Wisdom of our Elders

I love how David keeps going back to the empowerment of a child with the words “you are intelligent”. Self esteem is a huge issue especially for preteens/teenagers. Focusing on building up their self esteem and confidence, seems to be vital to reaching them and helping them reach the goal of thinking through myriad of topics.

Hearing Grandma Salina’s first hand account of  her people’s Tlingit language being banned where they had spoken it for thousands of years in Angoon, struck a chord.  I have heard and read about missionaries banning the use of native languages before, but never have I heard the quiver in someone who has lived the trauma. Thankfully, the Tlingit language survived through that period through Elders like Grandma Salina. It is uplifting and inspiring to hear of her activities in the schools, and the joy and relief that young children are speaking the Tlingit language.  As a future English teacher, I hope to keep reminding students that English is only 500 odd years old compared to the 10,000 years of Tlingit.  At the very least, the names of the people and places should be studied in Tlingit and used in the classroom.

Linda Belarde also gave a nice quick Tlingit lesson of how to properly pronounce “Tlingit”and “Gunalchéesh”.  It is a goal of mine to eventually have an Elder compliment my pronunciation and not wince of the butchering of their language.  The more of the Tlingit language and stories that I can bring to an English classroom that connects a student to an intimate understanding of language the better. Gunalchéesh ho ho!

2 thoughts on “Wisdom of our Elders”

  1. “I love how David keeps going back to the empowerment of a child with the words “you are intelligent”.
    – I totally agree. There is not enough positive reinforcement in our culture, particularly for those kids who need to hear it most. It needs to start with us saying we believe in them and “you are intelligent” is a great way to say that. And every legitimate effort to learn needs to be remarked upon positively, I think.

    “At the very least, the names of the people and places should be studied in Tlingit and used in the classroom.” – Absolutely. At the very least. Without this, we are robbing every one of the kids in SE, Tlingit or no, of the history and living culture of their home.

    The only thing I would suggest is that though Modern English is only about 500 years old (like you say), Middle English preceded that, and Old English before that. Of course the words, “Wyrd bin ful araed” (“Fate is All”- in Old English, and the only saying I can pull out of my back pocket) is unrecognizable to Modern English ears, but it is its direct ancestor. And Old English came out of the language of the West Saxons, Angles and Jutes in mainland Europe. It’s thousands of years old. What I’m saying is that I would be willing to bet that the Tlingit language of 10,000 years ago was quite different than today’s Tlingit language as well.

  2. I agree, it seems clear that David does really believe that we are all intelligent, and I feel some kids forget this sometimes and they need to be told it everyday, until they believe it just like us educators do.

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