Sealaska Heritage to release collection of lullabies, children’s book, in three Alaska Native languages

This is a page from Sealaska Heritage Institute’s trilingual book of lullabies called “Cradle Songs of Southeast Alaska.” This lullaby is attributed to Ḵaal.átk’ Charlie Joseph and adapted by Ed Littlefield, and the illustration is by Crystal Worl. (Courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute)

Sealaska Heritage Institute announced this month that it’s releasing three new children’s books, including its first trilingual one.

“Cradle Songs of Southeast Alaska” features lullabies in the languages of three Southeast Alaska Indigenous groups:

  • the Lingít language of the Tlingit,
  • the Xaad Kíl language of the Haida, and
  • the Sm’algyax language of the Tsimshian.

There are three songs in each language, each accompanied with English translations. They’re sung or performed in spoken word in a companion CD.

“Like parents throughout the world, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian sang lullabies to their infants,” SHI President Rosita Worl said in a press release. “These lullabies and the graphic designs introduce children to their culture, land and rich environment in which we live.”

Worl also said that sharing songs in this way is unusual.

“Most songs in Southeast Alaska Native cultures are restricted from general public use because of clan or family membership,” Worl said. “We are able to offer these beautiful songs because they are in the public domain or original works.”

The other two books to be released next week are Xaad Kíl and Sm’algyax versions of a previously released book about learning colors in Lingít. The new books will be distributed to families enrolled in SHI’s Baby Raven Reads program. They’ll all be available to purchase at the institute’s online store.

To date, the Baby Raven Reads program has published 25 books. The program promotes literacy, language and school readiness for preschool-aged children. It began in Juneau in 2015 and has expanded to other Southeast communities.

The new books will be released during the Dec. 6 Gallery Walk in Juneau. SHI will also host a Baby Raven Reads event open to the public that night.