Teaching Tlingit Teachers
Elders are paired with teachers in an innovative course to train teachers of Tlingit in the use of Tlingit verbs.
Richard Dauehauer consults with class participants in rural Southeast Alaska via teleconference from Bill Ray Center.
Elders Walter Sobeleff and Florence Marks Sheakley look over course content.
Participants work with a data base of 500 verbs created by Linguist Keri Edwards. The weekly course, the result of a partnership between the Goldbelt Heritage Foundation and the University of Alaska Southeast, is attended in person in downtown Juneau at the UAS Bill Ray Center and via audio conference by teachers and elders from Southeast communities including Hoonah, Sitka, Kake, Wrangell,and Klukwan. The goal of the project is to boost the standards for teaching Tlingit. Each student creates a teaching unit of five lessons tailored to their classroom. The materials development course is taught by UAS Professor Richard Dauenhauer. A separate linguistics course is taught by Edwards. Both courses are funded by a three year grant acquired by the Goldbelt Heritage Foundation from the Administration for Native Americans. In addition, the grant supports tuition for some of the students enrolled in a Tlingit transcription course taught by UAS faculty and linguists Richard Dauenhauer and Alice Taff that introduces students to state of the art computer software for linguistic transcription.
Dauenhauer noted that this is one of the few programs in the country in which a university and tribal organization try to build a community program to revitalize an endangered language. Tlingit is now estimated to have fewer than 200 speakers.