Language Program Mission Statement

KIC Language Program recognizes that our languages are essential to both our traditional and contemporary cultures, as well as our identity as tribal members.  We work in partnership with our elders, educators, and other cultural organizations to perpetuate the indigenous languages of our region for the benefit of all tribal members.

Language Program Goals

  • Improve language ability of program staff, moving toward conversational proficiency.
  • Develop a plan for a school-based language program.
  • Raise language awareness among tribal and community members.

Language Program Services

Language Program Links of Interest


In September 2008, KIC Tribal Council passed a resolution that directs our education department to prioritize the preservation and revitalization of our heritage languages.  The Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages are severely endangered with only a handful of fluent speakers and fewer young people being taught heritage languages at home and in school.  Our languages are integral to the continuation of our culture, way of life, and tribal sovereignty.  Our heritage languages provide our youth with a better understanding of themselves, as well as the unique worldview which has guided our people from time immemorial.  Equipped with this knowledge, our youth will be better prepared to meet the demands of traditional and contemporary cultures.  Thus, language work is part and parcel to well-being of our current and future tribal community and its importance has been recognized by Congress through the Esther Martinez Native American Preservation Act of 2006.

  KIC is committed to reversing the trend of language loss by refocusing the work of the cultural programs staff to develop a language program.  Beginning in September 2008, by passage of tribal resolution, the Tribe’s Cultural Instructors ceased work in the public schools.  Instead, Cultural Instructors entered into Mentor-Apprenticeships with fluent speakers of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian languages.  Our Cultural Instructors are directed to increase their language skills over the next five years towards fluency.  As our Cultural Instructors’ language skills increase, KIC will also begin developing language curricula appropriate for a school-based language program.  The school-based language program the Tribe plans to introduce will incorporate many of the cultural and arts activities that the school district and its students were previously familiar with.  Ideally, Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District will partner with us in this endeavor and help to identify ways to make the teaching of heritage language in our schools a reality.

  This change in our focus is an exercise in tribal self-determination.  The Tribe has identified language preservation and revitalization as a top priority and will continue to develop and expand our language program.  We also recognize this kind of project requires patience.  While it was not an easy decision to pull the Johnson O’Malley program from schools, it was the right decision.  The decision to refocus our efforts towards the preservation of our heritage languages was made for the benefit or our grandchildren’s children. 

"When you lose a language, a large part of the culture goes, too, because much of that culture is encoded in the language."  Kenneth L. Hale, linguist and activist on behalf of endangered languages.

Delores Ivins - Tlingit Language Mentor 

Martha Denny -Tlingit Instructor/Language Apprentice

 Click here for Bios


Phyllis Almquist - Haida Language Mentor 

Linda Schrack - Haida Instructor/Language Apprentice  

Click here for Bios

Southeast Regional Language Summit

Attendees of the Southeast Alaska Native Language Summit, which was hosted by Ketchikan Indian Community March 7-8, 2009.

During Winter 2009, Ketchikan Indian Community partnered with Cape Fox Heritage Foundation to host the inaugural Southeast Alaska Native Language Summit.  The language summit featured a variety of speakers, elders and academics, who presented on topics such as language loss and vitality, master-apprentice programs, curriculum development, and more.  The goal of the language summit was to increase our community’s awareness and knowledge of language preservation and revitalization efforts and opportunities.

  Over 70 people registered for the summit and represented a myriad of interested.  Tribal leaders, fluent speakers, students, educators, and friends attended the summit.  Presenters and registrants came from communities like Hoonah, Wrangell, Klukwan, Juneau , Hydaburg, Seattle , and as far away as New York .  Some of our speakers included: Hans Chester, Marsha Hotch, Alice Taff, and Benjamin Young.

  The keynote speaker was Daryl Baldwin (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma), who is the Director of the Myaamia Project at Miami University of Ohio.  The Myaamia Project is a tribal initiative located within an academic environment to advance the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma's language and cultural revitalization efforts.  Its mission is to preserve, promote, and research Miami Nation history, culture and language.  By the early 1900s, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma lost the last of its fluent speakers.  Despite this, our keynote speaker and many others have worked to revive their language.  Challenging the notion that their language was "extinct," the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has utilized extensive written material (most of which was documented by Jesuit missionaries) to reclaim and awaken their language.  Today, the Myaamia language can be heard in the home, at summer camps and in the classrooms of universities.  The Miami Tribe’s language work can inspire all of us to not give up hope on our Lingít, Xaad Kíl, and Shimalgyack.

  Other highlights of the conference included: Dominic Velez leading the entire group in a Haida language body parts demonstration and an impromptu conversation that happened between Benjamin Young (Hydaburg) and Erma Lawrence.

  Summit attendees were also honored by the presence of fluent speakers: Delores Ivins, Phyllis Almquist, Norma Wilson, and Erma Lawrence.

  The 2010 Southeast Regional Language Summit dates are TBA.  Stay tuned!

  Genealogy/Language Workshops

KIC Language staff will be hosting several workshops throughout the year to provide language instruction and the basics of genealogy research.  Participants will learn how to introduce themselves in the Tlingit, Haida, or Tsimshian language.  2010 schedule coming soon!

  Language Consultation

Individuals, schools, and organizations can request consultation from our language program staff for curriculum development, transcription/translation services, and more for a fee.  Fee schedule coming soon!