April 2019

University of Alaska Anchorage is seeking to hire a full-time Alaska Native, Indigenous, & Rural Outreach Coordinator for their Anchorage location. A Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) is required and the position is 10 months out of the year at $23.60 per hour. Interested applicants apply here.

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Doyon Foundation has an immediate opening for a part-time, temporary administrative assistant at the Foundation office in Fairbanks. If you are interested in being part of a dedicated team working to support students and revitalize Doyon region languages, we encourage you to submit your resume today.

Our administrative assistant works closely with the Foundation executive director, handles administrative duties and provides support to our board of directors. This position also works with the Foundation team to support our language revitalization program, scholarship program, community relations and fund development.

A typical day may include answering the phone, greeting visitors, scheduling meetings, arranging travel, taking meeting minutes, creating documents, filing, handling mail, and assisting other team members as needed.

To apply, you’ll need to be a high school graduate or equivalent, have three years office experience, be able to type 45 WPM and use Microsoft Office programs, and have a valid driver’s license and access to a registered, insured vehicle.

If you or someone you know are interested in our part-time, temporary admin assistant position, please send a resume and letter of interest to Doris Miller at millerd@doyon.com. For more information, visit www.doyonfoundation.com or call 907.459.2048.


“I’m not just a language learner. I’m Deg Hit’an”


0Z1A6118 (1)A board member of Doyon, Limited and Doyon Foundation, Sonta Roach lives in her hometown of Shageluk where she’s a teacher in the Iditarod Area School District. She and her husband, Chevie Roach of Tok, have three children: Sydney, 7; Ryder, 5; and Emry, 4.

Sonta is the daughter of Rudy and Joyanne Hamilton of Shageluk. Her paternal grandparents are the late Adolph and Margaret Hamilton of Shageluk, and her maternal grandparents are Delores and the late Harlan Knauf of Bloomington, Minnesota. 

Sonta graduated from Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka and holds a bachelor’s degree in rural development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). Her language is Deg Xinag, a Northern Athabascan language.

Sonta believes learning her culture and learning her language are all one. She cherishes being on the land, hearing stories and practicing her language – “putting it all together,” she says.

“Returning home to Shageluk has been the best decision for our family, a gift to ourselves and to our kids,” Sonta says. “They’ll grow up comfortable on their lands and knowing who they are. I’m not just a language learner. I’m Deg Hit’an.”

IMG_4348Sonta considers herself a beginner, learning Deg Xinag alongside her students. (Deg Xinag, one of 10 languages spoken in the Doyon region, is the traditional language of the Deg Hit’an Athabascan in the Lower Yukon River villages of Shageluk, Anvik and Holy Cross. Grayling, another village in the Lower Yukon, speaks Holikachuk.) A college course at UAF and introductions to her language over the years in bilingual programs helped; teachers who’ve influenced her include Edna Deacon, Jim Dementi, Katherine Hamilton, Hannah Maillelle, Raymond Dutchman, Ellen Savage, Lucy Hamilton and Phillip Arrow, as well as her own parents and grandparents.

Most of those Elders have contributed to development of the Deg Xinag online learners dictionary. “I reference it constantly,” Sonta says. She believes that language revitalization is among her personal goals and responsibilities.

“I’m thankful to be learning, to be home, on the land, with my family and my students,” she says. “I see my work as a personal path toward understanding more about how my people viewed the world around them. Instead of being a ‘language champion,’ I see myself filling the shoes I was always meant to fill. I’d like to just continue on.”

IMG_3447She finds her students inspiring; some may go on to write children’s books or produce videos that extend the language learning community. “I have a few future linguists in my class,” Sonta says. “They see language learning as a priority, just as I do. I also see their love deepen for who they are.”

She’s grateful to Doyon Foundation – and all speakers and learners of Deg Xinag – for language revitalization efforts: “I encourage anyone to give language learning a try. Start small. Be easy on yourself.”

She advises starting a learning community with family members, finding resources and committing to practice. “Don’t be afraid of getting things wrong. Over time, you’ll realize the right sound.”

Lessons learned

Sonta relies on several techniques. “Think of a baby learning language,” she says. “Start with saying what things are and then move to commands and questions.” Other language-learning strategies include repetition, routine and daily practice; developing her own materials or adapting methods of others; and sharing her language with others.

IMG_2790Breaking free of self-doubt is key. Sonta believes that children who are told they’re mispronouncing Native language words may grow up thinking they can’t learn. “Since I told myself that I could learn – and that I could and should teach my own kids and the kids in my classroom – I’ve felt immense freedom,” she says.

Sonta uses her students’ morning routine to practice repetition that’s key to language learning. Daily topics like weather, counting, and saying and following instructions all lend themselves to learning Deg Xinag vocabulary. Physical education offers lots of opportunity as well. Carried out in Deg Xinag, childhood games like “Nanhdal, nanhdal, dits’in,” (“Duck, Duck, Goose”) and “Ghingligguk, Noghniy, Ghingligguk,” (“Run, Rabbit, Run”) are fun and efficient ways to practice pronunciation and vocabulary.

Sonta also combines language learning with classroom studies that focus on local activities such as dog mushing, cutting and drying fish, and gathering materials for birch baskets.

At home, she’s teaching her children the names of everyday objects. In the woods, she teaches names of resources like plants and animals. “For now, it’s purely noun identification and short questions in the language.” More conversational phrases will follow.

IMG_3458Being able to practice with language-learning materials, as well as learning alongside speakers and other students, is enriching for students at any level. But Sonta says that lack of access need not be a barrier to learning. Instead she advises learners to seek out opportunities on their own and not wait for a class to materialize.

“I have to create it for myself,” she says. She has made language learning a priority for herself, her family and her students. She’s grateful of the efforts of others, including Elders who contribute to online learning materials; staff at Iditarod Area School District who helped document the Deg Xinag language; and faculty like Alice Taff, a retired professor of Alaska Native Languages at UAS.

“I’m thankful that we have one another,” Sonta says.

As Doyon Foundation continues to grow our language revitalization efforts in the Doyon region, we are noticing a group of people who are committed and dedicating their own time to learning and perpetuating their ancestral language. We are pleased to share some of these “Language Champion” profiles with you. If you know a language champion, please nominate him or her by contacting our language program director at haytona@doyon.com. Language champions may also complete our profile questionnaire here. You may learn more about our language revitalization program on our website.

Speakers of the endangered Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana) language gathered together in Tok, Alaska, in early January 2019 to develop content for an online course to teach individuals interested in learning the language and preserving it for future generations. The workshop was organized and hosted by Doyon Foundation.

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The Alaska Native language of Nee’aanèegn’ is spoken mainly in the Alaska villages of Northway, Tetlin and Tok, but has a small population also across the border in Canada.

The course is part of the Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online (DLO) project, which is developing and publishing a total of 224 online language-learning lessons for the endangered Doyon region languages of Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross), Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana), Deg Xinag and Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim). Ultimately, there will be 10 units consisting of a total of 56 essential lessons for each language. Courses will be available through the Transparent Languages Online platform, in partnership with the Alaska Gateway and Iditarod Area school districts. The DLO project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Alaska Native Education Program.

During the focused, closed session, the team reviewed materials created over the last several months, and completed drafts of remaining materials for the course.

The workshop drew speakers from across Alaska and as far away as Canada. DLO content creators Cheryl Silas and Polly Hyslop helped facilitate the workshop. Elders Roy Sam, Avis Sam and Cora Demit were also in attendance, along with Rowena Sam. Ruth Johnny and David Johnny drove in from across the border in Beaver Creek. Linguist Olga Lovick traveled from Regina, Saskatchewan, to help with eliciting, editing and proofreading lessons.

“I’m really happy with the work that we got done here and for all the love and effort that our Elders, content creators, and community members put into these courses,” said Diloola Erickson, Doyon Languages Online II project manager. “I feel very blessed and honored to be a part of this process and I look forward to continued work on our languages.”

A follow-up gathering focused on recording of the lessons with Elders will follow in the spring.

For more information on Doyon Languages Online, visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact Diloola Erickson at ericksond@doyon.com or 907.459.2058.

Alaska Native Media Group presents Changing Indian Country’s story by adding our voices by Mark Trahant, Editor of Indian Country today.

See below flyer for more information.

Mark Trahant flyer.pdf

The 49th Annual NYO Games Alaska will be hosted at Alaska Airlines Center, Thursday, April 25-Saturday, April 27 and we are still in need of volunteers to be a part of the action! At the moment, our most significant areas of need are security volunteers and NYO set-up. Available shifts are listed below for convenience; however please sign up for shifts here

Wednesday, April 24

  • Loading U-Haul- CITC Warehouse- 12pm-1pm
  • NYO Set-Up – Alaska Airlines Center- 2pm-4:30 pm

Thursday, April 25

  • Information Table/Pilot bread Contest- 9am-1pm, 3pm-6:30pm
  • Security Volunteers- 9:30am-12:30pm, 12:30pm-3:30pm, 3:30pm-7pm

Friday, April 26

  • Athelte Survey Table- 9am-12pm

More information about each shift can be found by clicking here, or you can connect with Camille Davis, Development Specialist, via email or phone, and she can sign up individuals or teams 907.267.9137.

New location, noteworthy speakers, Native dance and regalia at 2019 event


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Doyon Foundation’s 2019 Graduate Reception is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever, with alumni speakers Aaron and Ethan Schutt, Elder speaker and honorary doctorate recipient Rev. Anna Frank, 2019 graduates dressed in Native regalia, and a performance by the Troth Yeddha’ dance group! This year’s event also has a beautiful new location – the festivities will be held at the Doyon, Limited Chiefs Court in Fairbanks on Friday, May 10 at 2 p.m.

The annual event is held each spring to celebrate the hard work and incredible accomplishments of Foundation scholarship recipients who are at the end of one important journey and getting ready to start on the next.

We are honored to have brothers Aaron and Ethan Schutt as our alumni speakers. Aaron serves as the president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, and Ethan is the chief of staff at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. We are very proud of their accomplishments, and look forward to the words of wisdom they will have to share!

We will also hear from special Elder speaker Rev. Anna Frank, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Anna has worked with Tanana Chiefs Conference and as an ordained minister for many years. She is also the second Chief of Denakkanaaga, Inc., sits on the Alaska Commission on Aging, and was recently named Elder Advisor for Fairbanks Native Association.

The reception will also feature an inspiring address from a graduate speaker, as well as graduate introductions, and refreshments.

High school and college students who are graduating or have graduated during the 2018 – 2019 academic year are invited to attend, along with their friends, families, teachers and other Foundation supporters. Graduates are encouraged to wear their Native regalia, if they have it.

We hope you’ll join us at this very special event. If you plan to attend, please RSVP with your name and the number of people attending to grantf@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

Students graduating this year are encouraged to complete our short graduate information request form by Monday, May 6. We’ll feature the information you share in our popular annual graduate yearbook! Check out the 2018 graduate yearbook on our website.

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