About Our Collections
Alaska Native Languages Manuscript Collection
The main collection consists of materials relating to Alaska’s twenty Native languages. The scope is broadly defined to include languages spoken outside of Alaska provided they are also spoken in Alaska. Thus, comprehensive coverage is attempted for trans-national languages such Aleut and Siberian Yupik, which are also spoken in Russia, and Tlingit, Tsimshian, Haida, Han and Gwich’in, which are also spoken in Canada. An exception to this practice is made for Inuit, a dialect chain extending across the arctic from western Alaska to eastern Greenland. While the Archive contains significant collections on Greenlandic and Eastern Canadian Inuit dialects, no attempt at comprehensive coverage has been attempted for these dialects. The concept of Native language is further extend to include pidgins and creoles and nativized world languages. Thus, the Archive contains comprehensive coverage of pidgins such Slavey Jargon and Chinook Jargon; creoles such as Copper Island Aleut; and Old Russian as spoken by descendants of Russian colonists.
The languages form the basis of separate series; for finding aids to the holdings in each of these language collections, click on the language links on the left side of this page. Primary series designators are as follows (in alphabetical rather than geographic or genetic order):
A catalog of the Indian languages (including Tsimshian, Haida, Tlingit, Eyak, Comparative Athabaskan, and the 11 Alaska Athabaskan languages) was compiled by Michael Krauss and Jane McGary in 1980. A searchable PDF version is available for download.
Related Languages Manuscript Collection
The Archive also contains a significant (though not comprehensive) collection of comparative materials in genetically related languages. These include in particular the languages of the Eskimo-Aleut family and the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit family. In addition, the Archive also contains some materials on, e.g. Navajo, Apache, and other Athabaskan languages.
The comparative materials and the non-Alaskan languages are organized separately as their own series; for finding aids to the holdings in these collections, click on the links below:
- Comparative Eskimo-Aleut (Inuit-Yupik-Unangan)
- Comparative Dene (Athabaskan)
- [Other language series in progress]
The audio collection contains more than 5000 recordings of Alaska Native languages dating from 1943 as well as copies of some early wax and wire recordings. The audio collection includes narratives, lexical elicitation, and classroom recordings, among many other topics. Unlike the main Alaska Native languages collection, there has been no attempt at comprehensive coverage. By some estimates, the audio collection may represent only 10% of the total extant recordings of Alaska Native languages when the number of recordings held in other collections is taken into account.
The audio collection contains original recordings that were sponsored by or donated to the Archive, as well as many recordings obtained from other collections. Currently, the Archive does not have the capability to authorize duplication of many of these materials.
The audio collection is currently being digitized. Many of the recordings have also been cataloged and can be searched within the database, although a finding aid is not currently available.