October 2020


Language is a proactive, powerful way to stay connected to your identity and culture”

– Renee Linton

Renee Linton is the daughter of Peggy Nicholas of Fairbanks and granddaughter of Harriet (Maillelle) Nicholas of Anchorage and Wilbert Nicholas, Sr. Renee’s mother and grandparents originally are from Holikachuk, also known as Grayling. Renee’s family includes two sisters, Andrea Clemens and Melanie Bienek, both of Fairbanks, and a brother, Lawrence Jerod Dunlop, serving with the Marines in California.

Renee acknowledges the encouragement of her uncles, Gary Nicholas, Wilbert Nicholas, Jr., Nick Nicholas, Sr. and Eric Nicholas, all of Anchorage, and her late uncle, David Nicholas. “My mother was a single parent,” Renee recalled, “and at one time or another all of my uncles took the role of a positive adult male figure in my life.”

Renee attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is a rural economic specialist with Tanana Chiefs Conference. Her language is Holikachuk, an Athabaskan language spoken in Holikachuk on the Innoko River.

Doyon Foundation: Your perspective on language learning encourages people to just start — to not wait for a perfect time.

RL: We have today and tomorrow — yesterday is already gone. Right now is the best time to be proactive in learning and teaching your traditional language.

We do not want our language to disappear. Speak up and promote whatever language you or your family identify. Tell the world that our goal and our passion is to keep our language alive and strong.

DF: What are some memories of learning Holikachuk?

RL: My Uncle Eric, my mother’s youngest brother, helped raise my sister and me, and he was an amazing storyteller. He taught us a few words and made us proud to be who we are. He helped us stay connected to traditional knowledge while we grew up in Fairbanks.

Looking back, I wish I had put more effort into learning the language when I was younger. I think it would have been easier to remember words and phrases in elementary or middle school.

DF: How do you stay involved in your language? What activities do you recommend?

RL: To keep language alive and vivid, it’s important to work it into your everyday life. People who are active on social media could start sharing words and phrases so they’ll start looking more familiar and less daunting. Post, tweet, Snap and Insta your favorite words, quotes, poems or phrases. Encourage others to do the same.

I like looking up words in the dictionary and I like to read traditional stories printed in both English and Athabascan. I’m starting to write poetry in Holikachuk. I find it’s a really healing and freeing practice that gives me strength to face everyday obstacles.

DF: You’re right — language learners need encouragement. Where should they look?

RL: I feel the need to make my ancestors proud by always trying my best, to be thankful for everything I have.

Language is a proactive, powerful way to stay connected to your identity and culture. It reminds me where my ancestors came from. It instills traditional values that I identify with.

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 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.

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.

We need to educate our youth and allow them to grow”

A daughter of Unsoon and Allen Varner of Anchorage, Monica Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration management in 2011 from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and a master’s in business administration in 2020 from Alaska Pacific University (APU). She earned a graduate certificate in Alaska Native Leadership from APU in 2019.

Her paternal grandparents are Rachel and Doug Minton of Wainwright and her paternal great-grandparents are Stanley and Irene Kootoak of Point Hope and Barrow. Monica received Doyon Foundation scholarships each semester while attending UAA and APU. Her hometown is Anchorage.

Monica Lee began her professional career in human resources and management, most of that time within the medical field, including eight years with Anchorage-based Southcentral Foundation. She went on to provide consulting for tribal organizations with an interest in workforce development, an approach aimed at enhancing economic stability by considering overall needs of a region as well as barriers faced by prospective workers. 

Monica works today as a human resource business partner at Arctic IT, a Doyon, Limited-owned business specializing in information technology and software services. The role involves her in leadership team projects that include establishing a shareholder outreach program.

“Supporting Alaska Native youth within their professional development is how I see our community growing strong,” she said. “I’m very passionate about shareholder outreach and hire.” 

Her goals include helping more school-age shareholders learn about education and workforce training opportunities available through their Alaska Native corporations. 

“I didn’t grow up realizing what Doyon, Limited and Doyon Foundation had to offer,” Monica said. “Students have so many different opportunities and support within the community. I want to educate them about the benefits they have through Doyon and other Alaska Native corporations.” 

She encourages students to develop habits for success like seeking out mentors who can help young people navigate opportunities and offer help when challenges arise. As she considers her own professional development, she credits the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program at Alaska Pacific University as a valuable step. 

“That was one of the most meaningful educational moments in my life,” Monica said. It combines insight into the history of Alaska Native leaders with an overview of how community is built among Alaska Native people. 

“We have been blessed to have strong leaders support us this far. Now we need to educate our youth and allow them to grow,” Monica said. Benefits offered through Arctic Slope Regional Corp., Southcentral Foundation and Doyon Foundation made it possible for her to complete the Alaska Native leadership program. “I’m so grateful,” she said.

Monica and her husband, Trent Lee, operate a small business that includes cafes in four professionally managed office buildings in Anchorage. In addition to studying, working full time at Arctic IT and helping run the small business, she enjoys seeing Alaska with her family. 

“Time management is a difficult challenge. I schedule blocks of time for work, school and family to make sure my work is completed by the weekend,” she said. “In the summer, we’ll be on the boat or at the river fishing. In the winter we’re out snowmachining and exploring the backwoods with our children.”

Long-term goals include earning a doctorate and continuing career development efforts so that young Alaska Native shareholders are prepared to lead. 

“I plan to share my knowledge and experience,” Monica said. “My main goal is to support my community.”

Each month, Doyon Foundation profiles a different student or alumni If you are interested in being highlighted in a student profile, please click here to complete a short questionnaire. To complete the alumnus profile questionnaire, please click here.

Doyon Foundation is seeking interested and qualified applicants for our open Doyon Languages Online II project manager position. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of a collaborative effort to revitalize the Native languages of the Doyon region.

Under the supervision of the language revitalization program director, the Doyon Languages Online II project manager is responsible for the coordination, implementation and the evaluation of the Doyon Languages Online II project, which is developing online lessons for Deg Xinag, Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross), Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim) and Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana). Once completed, the lessons will be available for free to all interested language learners.

Some of the essential functions of the project manager are submitting reports, planning and providing training, working with Native speakers to record translations, collecting or taking photos, and conducting outreach to promote the project. View the online job description for a complete list of essential functions.

Among other minimum requirements, applicants should have a bachelor’s degree or higher; experience in education, grant management and reporting, Alaska Native languages, and curriculum development; knowledge of Doyon region language and culture; computer proficiency; an Alaska driver’s license; and the ability to travel as needed. View the online job description for full requirement details.

If you are interested in being our next Doyon Languages Online II project manager, please view the job description and apply online. And if you know someone who may be interested, please help spread the word!

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day! Join the celebration by sharing a greeting in your language. Be sure to tag Doyon Foundation and your language. #DihthâadXt‘eenIinAand’ěg’ #Nee’aaneegn’ #DegXinag #Dinak’i #BenhtiKokhut‘anaKenaga’ #Holikachuk #Denaakk’e #Hän #DinjiiZhuhK’yaa #Inupiaq #DoyonLanguages #IndigenousPeoplesDay #DoyonLanguagesOnline

Winter may be on its way, but it’s already time to start thinking about spring – spring scholarships, that is! The application period for spring 2021 Doyon Foundation basic scholarships is now open.

Part-time students are eligible to receive $800 basic scholarships and full-time students can receive $1,200 basic scholarships. (See our scholarship resource handbook for definitions of part-time and full-time students.)

Applications must be received by Monday, November 16, 2020, at 5 p.m. Our basic scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so get your application in early!

(Did you know that we also award advanced college credit scholarships up to $400 to high school students, as well as short-term vocational scholarships up to $1,000? Applications for these are accepted year-round and funded on a first-come, first-served basis! Check out our scholarship resource handbook to learn more.)

All scholarship applications are accepted through our online scholarship portal, available on our website. First time using the new system? See our step-by-step instructions on how to create a new account. Questions on the application process? Check out our tutorial on how to apply for a scholarship.

To be eligible for a Doyon Foundation scholarship, you must:

  • Be enrolled to Doyon, Limited or be the child of an original enrollee
  • Be accepted to an accredited college, university, technical or vocational school
  • Meet our minimum GPA requirements
  • Be enrolled in the required minimum number of credits

Check out our scholarship resource handbook for all the details.  

There are several items you will need to submit when applying for a basic scholarship, including:

One thing we always get lots of questions about is transcripts. Do I need to submit them? Do they need to be official or unofficial? What is the deadline? Here’s what you need to know about transcripts:

  • Official transcripts only need to be submitted once per academic year (which runs August through July).
  • If you’re a “new” student (in order words, you didn’t receive a fall 2020 scholarship), then you need to submit official transcripts by the November 16 deadline.
  • If you’re a “returning” student (meaning you received a fall 2020 scholarship), you can submit unofficial transcripts. We know you won’t have transcripts for the fall semester by November 16, so the deadline for you to submit them is December 23.

It is very important to log in to your student account before the scholarship application deadline to check that you have submitted all the required materials. (Put a reminder on your calendar now!)

We also encourage you to review our scholarship resource handbook for all the details on transcripts, eligibility and application requirements. You are also welcome to give us a call or send us an email anytime – we are here to help!

Remember – the deadline to apply for a spring 2021 basic scholarship is Monday November 16, 2020! If you have questions, contact us at foundation@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

In our October 2020 Native word of the month, we get to experience a special moment between grandparent and grandchild. Ana Basi’ to our speaker, Vernell Titus. 

Vernell Titus and her grandson, Chad Roberts

Sechoya = My grandchild

Sechoya, oni’. = Come here, my grandchild.

Benhti Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana)

For more translations, view our Native word of the month archives on the Foundation website.

We also invite you to access free online language-learning lessons by signing up for Doyon Languages Online! We currently have lessons available for HolikachukDenaakk’eBenhti Kenaga’ and Gwich’in, as well as a special set of Hän lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby. All interested learners may sign up and access the courses at no charge – sign up today!