Poet Bob Holman arrived in Juneau, Alaska September 16, the first stop on a month-long tour of Alaska to raise awareness of the importance of language revitalization. When his trek across Alaska concluded October 18, Holman had visited Juneau, Kotzebue, Barrow, Arctic Village, Fort Yukon, Fairbanks, Homer, Kodiak and Anchorage.

Poetry slam at Effie Kokrine Charter School

Poetry slam at Effie Kokrine Charter School

On his many stops he screened his documentary film “Language Matters.” The film was shot around the world, focusing on language revitalization efforts in Australia, Wales and Hawaii. It is a moving and hopeful document of a familiar history among endangered languages. Screenings in the Interior were held in Arctic Village, Fort Yukon and at Schaible Auditorium at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) on October 1.

Doyon Foundation and the Alaska Native Language Center supported Holman’s visit to the Interior, where he also conducted poetry slam workshops and performances at Effie Kokrine Charter School and Golden Heart Academy at Fairbanks Youth Facility. While in Fairbanks he visited Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh, a new Gwich’in language immersion nest for children begun by a group of parents wanting their children to speak their ancestral language. Holman also sat in with the Takudh Singers as they practiced to hold a Takudh Holy Communion service in Fort Yukon. Holman documented his journey around Alaska on Facebook, and posted podcasts, including one from Arctic Village.

Bob Holman with Golden Heart Academy instructors Mike Shay & Nicole O’Donnell

Bob Holman with Golden Heart Academy instructors Mike Shay & Nicole O’Donnell



Gwich’in instructor Joel Tritt with class

We hope that Holman will return in the near future to film a sequel of “Language Matters,” in which the story of Alaska Native language revitalization can be shared. Holman was especially impressed with the fact that all 20 Alaska Native languages, including Eyak (which no one currently speaks), have been made official languages of Alaska. The story of how this legislation was passed is as compelling a story as any from around the world, and it should be known by people far and wide.

We wish Holman well on his continued journey. “Gwiinzii adak’aantii jya’ ts’a’ niiyut kwaa neenarahaan’yaa. Take good care friend, and we will see you again soon.” – Allan Hayton

Poems composed by students of Golden Heart Academy at Fairbanks Youth Facility.

No Man’s Land

When we got close enough

we could see the

tree line of No Man’s Land

almost in a straight line.

Remembering the old stories

my grandma told me.

Smelling the fresh caribou

as we got closer,

me and my brother and my

girlfriend started

walking up the mountains towards

the caribou. We all

stopped and fixed us some

lunch sitting on the

soft tundra grounds of the arctic,

picking berries, waiting to

gain our strength back from our

rough 3 mile hike up the

mountains of the No Man’s Land. We

pitched our tent, picking

them fresh ripe blueberries,

waiting for our parents

to bring us fuel as we ran out of

Waiting to go home, we finally

started on our 20

miles back home to our soft

beds with a sled load

of fresh caribou meat for

my mother.