Story last updated at 7/1/2009 - 11:57 am
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has produced a unique collection of Haida curriculum for distribution to schools with Haida language programs, in hopes of weaving more Native lessons into the public school system.
The curriculum, a series of elementary-level, thematic units, features Haida language, culture and history. The units were developed in Ketchikan and Hydaburg over three years and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The curriculum is unique because it's the first Haida language and culture curriculum done on a broad scale that meets state academic and cultural standards.
The project is part of the institute's goal to perpetuate and preserve the languages and cultures of Southeast Alaska Natives, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
"One of the ways that we accomplish this is through systemic change. Systemic change means we're trying to integrate our language and culture into the school system," Worl said. "This curriculum allows us to bring to the schools elementary curriculum that reflects the world view, the language, the culture and even the history of the Haida Indians."
The curriculum includes 14 units and resources on the following topics:
5. Elizabeth Peratrovich
11. Sea Mammals
12. Spruce Trees
13. Totem Poles
14. Who Am I?
The lessons were written by a team, including SHI's Haida Linguist Dr. Jordan Lachler; Cherilyn Holter, who grew up in Hydaburg and for years has worked with the remaining fluent speakers; Linda Schrack, who grew up in Ketchikan and has a background in early childhood education; Julie Folta, a cultural curriculum specialist; and Annie Calkins.
The audio of Haida was recorded by fluent speaker Erma Lawrence and Lachler.
The curriculum and audio are available through Lachler and on the internet at www.sealaskaheritage.org/programs/language_and_culture_curriculum_haida.htm.
Haida is spoken in two major dialects: southern at Skidegate and northern at Masset, both on the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. Northern Haida is also spoken in the Alaskan communities of Hydaburg, Kasaan and Ketchikan.
The Haida nation may have numbered well over 10,000 at the time of first European contact in 1774. Today, of a total Haida population of about 2,20 0 in Canada and Alaska, perhaps 40 fluent speakers of the language are still living.
Serious sustained study of Haida began in the 1880s with Anglican missionary publications, mostly translations of religious material. Prominent linguists Franz Boas, John Swanton, Edward Sapir, and Emile Benveniste added significantly to the body of scholarship on the language. Assertions by some linguists that Haida is part of the same language family as Athabascan-Eyak and Tlingit remains a source of controversy among language experts.
Language revitalization is a top priority of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which distributed a similar curriculum in 2007 for the Tlingit language.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a Native nonprofit established in 1980 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The institute's mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. Language revitalization is a priority of SHI.