FAIRBANKS, Alaska - A year-long series of programs about Alaska Native languages kicked off last night at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center.
2019 is UNESCO's International Year of Indigenous Languages.
The Morris Thompson Cultural Center is working with native groups around Fairbanks to put on lectures, panels and films about indigenous languages in Alaska.
"We're taking part in a global effort to bring indigenous languages into the public sphere," said Sara Harriger, Executive Director of the Morris Thompson Cultural Center.
Friday's event launched the series with different native leaders speaking about the importance of preserving native languages and passing them onto the next generation.
They also showed a short film about respecting native culture from the band, 'Portugal. the Man.'
One of the panelists, Walkie Charles, a professor of Yup'ik at UAF, spoke about the value of remembering native languages.
"Our languages aren't necessarily dying but maybe they have gone to sleep because we haven't used that, we haven't used our
languages much, but it's up to every single one of us to wake our languages up as a community as a people to wake it up, because it's been asleep for so long," Charles said.
Events like these help the community Harriger said.
"We all live here together in this community and there are a lot of indigenous peoples and native languages represented here that we don't always get a chance to think about in our daily life, and I think it is something really worth talking about and exploring with each other, it will build the community.”
The upcoming events will be a series of one hour long introductions to different native languages around Alaska.
Also planned are film screenings, children’s events, and two community conversations.
The events are all free to the public, and will be posted on the Morris Thompson Cultural Center website once plans are finalized.