Tlingit Animals coloring book teaches culture and language

The new coloring language book Tlingit Animals by Alison Bremner celebrates Tlingit culture.
The new coloring language book Tlingit Animals by Alison Bremner celebrates Tlingit culture.(Alaska's News Source)
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 4:01 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Southeast artist Alison Bremner is inspiring interest in the Tlingit language with an engaging coloring book.

“Tlingit Animals” coloring and language book was a project Bremner started eight years ago as a way to share the language.

“Each page has the Tlingit word for the animal first followed by the English translation and then underneath it has a sentence about the culture,” says Bremner. “Like this one, the English translation for octopus we have, ‘smoked octopus is delicious.’ And a lot of them I had to wrack my brain how these animals were used besides you know being very tasty.”

Bremner says she wanted to work on a project that made language and art more accessible to people.

“I’ve always wanted my art to be able to help people besides myself,” says Bremner. “And that was a way to do something that might have a greater positive impact than just a painting.”

The book is also going to be used as a teaching tool. It is being distributed by Native Northwest, and Bremner says they are donating copies of the coloring book to Tlingit language programs.

Tlingit Animals coloring and language book by Alison Bremner.
Tlingit Animals coloring and language book by Alison Bremner.(Alison Bremner)

She worked with Lance Twitchell, an associate professor of Alaska Native Languages at the University of Alaska Southeast, on the language portion of the book.

“Making sure that there are age-appropriate materials that feature Indigenous languages is critical to the health of our languages, our people, and our region,” writes Twitchell in a statement. “Indigenous languages of North America have historically and repeatedly been oppressed and attempts have been made through government and education to destroy Indigenous languages. By placing the languages in the hands of our children, we are ensuring a brighter future.”

Bremner also credits two of her mentors David R. Boxley and David A. Boxley with helping her learn how to draw formline. She says she studied with them formally for about four years.

“I told David Robert Boxley that I want to make a Tlingit coloring book, not knowing that it would be about 24 original designs 24 animals that I had never ever drawn before in my life,” says Bremner. “And formline is deceptively simple-looking, I think just because of the symmetry and the way it flows and you think, well I can get a coloring book done like that [snaps her fingers] and it was a learning process. I’m really fortunate that David Robert Boxley is an excellent teacher very patient.”

Bremner says she never dreamed eight years ago when she first started the project that she would now be sharing the book with her own child who is now 2 years old.

You can order Tlingit Animals, Tlingit Indigenous Art Coloring and Language Book by Alison Bremner through Native Northwest.

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