Thru the Cultural Lens is a cultural orientation project designed to improve the educational outcomes of Alaska Native students in Southeast Alaska by providing high-quality, culturally responsive, and place-based training and resources to educators in the region. TCL develops and delivers virtual and in-person seminars to educators in Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Hydaburg, Petersburg, Wrangell, and Metlakatla. Participants consistently show growth in their abilities to create and implement place-based, culturally responsive curricula and education practices. The program culminates each year in an education conference.
SHI’s Baby Raven Reads series offers culturally-based books for children up to age 5 and includes stunning place-based illustrations. SHI's Baby Raven Reads literacy program was named a Library of Congress Literacy Awards Best Practice Honoree, one of 15 programs in the world to receive the honor in 2017.
This award-winning book series was compiled and edited by Nora Marks and Richard Dauenhauer over decades and published by SHI and the University of Washington Press. These are must-have volumes for anyone studying Tlingit cultures. Titles include Haa Shuka, Our Ancestors: Tlingit Oral Narratives; Haa Tuwunáagu Yís, for Healing Our Spirit; Haa Kusteeyí, Our Culture: Tlingit Life Stories; and Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká: Russians in Tlingit America.
SHI’s Box of Knowledge series consists of essays, reports, and books that the institute considers should be made available as a contribution to studies on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures, history, and languages. They are based on work carried out by researchers working in collaboration with SHI, contributions prepared by external experts, and work by staff.
Sealaska Heritage sponsors Baby Raven Reads, an award-winning program that promotes early-literacy, language development and school readiness for Alaska Native families with children up to age 5. The pilot program in Juneau ended in 2017, and SHI received funding to offer the program for several more years and to expand it to nine other communities in Southeast Alaska. SHI is currently offering the program in Anchorage, Angoon, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Juneau, Kake, Ketchikan, Klukwan, Metlakatla, Saxman, Sitka, Wrangell, and Yakutat. Special thanks to our partners: Alaska Native Heritage Center, Association of Alaska School Boards, Metlakatla Indian Community, Ketchikan Indian Community, Chilkat Indian Village, Organized Village of Kake, and AEYC-SEA.
Baby Raven Reads improves early literacy skills by translating cultural strengths into home literacy practices. Baby Raven Reads provides family literacy events, training for care providers, and professional development for early childhood educators. A study by McKinley Research Group reveals that Native children who participated in the BRR program made 20-39 percent gains in phonetic knowledge, awareness of print concepts, and knowledge of letters and symbols, while scores for all other students have remained relatively static. The program was also known to increase parental and family engagement in student learning.
Family literacy events occur 9 times a year in selected communities. Storytelling, songs, and other literacy activities are available to Alaska Native families with children up to age 5. Through playful and culturally relevant activities with parents, children are provided opportunities to practice and develop skills such as oral language, phonological awareness, print awareness, and letter knowledge.
Baby Raven Books
Baby Raven Reads publications are a collection based on the cultural themes of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. The illustrations in the Baby Raven Reads series reflect the importance of family, subsistence, and our land. From baby board books to early readers and read a-louds, babies to adults can find joy in reading together. Families enrolled in Baby Raven Reads will receive Baby Raven Reads books with literacy activities to do at home. Books are also available through the Sealaska Heritage Store.
SHI's Language Podcast includes the following episodes related to the Baby Raven Reads series:
Colors in Sm'algyax
Colors in Xaad Kíl
Colors in Tlingit
Haida Baby Raven
Haida Baby Eagle
Tlingit audio for the Baby Raven Reads book Shanyaak'utlaax - Salmon Boy is available here.
Baby Raven Reads was recognized in 2017 by the Library of Congress, which gave SHI a 2017 Best Practice Honoree award (watch a video short of former Education Director Jackie Kookesh accepting the award). In February 2018, the American Indian Library Association awarded SHI's book Shanyaak'utlaax: Salmon Boy its American Indian Youth Literature Best Picture Book Award, and in January 2020 it gave Raven Makes the Aleutians a AILA Picture Book Honor award.. in February 2018, SHI’s Baby Raven book How Devil’s Club Came to Be was reviewed by the American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) blog as a recommended title. In January 2020, AICL also recommended Cradle Songs of Southeast Alaska.
Raven Writes offers in-school and summer camp programming that allows Alaska Native students K-5 to explore their cultural heritage surrounding traditional food and resources while improving their writing skills. Students write personal stories and learn from experience as they develop more robust literacy and language skills. Families are invited to celebrate alongside students during special presentation events. A companion summer camp rich with Tlingit dancing, singing, and drumming; as well as art, games, community building, and
lots of outside play offers continuity during the summer months.
Native Youth Olympics (NYO) (also known as Traditional Games) is based on the hunting and survival skills of the Indigenous peoples of Alaska and across the Arctic going back thousands of years. Each athlete strives to perform at their personal best while helping and supporting their fellow competitors, no matter which team they are a part of. This is the spirit of the games: to work together toward common goals and learn from the skills and values that allowed Alaska Native peoples to survive and thrive in the harshest conditions.
Sealaska Heritage Institute sponsors an annual Latseen Hoop Camp. Sealaska Heritage developed the model for this program, which teaches athletic skills and the Tlingit four core cultural values. This innovative program provides a fun and safe environment for youth to be physically active, and develop basketball fundamentals.
Sealaska Heritage Institute sponsors an annual Latseen Running Camp that utilizes running to improve the strength of body, mind, and spirit while fostering a connection between our lives and the land. Themodel developed for this program is grounded in the four core cultural values and the development of athletic skills.
SHI sponsors a summer academy for middle school students through its STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) program. Students create, explore, make, and problem-solve with place-based, culturally relevant STEAM activities. Activities may include such things as outdoor activities, carving paddles, interactive STEAM lessons, games, art, and cultural activities.
SHI sponsors a summer academy for high school students through its STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) program. Students focus on traditional ecological knowledge and STEAM career connections. Students can earn high school credit while working alongside Elders and professional researchers to build a deeper connection to the place we call home.