Native leader explains Tlingit
education’s relevance for all societies
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Condensed by Native Village
Alaska: Tlingit educational values have kept tribal clans alive long before European arrival. David Katzeek, who goes by Kingeisti, recognizes that these pillars of Tlingit education are important for all Alaskan youth. He says the Tlingit spirit of encouragement and intelligence can help all children reach their full potential.
Katzeek is leader of the Eagle Thunderbird Clan of Klukwan. He works with Sealaska Heritage Institute's lecture series and talks with youth about these values.
Kingeisti explains that Tlingit culture and education are entwined. Even ancient clans used math, science and history in their lives. Tlingits who face such professions in today's world still draw from their ancestors teachings.
“We have had an impact on society from the beginning and the hard part is people don’t want to accept that instead of just acknowledging our culture,” Kingeisti said.
The Tlingit educational system focuses as much on the students’ selves as it does reading and writing.
Kingeisti said one practice is learning to listen for a purpose. This requires students to really focus on both hearing what someone says and considering the message. “Every human that has that power to listen will find its not hard to learn,” he said.
Kingeisti explained respect is needed to practice and utilize intelligence. “When students are taught as respected human beings instead of being talked at, and these are two different things, students will respect you and want to work and understand more,” said Kingeisti.
Another practice is measuring a child's intelligence through encouragement rather than a single test score. “Intelligence is probably one of the most traditional things any human being has,” he says.
He said Tlingit students are recognized as precious and intelligent, which may be lacking in other educational systems. When young people realize how precious they are, they begin to focus and control their minds, bodies and spirits.
“Basically to accept that if a man learns to listen he’ll learn and gain knowledge, and accepts that he is intelligent and he’ll gain more intelligence,” he said.
Another pillar he discussed was the concept of “woocheen,” which means “working together.”
“The most important thing for me is that these particular truths are timeless. Truth never gets old. It’s just as right now as it ever was. Truth is truth,” he said.
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