‘Haa Tóo Yéi Yatee Haa Yoo X̱ʼatángi: Our Language is Inside Us – Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) Resilience Project’ by JAMM Staff

Student participants and Athabascan songster Yuxgitsiy George Holly developing songs for the JAMM resilience project.

Juneau Alaska Music Matters‘ (JAMM) resilience project is a series of two Língit songs, Daaḵ Nadéin (“the tide is coming in”) and Yánde Kg̱waláa (“the tide is going to go out”), inspired by conversations with Língit elders and JAMM students. These songs are presented in a music video project that brought together students, staff, musicians, dancers, and elders, showing the rich diversity of Juneauʼs culture and showcasing efforts of multiple organizations in Southeast Alaska to revitalize the Língit language before it is lost forever. This project was filmed both at JAMM school sites and throughout Juneau, home of the Áak’w Kwáan  people.

In the initial stages, it was the conversations between JAMM students, Athabascan songster Yuxgitsiy George Holly, and Língit Elder Aanyaanáx̱ Ray Wilson that inspired these songs. Aanyaanáx̱ shared with George that he should write something about today to document how our children are learning the Lingít language and bringing it back to our shores, like the tide, which cleanses and heals us. George Hollyʼs songs were inspired by these conversations, Língit words of encouragement, and is a reflection of both studentsʼ respect and appreciation of Língit language and culture and the collaboration between JAMM, local indigenous organizations, and local arts organizations to uplift and acknowledge the people and the language that has been spoken in our land for tens of thousands of years, Língit Aaní.

JAMM staff orchestrated music to accompany the song; students performed the music and are featured in the video. In addition to singing, older students performed the song melodies or harmonies on their instruments; younger students created a soundscape using tremolo, col legno, pizzicato, tapping on the instrument, and playing with dynamics and speed. Visually, older students practiced dancing in a traditional Língit style. Younger students also chose to each be a caretaker of a Língit word and created a story in which they each find their special word in a seashell, which speaks to each of them and then transforms from a seashell to a rattle and becomes part of the “heartbeat” of the song.

JAMM is grateful to be part of Carnegie Hallʼs Play USA cohort; this music video is JAMMʼs submission to Play USAʼs Reflection on Resilience project and was presented at Carnegie Hall this June! JAMM thanks the following partners for helping this project come to fruition: Alaska State Council on the Arts,Carnegie Hall, Douglas Indian Association, Goldbelt Heritage Institute, Indian Studies Program (JSD), Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Juneau School District, Andrew P. Kashevaroff Alaska State Museum, Kax̱digoowú Héen Elementary School, KTOO, Sealaska Heritage Institute, Sítʼ Eetí Shaanáx̱ Glacier Valley Elementary School, University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), UAS Native & Rural Student Center, Woosh.ji.een Dance Group.

*This blog post originally appeared on the JAMM website and is being reposted with their kind permission.