Native Village 
Youth and Education News

December 1, 2013

Tlingit ventriloquism, a way to keep the language alive
http://www.ktoo.org/
Condensed by Native Village

 

Alaska: Like many indigenous languages, Tlingit is in survival mode. Revitalizing the language was the focus of last month's Tlingit Tribes and Clans Conference held in Juneau.

One Juneau resident has a solution for keeping the language alive. During a conference session, realtor and assemblyman Carlton Smith shared a lesson how to use puppets to teach children the Tlingit Language. 

And he did it with the help of a special guest.

Charlie introduces himself in Tlingit to the room. As is traditional, he recognizes his mother’s relatives, his fathers’ relatives, then his grandparents, and finally, he recognizes everyone else.

Charlie’s Tlingit name is Shanak’w Uwaa. He identifies his moiety (Eagle), his clan (Keet Gooshi Hit’), and where he’s from (Klukwan, or Jil’ kat kwaan).

Charlie is wearing grey Carhartt overalls, long underwear, a green and white flannel shirt, and tan work boots. He has a full head of grey hair, dark bushy eyebrows and mustache, and black-rimmed glasses.

He’s roughly three and a half feet tall and can only talk when he’s sitting on Carlton Smith’s lap.

Smith got into ventriloquism fifty years ago, when he was 10-years-old and bedridden with hepatitis for four months. That's when his father bought him his first puppet from a Sears-Roebuck catalog – a red-headed figure wearing a green suit named Jerry.

“There were children walking below my bedroom window and Jerry and I were talking to them as they would walk home from school,” Smith tells the audience. “The first day or two, there were five or six children, the second day there were eight or nine. By the end of the week, there were 20 children that came to see this little green man that wanted to talk to them from a second story window.”

Like many childhood toys, Jerry was eventually forgotten until three years ago when Smith rediscovered Jerry in a trunk.

Then, another discovery on a flight to Anchorage.

“I was looking out the window and I realized I could count to ten without moving my lips in Tlingit. And then I was going right down the list of clans and place names and I thought, ‘Oh, this is kind of cool.’”

Smith went to the late Tlingit elder and religious leader Dr. Walter Soboleff for advice. Soboleff liked the idea but advised Smith to create a new figure – a Native one.


Listen to the entire story

 


Native Village Home Page

Native Village © Gina Boltz
To receive email notices of Native Village updates, please send your email address to: NativeVillage500@aol.com
To contact us, email NativeVillage500@aol.com

 Backgrounds: www.robertkaufman.com

Thank you to ALL the wonderful individuals,  friends, organizations, groups, news services and websites who share or donate their research, work, time and talents to make Native Village possible
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research, archival, news, and educational purposes only.
NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country. NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and informational materials to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written in full by the credited author at the credited source link. We are responsible for format changes and additional photos, art, and graphics which boost visual appeal and add dimension to the reading experience. Pictures and graphics not appearing with the original article are either credited on the page or by right-clicking the picture. Some may be free or by sources unknown.
Please contact us with any copyright corrections so we may properly credit the source.
 We are not responsible for changes to outside websites and weblinks. Please notify us if any problems arise.