172_DLO Language Champion Promotion_KARMA_FB-INLearning the Hän language has been my passion since I was 15”

Karma Ulvi is chief of the village of Eagle, a community occupied for thousands of years by the Hän people on the south bank of the Yukon River near Canada. Karma is the daughter of Bertha Paul of Eagle and Dana Ulvi of Walnut Creek, California, and Eagle. Karma’s maternal grandparents are Susie Paul of Old Crow and Louise Paul of Eagle; her paternal grandparents are Milton and Patricia Ulvi of Walnut Creek, California.

As she pursues her commitment to the Hän language, Karma acknowledges the language revitalization efforts of her mother, Bertha, a member of the Eagle Village Council, and Ethel Beck and Ruth Ridley, who are Karma’s aunts. “I love them all very much,” Karma said.

A community health practitioner who serves as chief of the village of Eagle, Karma Ulvi believes that when Alaska Native people speak and read their language, ties to tradition and culture grow stronger. She’s eager to have Hän language conversations with her mother and aunts because, as her mother likes to say, things are just so much funnier in Hän.

“They’ll teach me things when we’re together,” Karma said, noting that Ruth Ridley, her aunt, can read and write Hän. “Learning my Hän language has been my passion since I was 15 years old.”

In her role as village chief, Karma was awarded a grant from Hungwitchin Corp. in Eagle to develop projects for Hän language learning. In addition to a stakeholder meeting planned for August, Karma is at work on a literacy class to underscore her commitment to helping people learn to read and write Hän.

“I would love to learn the literacy aspect,” Karma said. “I believe this is the tool needed to open the language.”

With her mother and aunts, Karma has done recordings in Hän for Doyon Language Online, a project of Doyon Foundation. The project is developing introductory online lessons for Holikachuk; Denaakk’e (Koyukon); Benhti Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana); Hän; Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in); Deg Xinag; Denak’i (Upper Kuskokwim); Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross); and Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana). Karma’s goals include working with Doyon Language Online to teach Hän.

She plans to combine time away from duties with the Eagle Village Council with leave from her work as a health aide to pursue grant writing to fund more outlets for people to speak, read and write Hän. And while grant writing and managing are a challenge, Karma wants to build on her ability to organize people and resources.

“I hope we can get everyone together and work together to save our language,” she said. “I’ve wanted to work with the language for so long. Now I’m finally in a place where I can.”

About Doyon Languages Online

Through the Doyon Language Online project, Doyon Foundation is developing introductory online lessons for 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). The project officially launched in summer 2019 with the first four courses, now available for free to all interested learners.

Doyon Languages Online is funded by grants from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) and Alaska Native Education Program (ANEP).

About our Language Champion profile series

As Doyon Foundation continues to grow our language revitalization efforts in the Doyon region, we believe it is important to recognize people who are committed 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 foundation@doyon.com. Language champions may also complete our profile questionnaire here. You may learn more about our language revitalization program on our website, or sign up to access the free Doyon Languages Online courses here.