Alaska Natives to preserve language
SEATTLE - The Kasaan Haida Heritage Foundation recently announced the
appointment of Frederick Olsen Jr. to the position of media specialist. The
Foundation created the position to seek funding for cultural preservation
projects. The media specialist will conduct and oversee projects after
securing funds. As a registered non-profit organization, KHHF can offer
donors a tax deduction for monetary and in-kind donations.
Born and raised in Ketchikan, Alaska, and a member of the Haida tribe,
Olsen welcomes the challenge. "With Haida and many indigenous languages
nearing extinction, we find ourselves at a critical moment in history,"
Olsen said. "Our elders hold the key to our language and heritage but we
are losing them. We must act now to preserve as much of their knowledge as
possible before it is too late." Currently, only seven Kasaan (Alaska)
Haida elders over the age of 75 remain. They live in Kasaan, Ketchikan and
Seattle. All speak the Kasaan Haida dialect with varying degrees of
A graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School and Seattle University, Olsen has
lived in New York City since 1994 working as a director of photography in
the television industry. In 2001 - 2002, he directed, photographed and
edited "Gasa'aan Xaadas Guusuu" (Kasaan Haida Elders Speak), a half-hour
documentary about living in Kasaan, Alaska as told through stories and
memories of the remaining Haida elders who grew up there.
"It is up to us to protect our history," Olsen said. "We need to do more
recording and interviewing of the elders, especially in regard to the Haida
language. Our efforts will preserve our heritage for our children and the
generations to come." Olsen will make the results available through
videotape and digital formats. In addition, information will appear on the
foundation's Web site: kavilco.com/pages/aboutkhhf.html.