In a nod to Native American Heritage Month, Tlingit elder and traditional practitioner Marsha Hotch will teach her second annual (in recent history) Tlingit language course at the Haines Sheldon Museum.

The course will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Nov. 5 to Nov. 26, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“Last time we had community members that wanted to come, but we geared it more towards families,” she said. “We’re still trying to keep it to families, but opening it up as long as community members support the learning.”

Gwen Sauser and her two sons, 10 and 7 years old, were the first to join in on Wednesday. The couple has recently moved back from Washington to Sauser’s hometown to raise their children. Sauser’s great-grandmother spoke Tlingit, and she said she wanted the language to be “more than just a picture on a page” for her kids.

“I thought it’d be a great way for the boys to at least hear the Tlingit language and become a part of who they are,” she said. “I’d encourage others to take the class, even if they’re not Tlingit,” she said. “You always hear about how to understand a culture you have to learn the language. That’s really true.”

Hotch is one of five remaining local Tlingit speakers in the valley. With more than 20 years of experience, she works developing curriculum and teaching Tlingit language online to high school students in Angoon through Goldbelt Heritage Foundation. She also teaches a language class at the Klukwan School.

The course is for beginning-level speakers of all ages. Hotch said she won’t build the curriculum until she gauges the group’s ability. “It’s new to everybody,” she said. “Once I feel the group out, I’ll know what I can do and what I can’t do.”

In September 2018, then-Gov. Bill Walker signed an administrative order at the First Alaskans Institute’s Social Justice Summit, directing state agencies to help promote Native linguistics in public education.

In the year since, Hotch said she’s seen Tlingit language revitalization gain momentum, particularly in Juneau.

“For one, the pre-school immersion group (Tlingit and Haida) in Juneau is running,” she said. “They have little guys in there and after a few weeks the little guys are understanding and saying a few words.” More Goldbelt Heritage staff is learning to speak, Hotch said, and the Juneau School District in August unanimously approved an indigenous language program for students district-wide.

Last week, Klukwan chief Kohklux and his two wives were honored in Whitehorse and Haines Junction for drawing the 150-year-old original maps of the valley for early government cartographers.

“That’s an example of revitalization,” Hotch said. “So much has happened within 200 years within Southeast Alaska. Look where we are today in just that short of a time, how far we’ve come.”

For the language, Hotch said revitalization is in the making. “It takes time to get your foot in the door.”

Enrollment to the class is ongoing; The cost is $35 for adults for the month, and $15 for kids. Museum members can attend free.

To sign up, call 766-2366 or email [email protected].