The Sm'algyax Language Learners group sings a Christmas carol in Sm'algyax, the language of the Tsimshian people, on the one-year anniversary celebration of the group's beginning. Standing is Nancy Barnes, one of the group's organizers.

The Sm'algyax Language Learners group sings a Christmas carol in Sm'algyax, the language of the Tsimshian people, on the one-year anniversary celebration of the group's beginning. Standing is Nancy Barnes, one of the group's organizers.

Sm’algyax group celebrates year

  • By MARY CATHARINE MARTIN
  • Monday, December 5, 2016 10:31am
  • NewsSchools

A year ago this time, the students in the Sm’algyax Language Learners group in Juneau were reviewing vocabulary in the language of the Tsimshian people. On the one-year anniversary of their first meeting, they’re ready to start putting together sentences, said organizer Alfie Price.

The anniversary meeting on Nov. 19 started out with each student introducing themselves, saying their name and background.

Bob Ridley told the group he could speak Sm’algyax as a child. Over 60 years of not using it, however, he forgot much of what he knew.

No matter their language background, that’s something the group members aim to fix.

The group got started with Tsimshian master carver and culture bearer David A. Boxley came to Juneau in August 2015 to do a four-day class on the language. In November, he returned and did a refresher, and Price decided to create an opportunity to practice more regularly.

Price, said fellow organizer Nancy Barnes, is the one who got the group going and keeps it going. (He also attends the Haida and Tlingit language learners groups in Juneau.)

Price said they feel lucky to have a dedicated group of around ten people who come to the workshops. Not all of them are in Juneau; some participants attend via Google Hangouts. One, Tawny Mayer, Price connected on Instagram via the hashtag #savesmalgyax. She’s conferenced in from places as varied as Olympia, Washington, Australia, and Standing Rock. Nov. 19, it was New Mexico.

Some are kids, as well — Joel Price, 9, Darlene White, 5, and others. Mique’l Dangeli, the new Alaska Native Studies professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, has attended; she is teaching a Sm’algyax course at the university next year, which many of the group’s students are excited about, Price said. Other times, fluent speakers have traveled to Juneau to share some of what they know with the group.

“We’re just frankly excited that we’ve lasted a year and are keeping going,” Price said.

The group welcomes new members — there was even a first-timer there Nov. 19. They meet each Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. at the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Edward K. Thomas Building conference room, 9097 Glacier Highway.

Contact Capital City Weekly editor Mary Catharine Martin at maryc.martin@capweek.com.

More in News

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
King salmon fishing closed on Kasilof starting Monday

The emergency order is being issued to protect returning king salmon, citing weak returns

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna’s city council appropriates funds for FY 2025 capital projects

Improvements are described for streets, police facility, Soldotna Creek Park and Soldotna Community Memorial Park

Gina Plank processes sockeye salmon caught on the first day of Kenai River dipnetting with her table set up on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River open for dipnetting

As of Tuesday, a total of 226,000 sockeye had been counted in the Kenai River’s late run

Assembly Vice President Tyson Cox speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly won’t pursue further discussion on tabled bed tax resolution

Members say they’re going to work on a new version of the idea this winter

Most Read