Naga’ khwdokhwdeje’ikh … “I am learning our language.” -Benhti Kenaga’

Doyon Foundation hosted a language gathering the weekend of October 25 – 27, 2019, in Fairbanks. The weekend was focused on sharing resources for language teachers and there was also lots of good food, laughter and singing. The hope for this gathering was to begin recruiting and preparing future language teachers for Doyon region languages.

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There is currently a shortage of teachers working among the 10 Indigenous languages of the Doyon region, with only a handful of those languages being actively taught by dedicated teachers. Another objective of this and future gatherings is to provide training on how to use the Doyon Languages Online courses for teaching languages.

Doyon Languages Online is a project of the Doyon Foundation, which is producing online learning opportunities for nine of the 10 Indigenous languages of the Doyon region, including Hän, Gwich’in, Denaakk’e, Benhti Kenaga’, Holikachuk, Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross), Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana), Deg Xinag and Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim). The first set of online courses were made available in summer 2019, and are now accessible for free to all interested learners at doyonfoundation.com/dlo.

Scheduled presenters at the gathering included Chris Cannon, Sophia Flather, Kenneth Frank, Susan K’etsoo Paskvan, Hishinali’ Peter, Sabine Siekmann and Siri Tuttle. Topics included Dene Athabascan grammar, traditional knowledge practices, caribou anatomy, Dene astronomical and sky-related knowledge, curriculum development and utilization, and strategies for language teaching and learning. Facilitators Rochelle Adams and Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman led discussions following each presentation.

The majority of the language gathering participants have been working on the Doyon Languages Online project over the last few years, creating courses to revitalize the endangered Athabascan languages of the Doyon region. During each day of the gathering, the group was presented with “language questions” and their responses were used to generate several posters, including “reasons to learn your language,” “advice to language learners” and “goals for beginning language learners.” The aim of the questions was to gather group feedback to plan future language teacher training sessions. This teacher training is a key part of the Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project.

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. The project is funded by a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, now in its fourth-year and focused on teacher training, outreach and surveys. Additional project funding is provided through a three-year grant from the Alaska Native Education Program, awarded in 2017.

The launch of Doyon Languages Online coincided 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. This situation is reflected among the Indigenous languages of the Doyon region.

“Along with our languages, we stand to lose our cultures and knowledge systems, and we thank Doyon, Limited for their leadership in safeguarding these living treasures,” said Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program.

For more information on Doyon Languages Online and details on upcoming events and seminars, visit www.doyonfoundation.com or email foundation@doyon.com.

Language Questions Translations

Gen ghū go saakkaay Denaakk’e hedohūhdel’eeh?

Why do we want the younger generation to learn their language? – Denaakk’e

 

Nedaats’e hohaa eey Denaakenaage’ edots’uhdetol’eeh?

How are we going to learn our language? – Denaakk’e

 

Diiginjik k’yaa gwizhit jidii kwaii agwal’ee iindhan?

What are your language learning goals? – Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa

 

Deya denaga ghu ise?

What are your language learning goals? – Benhti Kenaga’