111_DLO_Course Promotion_Holikachuk_FB-INCourse now available for free to all interested learners

With no fluent speakers remaining, development of the Holikachuk language-learning course was perhaps the most challenging – and one of the most important – efforts of Doyon Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project. Released today, Holikachuk is the fourth course release for Doyon Languages Online, which is creating introductory online lessons for nine of the 10 endangered Doyon region languages. The online Holikachuk course, as well as previously released courses in Gwich’in, Denaakk’e and Benhti Kenaga’, is now available at no charge to all interested language learners through the Doyon Foundation website.



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Like the other Doyon Languages Online courses, the Holikachuk course was developed by a team of content creators, Elders and a linguistics consultant, with the support of Foundation staff.

“The Holikachuk content creation team was in the most difficult position in comparison with the other languages this project focused on. While language is still a part of the community in Grayling, the last fluent Holikachuk Elder passed away in 2012. Working from archival recordings, and Elders that have a working knowledge of the language, the content creation team drafted, proofed and recorded 10 units of material,” said Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program.

The finished Holikachuk – part 1 course includes five units, each with five lessons of content, reviews and unit assessments, as well as seven conversational videos with subtitles in English and Holikachuk, and 15 culture and grammar notes. A Holikachuk – part 2 course, including an additional five units, will be released in the fall. Supplemental resources, including a Holikachuk noun dictionary, are available in the Alaska Native Language Archive.

The Foundation extends a special thank you to the Holikachuk content creation team, Elizabeth Keating and Giulia Oliverio-Deacon, with special contributions from Tristan Madros, Elizabeth Painter, Mary Deacon and Harriet Nicholas; as well as the Organized Village of Grayling; Tribal Administrator Rachel Freireich; Chief Ivan Demientieff; Grayling School; Shirley Clark; Doyon, Limited; the Alaska Native Language Center and Alaska Native Language Archive; and all the people who worked with the Holikachuk language from the 1970s to today. Their work makes this course possible.

The Holikachuk people used to live in many villages on the Innoko River drainage near and above the Holikachuk Slough and on the Yukon River for seasonal salmon fishing. Starting in the 1800s the population was severely impacted by several waves of outsiders and diseases. Most people finally gathered at Holikachuk. A few families also moved to Shageluk, Denaakk’e (Koyukon) villages on the Yukon, and the Kuskokwim River area. In the 1960s, due to annual spring floods and erosion, the people of Holikachuk moved to Grayling on the Yukon. The Holikachuk language is most closely related to Lower Denaakk’e (Koyukon) Athabascan, but culturally the Holikachuk people are closer to the Deg Hit’an people of Shageluk, Anvik and Holy Cross.

The declining number of speakers, and the desire to preserve and pass along the Native languages of the Doyon region to future generations is the driving force behind Doyon Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project. The project is creating introductory online lessons for nine of the 10 endangered Doyon region languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Benhti Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Hän, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Deg Xinag, Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross) and Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana).

Earlier this month, Doyon Foundation officially launched Doyon Languages Online with the release of the Gwich’in, Denaakk’e and Benhti Kenaga’ courses. This spring, the Foundation gave a preview of Doyon Languages Online with the release of a special set of Hän language lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby, an Alaska Native leader, respected Elder and language revitalization pioneer.

The Doyon Languages Online launch coincides with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, which Doyon Foundation is a partner organization of.  In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. At the time, it was estimated that 40 percent of the 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing.

Doyon Languages Online is a partnership between Doyon Foundation and 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning through software donated by Transparent Language. It is funded by a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), awarded in 2016, and an additional three-year grant from the Alaska Native Education Program (ANEP), awarded in 2017.

For more information on the Holikachuk course and the Doyon Languages Online project, please visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact 907.459.2048 or foundation@doyon.com. For assistance signing up for or using Doyon Languages Online, view the instructional video series on YouTube.

ANA Language Revitalization Grant #: 90NL0626. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this publication, and all others associated with the Doyon Languages Online project, do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Administration for Children and Families, or the Administration for Native Americans.