The Hide of My Tongue is a familial and historical account of the loss & revitalization of the Tlingit language. The Hide of My Tongue explores the historical and contemporary effects of the loss of one of the world’s most complex languages: Tlingit. There are less than three hundred fluent Tlingit speakers left in the world. In Southeast Alaska, many are involved in the Tlingit language and cultural revitalization including Vivian Faith Prescott and her family.
Vivian Faith Prescott, Ph.D., is the Co-Director of Raven’s Blanket. She is a fifth generation Alaska, born and raised in Wrangell, Alaska. She lives in Sitka, Alaska. She facilitates writers workshops for adults and teens.
Language is so much the foundation, the base line of any culture: the [syntax], the vocabulary, and especially the emotions, show the way people of that culture understand and approach every subject. Being Tlingit requires thoughtfulness, quiet observance and the need to truly listen! The chatter of Western speech is confusing, redundant, doesn’t always say what it seems to say and is punitive. Vivian Faith Prescott’s poetry is poignant and refreshingly true. I am filled with emotion over the passion seen in the poems. My eyes filled with tears over many. I cried, smiled, laughed and became angry, in turn. My hope will be that those of the Western culture will try to quiet themselves sufficiently to hear all the unsaid sorrow, confusion, and tragedy the loss of language has caused. The Hide of My Tongue voices the feelings of the victims of this monumental rape of the several indigenous nations of Alaska, especially the Tlingit.
—Doris Bailey, author of A Divided Forest, a biography of one of those victims
Vivian Faith Prescott writes poems that explore the boundaries of a marginalized people whose language has survived centuries of genocidal intentions and now hangs on by delicate tendrils. She is faithful to the beauty of an ancient language that is rooted in place, and her poetry is a welcome and violent resistance to linguistic and cultural death.
—X’unei, Lance A. Twitchell, M.F.A., author of Tlingit Language Dictionary
At the time of contact with outsiders, people in Alaska spoke forty-two distinct languages. Now maybe six of those might live and grow outside of archives. When governments, churches, and schools join forces to wipe out cultures they don’t comprehend, language is one of the first targets. Brutal policies cause as much damage as epidemics. In The Hide of My Tongue, Vivian Faith Prescott shows the struggles of specific Tlingit people to retain, relearn, speak and respect their language in all its richness. Her powerful poems restore language to its proper place—on people’s tongues, and in the heart and soul of everyone who values words.
—Peggy Shumaker, Alaska Writer Laureate, author of Just Breathe Normally and Gnawed Bones