Anchorage Museum program to help people learn, preserve Alaska Native languages

Anchorage Museum program to help people learn, preserve Alaska Native languages
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 7:05 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - According to the latest census data, a little more than 15% of Alaska Natives make up the state’s population. Alaska is also home to at least 20 different distinct Native languages.

Kirk Gallardo is the education interpretation manager at the Anchorage Museum and said his position put him in a spot where he saw the demand, and had the capabilities to create, so why not? For the last year and a half, Gallardo’s been working to help fulfill that need, particularly when it comes to learning Alaska Native languages.

“At some point, I want people to rely beyond what I create, and access the linguistic material as well, but not feel afraid,” he said.

The document he’s been working on breaks down verb parts and simplifies it. He said the hardest part for him was the grammar.

“I don’t think there are many languages that come close in touching the complexity of the languages here in Alaska,” he said.

As with most things, with time and practice, it started to come together. Gallardo said a few elders were able to understand what he was saying and didn’t give him a confused look.

“Which I did have in the beginning, slowly over time with practice and advice from others, I took that in and kept at it,” he said.

Gallardo has been working on the Dena’ina language. He uses different colors to list out linguistic terms, something he did on purpose.

“It clicked to me that, you know, maybe seeing a chart might not be the most appealing way for, especially younger learners, to see a verb, and I realized maybe color could help and so this is what I came up with,” Gallardo said.

Working on a project like this not only requires time, but Gallardo also wanted to be respectful.

“Rather than trying to create resources and then ask for permission after, it’s very important that I asked for the permission to develop things,” he said. “My purpose here is not to dictate what people should learn, but rather give them an option.”

The document Gallardo has been working on won’t be ready for a while. In the future, he hopes to work on material for pre-K through high school.