I listed all the languages they describe ont heir site:

Aleut: Unangax^ (Aleut) is one branch of the Eskimo-Aleut language family. Its territory in Alaska encompasses the Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands, and the Alaska Peninsula west of Stepovak Bay. Unangax^ is a single language divided at Atka Island into the Eastern and the Western dialects. Of a population of about 2,200 Unangax^, about 300 speak the language. This language was formerly called Aleut, a general term for introduced by Russian explorers and fur traders to refer to Native Alaskan of the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, and Prince William Sound (see the section on the Alutiiq language). The term Unangax^ means ‘person’ and probably derives from the root una, which refers to the seaside. The plural form ‘people’ is pronounced Unangas in the western dialect and Unangan in the eastern dialect, and these terms are also sometimes used to refer to the language. The indigenous term for the language is Unangam

Alutiiq: Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) is a Pacific Gulf variety of Yupik Eskimo spoken in two dialects from the Alaska Peninsula to Prince William Sound, including Kodiak Island. Of a total population of about 3,000 Alutiiq people, about 400 still speak the language. Although traditionally the people called themselves Sugpiaq (suk ‘person’ plus -piaq ‘real’), the name Alutiiq was adopted from a Russian plural form of Aleut, which Russian invaders applied to the Native people they encountered from Attu to Kodiak. Closely related to Central Alaskan Yup’ik, the Alutiiq language is divided into the Koniag and the Chugach dialects. Koniag Alutiiq is spoken on the upper part of the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island (and Afognak Island before it was deserted following the 1964 earthquake). Chugach Alutiiq is spoken on the Kenai Peninsula from English Bay and Port Graham to Prince William Sound where it meets Eyak. The first work on Alutiiq literacy was done by Russian Orthodox monks Herman and Gideon and the talented student Chumovitski, although their progress continued only until about 1807 and almost none of their work survives. After that, a few others – notably Tyzhnov, Uchilishchev, and Zyrianov – worked on the language during the Russian period, producing a translation of Matthew, a Catechism, and primer, but they achieved less success than those who worked in Aleut. The first modern linguistic work on Alutiiq was done by Irene Reed in the early 1960s and by Jeff Leer beginning in 1973. Leer has produced both a grammar and a dictionary of Koniag Alutiiq for classroom use.

Ahtna: Ahtna Athabascan is the language of the Copper River and the upper Susitna and Nenana drainages in eight communities. The total population is about is about 500 with perhaps 80 speakers. The first extensive linguistic work on Ahtna was begun in 1973 by James Kari, who published a comprehensive dictionary of the language in 1990.

Central Alaskan Yup’ik: Central Alaskan Yup’ik lies geographically and linguistically between Alutiiq and Siberian Yupik. The use of the apostrophe in Central Alaskan Yup’ik, as opposed to Siberian Yupik, denotes a long p. The word Yup’ik represents not only the language but also the name for the people themselves (yuk ‘person’ plus pik ‘real’.) Central Alaskan Yup’ik is the largest of the state’s Native languages, both in the size of its population and the number of speakers. Of a total population of about 21,000 people, about 10,000 are speakers of the language. Children still grow up speaking Yup’ik as their first language in 17 of 68 Yup’ik villages, those mainly located on the lower Kuskokwim River, on Nelson Island, and along the coast between the Kuskokwim River and Nelson Island. The main dialect is General Central Yup’ik, and the other four dialects are Norton Sound, Hooper Bay-Chevak, Nunivak, and Egegik. In the Hooper Bay-Chevak and Nunivak dialects, the name for the language and the people is “Cup’ik” (pronounced Chup-pik). Early linguistic work in Central Yup’ik was done primarily by Russian Orthodox, then Jesuit Catholic and Moravian missionaries, leading to a modest tradition of literacy used in letter writing. In the 1960s, Irene Reed and others at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks developed a modern writing system for the language, and their work led to the establishment of the state’s first school bilingual programs in four Yup’ik villages in the early 1970s. Since then a wide variety of bilingual materials has been published, as well as Steven Jacobson’s comprehensive dictionary of the language and his complete practical classroom grammar, and story collections and narratives by many others including a full novel by Anna Jacobson.

Deg Xinag: Deg Xinag (also Deg Hit’an; formerly known by the pejorative Ingalik) is the Athabascan language of Shageluk and Anvik and of the Athabascans at Holy Cross below Grayling on the lower Yukon River. Of a total population of about 275 Ingalik people, about 40 speak the language. A collection of traditional folk tales by the elder Belle Deacon was published in 1987, and a literacy manual in 1993.

Dena’ina: Dena’ina (Tanaina) is the Athabascan language of the Cook Inlet area with four dialects on the Kenai Peninsula, Upper Inlet area above Anchorage, and coastal and inland areas of the west side of Cook Inlet. Of the total population of about 900 people, about 75 speak the language. James Kari has done extensive work on the language since 1972, including his edition with Alan Boraas of the collected writings of Peter Kalifornsky in 1991.

Eyak: Eyak is not an Athabascan language, but a coordinate sub-branch to Athabascan as a whole in the Athabascan-Eyak branch of the Athabascan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. Eyak was spoken in the 19th century from Yakutat along the southcentral Alaska coast to Eyak at the Copper River delta, but by the 20th century only at Eyak. It is now represented by about 50 people but no surviving fluent speakers.only one remaining speaker, born in 1920 and living in Anchorage. Comprehensive documentation of Eyak has been carried out since the 1960s by Michael Krauss, including his edition of traditional stories, historic accounts, and poetic compositions by Anna Nelson Harry. The name Eyak itself is not an Eyak word but instead derives from the Chugach Eskimo name (Igya’aq) of the Eyak village site near the mouth of Eyak River (Krauss 2006:199). The Chugach word Igya’aq is a general term referring to ‘the outlet of a lake into a river.’
With the passing of Marie Smith Jones (pictured above with linguist Michael Krauss) on January 21, 2008 Eyak became the first Alaska Native language to become extinct in recent history.

Gwich’in: Gwich’in (Kutchin) is the Athabascan language spoken in the northeastern Alaska villages of Arctic Village, Venetie, Fort Yukon, Chalkyitsik, Circle, and Birch Creek, as well as in a wide adjacent area of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory. The Gwich’in population of Alaska is about 1,100, and of that number about 300 are speakers of the language. Gwich’in has had a written literature since the 1870s, when Episcopalian missionaries began extensive work on the language. A modern writing system was designed in the 1960s by Richard Mueller, and many books, including story collections and linguistic material, have been published by Katherine Peter, Jeff Leer, Lillian Garnett, Kathy Sikorski, and others.

Haida: Haida (Xa’ida) is the language of the southern half of Prince of Wales Island in the villages of Hyadaburg, Kasaan, and Craig, as well as a portion of the city of Ketchikan. About 600 Haida people live in Alaska, and about 15 of the most elderly of those speak the language. Haida is considered a linguistic isolate with no proven genetic relationship to any language family. A modern writing system was developed in 1972.

Han: Hän is the Athabascan language spoken in Alaska at the village of Eagle and in the Yukon Territory at Dawson. Of the total Alaskan Hän population of about 50 people, perhaps 12 speak the language. A writing system was established in the 1970s, and considerable documentation has been carried out at the Alaska Native Language Center as well as at the Yukon Native Language Centre in Whitehorse.

Holikachuk: Holikachuk is the Athabascan language of the Innoko River, formerly spoken at the village of Holikachuk, which has moved to Grayling on the lower Yukon River. Holikachuk, which is intermediate between Ingalik and Koyukon, was identified as a separate language in the 1970s. The total population is about 200, and of those perhaps 12 speak the language.

Inupiaq:Inupiaq is spoken throughout much of northern Alaska and is closely related to the Canadian Inuit dialects and the Greenlandic dialects, which may collectively be called “Inuit” or Eastern Eskimo, distinct from Yupik or Western Eskimo. Alaskan Inupiaq includes two major dialect groups ? North Alaskan Inupiaq and Seward Peninsula Inupiaq. North Alaskan Inupiaq comprises the North Slope dialect spoken along the Arctic Coast from Barter Island to Kivalina, and the Malimiut dialect found primarily around Kotzebue Sound and the Kobuk River. Seward Peninsula Inupiaq comprises the Qawiaraq dialect found principally in Teller and in the southern Seward Peninsula and Norton Sound area, and the Bering Strait dialect spoken in the villages surrounding Bering Strait and on the Diomede Islands. Dialect differences involve vocabulary and suffixes (lexicon) as well as sounds (phonology). North Slope and Malimiut are easily mutually intelligible, although there are vocabulary differences (tupiq means ?tent? in North Slope and ?house? in Malimiut; iglu is ?house? in North Slope) and sound differences (?dog? is qimmiq in North Slope and qipmiq in Malimiut). Seward Peninsula and North Alaskan dialects differ significantly from each other, and a fair amount of experience is required for a speaker of one to understand the dialect of the other. The name “Inupiaq,” meaning “real or genuine person” (inuk ?person? plus -piaq ?real, genuine?), is often spelled “Iñupiaq,” particularly in the northern dialects. It can refer to a person of this group (“He is an Inupiaq”) and can also be used as an adjective (“She is an Inupiaq woman”). The plural form of the noun is “Inupiat,” referring to the people collectively (“the Inupiat of the North Slope”). Alaska is home to about 13,500 Inupiat, of whom about 3,000, mostly over age 40, speak the language. The Canadian Inuit population of 31,000 includes about 24,000 speakers. In Greenland, a population of 46,400 includes 46,000 speakers.

Koyukon: Koyukon occupies the largest territory of any Alaskan Athabascan language. It is spoken in three dialects – Upper, Central, and Lower – in 11 villages along the Koyukuk and middle Yukon rivers. The total current population is about 2,300, of whom about 300 speak the language. The Jesuit Catholic missionary Jules Jette did extensive work on the language from 1899-1927. Since the early 1970s, native Koyukon speaker Eliza Jones has produced much linguistic material for use in schools and by the general public.

Siberian Yupik / St. Lawrence Island Yupik: Siberian Yupik (also St. Lawrence Island Yupik) is spoken in the two St. Lawrence Island villages of Gambell and Savoonga. The language of St. Lawrence Island is nearly identical to the language spoken across the Bering Strait on the tip of the Siberian Chukchi Peninsula. The total Siberian Yupik population in Alaska is about 1,100, and of that number about 1,050 speak the language. Children in both Gambell and Savoonga still learn Siberian Yupik as the first language of the home. Of a population of about 900 Siberian Yupik people in Siberia, there are about 300 speakers, although no children learn it as their first language. Although much linguistic and pedagogical work had been published in Cyrillic on the Siberian side, very little was written for St. Lawrence Island until the 1960s when linguists devised a modern orthography. Researchers at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks revised that orthography in 1971, and since then a wide variety of curriculum materials, including a preliminary dictionary and a practical grammar, have become available for the schools. Siberian Yupik is a distinct language from Central Alaskan Yup’ik. Notice that the former is spelled without an apostrophe.

(Lower) Tanana: Tanana Athabascan is now spoken only at Nenana and Minto on the Tanana River below Fairbanks. The Athabascan population of those two villages is about 380, of whom about 30, the youngest approaching age 60, speak the language. Michael Krauss did the first major linguistic fieldwork on this language beginning in 1961, and this was continued by James Kari. Recent publications in the language include the 1992 edition of stories told by Teddy Charlie as recorded by Krauss in 1961, and a preliminary dictionary compiled by Kari in 1994.

Tanacross Athabascan: Tanacross is the ancestral language of the Mansfield-Ketchumstock and Healy Lake-Jospeph Village bands. It is spoken today at Healy Lake, Dot Lake, and Tanacross on the middle Tanana River. The total population is about 220, of whom about 65 speak the language. A practical alphabet was established in 1973 and a few booklets have been published at the Alaska Native Language Center, but Tanacross remains one of the least documented of Alaska Native languages.

(Upper) Tanana: Upper Tanana Athabascan is spoken mainly in the Alaska villages of Northway, Tetlin, and Tok, but has a small population also across the border in Canada. The Alaskan population is about 300, of whom perhaps 105 speak the language. During the 1960s, Paul Milanowski established a writing system, and he worked with Alfred John to produce several booklets and a school dictionary for use in bilingual programs.

Tlingit: Tlingit (Łingít) is the language of coastal Southeastern Alaska from Yakutat south to Ketchikan. The total Tlingit population in Alaska is about 10,000 in 16 communities with about 500 speakers of the language. Tlingit is one branch of the Athabascan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. A practical writing system was developed in the 1960s, and linguists such as Constance Naish, Gillian Story, Richard and Nora Dauenhauer, and Jeff Leer have documented the language through a number of publications, including a verb dictionary, a noun dictionary, and a collection of ancient legends and traditional stories by Tlingit elder Elizabeth Nyman.

Tsimshian: Tsimshian has been spoken at Metlakatla on Annette Island in the far southeastern corner of Alaska since the people moved there from Canada in 1887 under the leadership of missionary William Duncan. Currently, of the 1,300 Tsimshian people living in Alaska, not more than 70 of the most elderly speak the language. Franz Boas did extensive research on the language in the early 1900s, and in 1977 the Metlakatlans adopted a standard practical orthography for use also by the Canadian Coast Tsimshians.

Tunuu: although the early Russian fur trade was exploitative and detrimental to the Aleut population as a whole, linguists working through the Russian Orthodox Church made great advances in literacy and helped foster a society that grew to be remarkably bilingual in Russian and Unangax^. The greatest of these Russian Orthodox linguists was Ivan Veniaminov who, beginning in 1824, worked with Aleut speakers to develop a writing system and translate religious and educational material into the native language. In modern times the outstanding academic contributor to Unangax^ linguistics is Knut Bergsland who from 1950 until his death in 1998 worked with Unangax^ speakers such as William Dirks Sr. and Moses Dirks – now himself a leading Unangax^ linguist – to design a modern writing system for the language and develop bilingual curriculum materials including school dictionaries for both dialects. In 1994 Bergsland produced a comprehensive Unangax^ dictionary, and in 1997 a detailed reference grammar.

Upper Kuskokwim: Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan is spoken in the villages of Nikolai, Telida, and McGrath in the Upper Kuskokwim River drainage. Of a total population of about 160 people, about 40 still speak the language. Raymond Collins began linguistic work at Nikolai in 1964, when he established a practical orthography. Since then he has worked with Betty Petruska to produce many small booklets and a school dictionary for use in the bilingual program.

I have to compare this list of languages with the one provided by Ethnologue, but in case of non-coincidence I think that the ANLC is more reliable, as they work shoulder to shoulder with them.

Voices from tundra and taiga

April 2, 2008 at 9:44 pm | Posted in Language, Research, Siberia | 1 Comment
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Yestarday, a snowball came rolling from the Netherlands to Barcelona. It said that there is a research center, Mercator, the European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning. They work on a wide range of topics, so I just searched for the Arctic-related ones. With that beautiful title, here you have their Siberian project:

Voices from tundra and taiga

The NWO project “Voices from Tundra and Taiga” started in May 2002 and lasted until June 2005. In a number of subprojects, carried out by different teams throughout the Russian Federation, this project contributed to the strengthening and revitalization of various minor indigenous languages of the Russian North, including Nenets, Nivkh, Yukagir, Khanty, Mansi and others. The project was part of a general research program with the same name.

Final report

Short description of the overall approach:

The topic of the research program “Voices from Tundra and Taiga” is the study of endangered languages and cultures of the Russian Federation, which must be described rapidly before they become extinct. This research is in the fortunate position that our earlier work on the reconstruction technology for old sound recordings found in archives in St. Petersburg has made it possible to compare languages still spoken in the proposed research area to the same languages as they were spoken more than half a century ago. These sound recordings consist of spoken language, folksongs, fairy tales etc., among others in Siberian languages.

In the NWO project we applied the developed techniques to some of the disappearing minority languages and cultures of Russia: Nivkh and Orok on Sakhalin and Yukagir and Tungus languages in Yakutia. Our aim is to set up a phono- and video-library of recorded stories, and of the folklore, singing and oral traditions of the peoples of Sakhalin and Yakutia. For this purpose the existing sound recordings in the archives of Sakhalin and Yakutia are used together with the results of new fieldwork expeditions. The data are added to the existing archive material in St. Petersburg and part of is made available on the Internet and/or CD-ROM.

Spontaneous speech and prepared texts are collected that are valuable for (ethno)linguistic as well as for anthropological, folkloric and ethno-musicological analysis. For that purpose, the data are (video)recorded and analysed as to the art of story telling and language use. Described texts are published in scientific journals and books with audiovisual illustrations on CD-ROM and on the Internet. The materials thus become available for further analysis to researchers working in the field of phonetics, linguistics, anthropology, history, ethno-musicology and folklore. This information is also important for the development of teaching methods for representatives of the related ethnic groups and for the conservation of their language and culture. For this purpose the new centres are equiped with computers, software, sound recorders, literature, etc.

The research and documentation is carried out in close co-operation with local scholars. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Yakutsk local scholars and their assistants participate in the archiving of the sound recordings and in fieldwork expeditions. They are trained at St. Petersburg State University and specialists from St. Petersburg State University also visit them in order to set up new centres for the study and teaching of local languages and related subjects.

Voices from Buryatia

In July 2005, Tjeerd de Graaf presented the final report of the NWO project carried out together with Russian colleagues in the framework of theVoices from Tundra and Taiga research program.The research group received positive reactions, both from scientists as well as from teachers, students, native speakers and local authorities. This applied in particular to Buryatia, one of Russia’s federal republics in Siberia, where Tjeerd de Graaf and his Buryat colleague Ljubov Radnajeva visited several centres in June and July 2005. During special teacher seminars, they reported on the results of their projects and on the use of information technology in language teaching. Scientists and teachers from Buryatia are ready and eager to take an active part in the realization of similar new projects. A proposal for such a project has been prepared and submitted to the INTAS Organisation of the European Union.

According to the latest UNESCO data, the Buryat language is considered an endangered language and is registered in the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages. Meanwhile, many Buryat people demonstrate their wish that their children use the native language. Modern educational resources (such as computer-assisted language learning, multimedia teaching material) are almost non-existent in teaching the Buryat language. It should be mentioned that good and promising conditions exist to develop such teaching resources based on information technology. The proposed joint research project will make this possible.

If you have more snowballs for me (aka information, links and resources…) do not hesitate to drop me a line!

Talking Alaska

April 1, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Alaska, Blogging | Leave a comment
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This is the title for an interesting blog I discovered yestarday: Talking Alaska. It is written by Dr. Gary Holton, a research for the Alaska Native Languages Center. Here you have the blog presentation:

Welcome to Talking Alaska!

This blog covers topics related to Alaska Native languages, including language documentation, language revitalization, language activism, and language endangerment. We may touch on other related topics as well. Guest authors are welcome; contact the admin if you would like to contribute.

We are now well into the 21st century, and all of Alaska’s twenty indigenous (Native) languages are extremely endangered. The knowledge of the Elders risks being lost as young people in Alaska grow up speaking English, with little or no knowledge of the languages of the ancestors.

This is not a new situation. The decline of Alaska Native languages and the shift to English began shortly after the purchase of Alaska from Russia. As the The first General Agent of Education in Alaska, Sheldon Jackson began implementing English-only policies as early as 1884, believing that Native languages were an impediment to educational progress in the state. It was nearly one hundred years before the devastating legacy of these policies began to be reversed with the passage of the Alaska Bilingual Education Act on June 9, 1972. The remainder of the 1970s saw a surge of interest in Alaska Native language work, with many speakers learning to document and teach their Native languages. The decade culminated with the production of Talking Alaska, a series of ten 30-minute videos exploring the “priceless heritage of Alaska’s Native languages.”

The 21st century has seen a resurgence of interest in Alaska Native languages and Native language revitalization. Language programs have been started across the state, ranging from intensive summer language institutes to public immersion language schools. A new generation of speakers — many of the second language speakers — is emerging. These efforts provide testimony that Alaskans have recognized the “priceless heritage of Alaska’s Native language.”

A really think that Internet is a very useful tool for minorities, as it gives them the freedom to communicate annd claim for their rights to the whole world, and this is what this blog is doing. It is now om my RSS reader, so both you and me will keep in touch with them 🙂

Alaska Native Language Center

March 31, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Posted in Alaska, Language, Research | 1 Comment
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As I told you in another post, I’m a linguist, a philologist to be accurate. So one of the main guidelines of my trip will be the study languages, probably. I suppose it is impossible not to be a bit influenced by that, and it is usually an interesting approach when traveling, as it offers a way of approaching people on the way. So, when on my last post I found out about language research concerning Arctic languages I decided to follow the thread. And it leads to Alaska Native Language Center:

Alaska Native Language Center

Mission and Goal

The Alaska Native Language Center was established by state legislation in 1972 as a center for research and documentation of the twenty Native languages of Alaska. It is internationally known and recognized as the major center in the United States for the study of Eskimo and Northern Athabascan languages. ANLC publishes its research in story collections, dictionaries, grammars, and research papers. The center houses an archival collection of more than 10,000 items, virtually everything written in or about Alaska Native languages, including copies of most of the earliest linguistic documentation, along with significant collections about related languages outside Alaska. Staff members provide materials for bilingual teachers and other language workers throughout the state, assist social scientists and others who work with Native languages, and provide consulting and training services to teachers, school districts, and state agencies involved in bilingual education. The ANLC staff also participates in teaching through the Alaska Native Language Program which offers major and minor degrees in Central Yup’ik and Inupiaq Eskimo at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. An AAS degree or a Certificate in Native Language Education is also available. The center continues to strive to raise public awareness of the gravity of language loss worldwide but particularly in the North. Of the state’s twenty Native languages, only two (Siberian Yupik in two villages on St. Lawrence Island, and Central Yup’ik in seventeen villages in southwestern Alaska) are spoken by children as the first language of the home. Like every language in the world, each of those twenty is of inestimable human value and is worthy of preservation. ANLC, therefore, continues to document, cultivate, and promote those languages as much as possible and thus contribute to their future and to the heritage of all Alaskans.

Alaska Native Languages


Aleut | Alutiiq | Iñupiaq | Central Yup’ik | Siberian Yupik | Tsimshian | Haida | lingit | Eyak | Ahtna | Dena’ina | Deg Hit’an | Holikachuk | Upper Kuskokwim | Koyukon | Tanana | Tanacross | Upper Tanana | Gwich’in | Hän

Classes and Degree Programs

There are 20 different Alaska Native languages: Aleut, Alutiiq (also called Aleut or Sugpiaq), Central Yup’ik Eskimo, St. Lawrence Island Eskimo, Inupiaq Eskimo, Tsimshian, Haida, Tlingit and Eyak and 11 Athabascan languages. These languages are becoming recognized as the priceless heritage they truly are.

Since the passage of the Alaska Bilingual Education Law in 1972 there has been a demand for teachers who can speak and teach these languages in the schools throughout the state where there are Native children. Professional opportunities for those skilled in these languages exist in teaching, research and cultural, educational and political development.

Central Yup’ik Eskimo is spoken by the largest number of people, and Inupiaq by the next largest. In these two languages major and minor curricula are now offered. Courses are also regularly offered in Kutchin (Gwich’in) Athabascan. For work in all other languages, individual or small-group instruction is offered under special topics. Thus there have frequently been instruction, seminars, and workshops also in Tlingit, Haida, St. Lawrence Island Eskimo, Aleut and Koyukon, comparative Eskimo and comparative Athabascan.

UAF is unique in offering this curriculum, which benefits also from the research staff and library of the Alaska Native Language Center.

Degree Programs Offered: Minor in Alaska Native Languages, B.A. or Minor in Iñupiaq or Yup’ik Eskimo, A.A.S. or Certificate in Native Language Education, M.A. in Applied Linguistics.

You can also check out their staff and publications. They also have an interesting “Resources” page, I will deal with it later.

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