Project: Haa Too Yei Yatee: It Is Inside of Us
Grantee: Hoonah City School
Written by: Heather Powell, Project Director, Haa Kusteeyí Áyá, Hoonah City School, and Yaxdulákt Mary Jack

We are on a Journey to What Matters. This journey is to empower our students, our future leaders; to engage and connect our community; to strengthen our families and to become more Lingít every day.

To begin our journey, we must look at our past and remember those that have worked to bring us to where we are today. Our ancestors have overcome two Glacial Ice Ages, and become stronger each and every time they encountered an obstacle. The lessons we have learned, the knowledge we share with the land, and the land that we walk gently upon have created our way of life, Haa Kusteeyí. This is who we are, Xunaa Káawu; we come from S’it Tlein, Glacier Bay.

Our ancestors have been with us on our journey, and we strive to continue in the footsteps of those before us while we are looking forward towards our grandchildren that are yet to come. After many years of planning and preparation, our Xunaa Káawu Shuká Hít has become a reality. We have taken a dream created by Hoonah City School’s students and made it a reality. This house is more than just a structure; it is a stamp of our story, a reminder of who we are and where we come from. This house bears the story of migration for the four main clans of Xunaa; the clans are T’akdeintaan, Kaagwaantaan, Wooshkeetaan, and Chookaneidi. The house screen and house posts carved from yellow cedar connect us and bring our history to life once again.

We, as a community, embrace the history. We are strengthened by our children breathing life into this house, into our land again, the land our grandparents fished, harvested and gathered knowledge upon, our Homeland.

In preparation for this journey in August (2016), we made red and yellow cedar bard ropes with devils club beads for our guests. We continued this journey with a community sharing evening of arts, crafts and an audio and visual presentation of those things created, as well as a song and dance sharing from all members of Xunaa Káawu to embrace. Not all members of the community were able to participate and attend the clan house opening and we would like to include everyone in the celebrations to continue.

We will continue with drum making, cedar bark weaving, Ravens tail weaving, and song creating. With the harvest of our traditional foods and plants, we are harvesting our Knowledge. With the creation of new songs, new drums, new inspiration, and continued cultural pride instilled in our students and community, we will continue the work of our ancestors on a Journey to What Matters.

Lgeik’i -Heather Powell

Singing Our Way Home was a school function for the children of Xunaa (which is now known as Hoonah). The people of Xunaa in the past have been forced out of our homeland in Glacier Bay, so we migrated to protection from the North wind. After many years of preparation, the Tlingit people had finally made the journey back to our traditional homeland in Glacier Bay this August (2016).

This point in time it was a very happy and emotional. A Journey to What Matters is Haa Shuká, Our Grandparents. We all strive to keep our culture and language alive.

In May, we had 11 students go on a trip to Glacier Bay; we have composed 3 songs in 3 days for our return to the homeland. So us students were told if we were to change our perspective and what we would like to teach our grandchildren and the kinds of things that we were thinking and what was running through our mind going back to visit our homeland. The songs we composed were in the perspective of our grandparents (Haa Leelk’w).

Gunalchéesh,

Yaxdulákt Mary Jack