UAS pays tribute to Kingeistí David Katzeek
His substantial contributions documenting the rich worldview and knowledge structure of the Tlingit is the foundation of academic study and research and university intellectual engagement.
Date of Press Release: October 29, 2020
The University of Alaska Southeast pays tribute to Kingeistí David Katzeek, a clan leader of the Shangukeidi, Thunderbird House of Klukwan, who passed away this week. His substantial contributions documenting the rich worldview and knowledge structure of the Tlingit is the foundation of academic study and research and university intellectual engagement.
Kingeistí served as the first president of Sealaska Heritage Foundation (SHF, now known as Sealaska Heritage Institute). At the outset of his tenure with Sealaska Heritage Foundation, there was little to no documentation of Tlingit worldview and language. His leadership priorities in culture and language were the groundwork to benefit generations to come. During his time he called upon Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian knowledge and culture bearers to work together to serve their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren for generations to come. The biennial event these elders advised is now known as “Celebration”, first held in 1982, captured the power and beauty of Southeast Alaskan cultures through traditional and contemporary song and dance. More important, the documented events used new media and served as an invaluable resource for study and learning language and culture, undeniably a path prepared by the Ancients.
His leadership at SHF was to prioritize the Tlingit language as a focus of the Foundation. His early work and leadership in advancing materials and resources in Tlingit language remain the foundation of the Tlingit revitalization efforts we are most familiar with today and influence indigenous language as a viable and rigorous academic discipline. Kingeistí is credited with hiring and supporting Richard and Nora Dauenhauer to compile Tlingit oral narratives. Their exceptional body of work and instruction as professors of UAS and linguists with SHF were foundational to the language we rely upon today as reference and connection to Tlingit history and culture. Kingeistí has advocated for and contributed to UAS’ academic and humanitarian responsibility as an institution to include the worldview of the indigenous people of this land in the instruction and content of mathematics, science, geography, humanities, philosophy, and the arts. He served as an elder in residence and as a Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools (PITAAS) Advisory Board Member, and taught intermediate and advanced Lingít while X’unei Lance Twitchell was on sabbatical.
His dedication to perpetuating Tlingit culture and honoring the vast intellect of an indigenous people set the stage for the many aspects of culture and language that include print and recorded language materials, computer adaptation including font development in collaboration with Apple, Inc. for use in indigenous language translation in the age of electronics and in support of groundbreaking work of a number of individuals in linguistics and anthropology adding to the body of work critical to current and future students including but not limited to Ph.D.’s Richard and Nora Dauenhauer, Daniel Monteith, Thomas Thornton, and X’unei Lance Twitchell.
Kingeistí contributed to innumerable ways, including Alaska Native Corporation culture camps, curriculum development, and advocacy meetings to share his expertise. Most recently, in his current capacity as the Chair of the Juneau Indian Studies Parent Board, he served as a member of the Juneau School District Tlingit Language Revitalization Task Force that included Alaska Native organizations of Juneau, University of Alaska Southeast, members of the school board, Superintendent and staff.
UAS honors the lifelong service of Kingeistí David Katzeek to the community which has culminated in the education and opportunities of many people of all ages — students, families, tribes, cultural knowledge bearers, city and state leaders, and a broad spectrum of educators.
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University of Alaska Southeast