SHI releases Tlingit alphabet cards, online tools

One of the alphabet flashcards in Sealaska Heritage Institute's new collection, designed by Crystal Worl.

Sealaska Heritage Institute has released flash cards, an audio CD and an online interactive tool designed to teach the Tlingit alphabet to young people.


The materials feature original, whimsical art and are meant to provide a fun way for kids to interact and become familiar with the Tlingit alphabet. Each card includes a character in the Tlingit alphabet, a Tlingit word that uses that character and an image depicting the Tlingit word, said Linda Belarde, who writes curriculum with a focus on the Tlingit language for the institute.

“It’s a fun thing. You have something you’re holding, they’re small enough, so you don’t have to have a huge board and the card game is kind of fun and they don’t really realize that they’re learning,” said Belarde, a former teacher and school principal.

Students using the online tool will be able to scroll through the images, see the Tlingit text and hear how the characters and words sound in Tlingit (the tool is available at in the language resources section). SHI also produced a CD containing the audio files.

It’s essential to provide audio because the Tlingit language includes sounds that are unfamiliar to people who speak only English, Belarde said.

“The Tlingit alphabet has 50 letters and some of those sounds are not found in English. And in fact four of them as far as linguists have researched are not found in any other language in the world. So it is important to be able to hear these,” she said.

SHI is distributing the card sets and CDs to more than a dozen teachers with Tlingit language programs in Southeast Alaska. Teachers who want a set and did not receive one should contact SHI. The cards and CD are available to individuals for $23 per set through SHI.

The project was sponsored by SHI as part of its mission to perpetuate Native languages. Art was made by Crystal Worl. The Tlingit words were edited by Belarde and Katrina Hotch and reviewed by traditional scholar Dr. Walter Soboleff, who died in May.

The project was supported in part by a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to administer cultural and educational programs for Sealaska Corporation. The institute is governed by an all-Native Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.


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