November 2020

“Doyon Foundation helped me have a more secure future”

Kiana Vondra is the daughter of Vanessa Vondra of Two Rivers and Jason Vondra of North Pole. Kiana is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where shes a member of the Class of 2023. Her hometown is North Pole. 

When Kiana Vondra envisions the future, she thinks about straight teeth — her goals include becoming an orthodontist — working hard in school, and reminding other young people to live in the present. 

“It sounds super-cliche, but even if you have a heavy workload, I still recommend going to school events,” she says. She believes that maintaining a satisfying life beyond schoolwork can help keep the two in balance. She also turns to YouTube for expert advice on using study time efficiently. 

Scholarships provided by Doyon Foundation are helping relieve pressures of completing her bachelor’s degree in chemistry while also looking ahead to applying to dental school. “The application process is very involved,” she says. “Doyon Foundation helped me have a more secure future financially by helping pay for my undergraduate degree.”

When she’s not attending to schoolwork, Kiana enjoys time with family and friends — “by far my favorite activity,” she says. “As long as I’m with them, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing. I know it’ll be fun.” She looks forward to fishing in Valdez and camping along the Chena or Tanana Rivers each summer, and staying indoors in winter to binge-watch favorite TV shows or play video games or board games with family. 

“Especially when you’re in school, it’s critical that you look after your mental health,” she says.  And while she advises letting instructors know first, it can be valuable to take a day off from class every once in a while if stress feels overwhelming. “It’s imperative that you look out for yourself,” she says. 

Her plans include eventually opening a private practice after dental school in the Pacific Northwest. And she hopes to move back to Alaska: “I consider it my home.”

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.

As you begin your holiday shopping, consider a gift that will offer benefits for years to come. A gift to Doyon Foundation will provide financial assistance to students pursuing their educational goals, which will set them on a successful course for the rest of their lives. A gift to Doyon Foundation will also forward efforts to revitalize the Native languages of the Doyon region, ensuring they survive and thrive for future generations. A gift to Doyon Foundation is also a wonderful way to recognize or remember a loved one.

There are several simple ways to show your support of Doyon Foundation this holiday season:

Remember, #GivingTuesday is this coming Tuesday, December 1! If you’d like to start your holiday season by making a positive difference for students and Native languages, we welcome your support.

For more information on the Foundation or how to get involved, contact us at 907-459-2048 or

My language is my worldview”

An assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), Polly Hyslop is of Dineh (Athabascan)-Scottish heritage from Northway and her language is Née’aaneegń (Upper Tanana). Polly is the daughter of Polly (Demit) Hyslop of Northway and Floyd Hyslop of Roscommon, Michigan. Her maternal grandparents are Bertha (Johnny) Demit-Sinyon of Yukon, Canada (Upper Tanana River region), and Elijah Demit of Ketchumstock in the Upper Tanana region. Pollys paternal grandparents are Elizabeth Hyslop and Thomas Hyslop. Her son, Benjamin Schwartz, lives in Reno, Nevada. 

Polly is a graduate of UAF and holds a bachelors degree in journalism, a masters degree in justice and a doctorate in Indigenous studies. A past recipient of Doyon Foundation scholarships, Polly is a faculty member at the Center for Cross Cultural Studies at UAF. 

Polly Hyslop is among Doyon Online Language volunteers helping to develop lessons for free, self-paced instruction in Upper Tanana language. A noted scholar whose interests include the teaching of Indigenous peacemaking practices, Polly researched restorative justice in rural Alaska for publication in 2016 in the Alaska Journal of Dispute Resolution. She is co-author of a book chapter on Tlingit Elder Harold Gatensby and his contributions to the practice of the Peacemaking Circle in Kake. 

The Née’aaneegń language is fundamental to her understanding of how ancestors thought and viewed the world and the universe.

“I create space daily to practice speaking my language. My language is my worldview,” she said. Instrumental to her language learning are Polly’s grandmother, Bertha (Johnny) Demit-Sinyon, and Paul Milanowski, Avis Sam, Sherry Barnes and Laura Sanford. 

Polly hosts Zoom meetings with Upper Tanana language learners and teachers, and works with other language-keepers to plan summer language camps at Northway. She is involved with Head Start on a language nest, the immersion method for language revitalization in early childhood education. She has developed language literacy classes for teachers and students, and hopes to contribute to the Upper Tanana Northway dictionary. Plans also call for work on digital libraries to document the knowledge and language of local Alaska Native people. 

“The greatest challenge is to find Upper Tanana speakers to talk to,” Polly said. “Next greatest is making time to learn the language.

“Other language groups have been revived,” she said, noting success in Hawaii where Indigenous languages are heard in stores and schools. “We will need to work hard to bring our language back into everyday conversation.”

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 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.

As we enter into this season of gratefulness, we wanted to share a heartfelt “thank you” for your support of our students and language revitalization program this year – and always.

Our office will be closed this Thursday and Friday, November 26 and 27, as our staff celebrates the holiday.

We will reopen Monday, November 30. From all of us at Doyon Foundation, we wish you a safe, healthy and joyful Thanksgiving. 

Doyon Foundation Announces Scholarship Amount Increase

Doyon Foundation is excited to announce that our scholarship amounts are increasing! Pursuing higher education continues to get more and more expensive every year, and these scholarship increases will allow us to continue helping our students reach their educational goals in a meaningful way.

The following increases take effect with our spring 2021 scholarships:

  • Vocational: From $1,000 to $3,000
  • Basic full-time: From $1,200 to $2,400
  • Basic part-time: From $800 to $1,600 
  • Undergraduate competitive scholarship: From $5,000 to $7,000
  • Graduate competitive scholarship: From $7,000 to $9,000
  • Doctorate competitive scholarship: From $9,000 to $11,000

Remember: There is less than a week left to apply for the spring 2021 Doyon Foundation basic scholarship! Applications are due by Monday, November 16, 2020, at 5 p.m. Apply today!
Please see the scholarship resource handbook for information on scholarship eligibility and the application process and requirements. For additional assistance, please contact 907.459.2048 or

Hąį’ęę, thank you, to our language revitalization program director, Allan Hayton, for sharing our November 2020 Native Word of the Month in Gwich’in.

Shreeneech’ilt’aii = Circular rainbow around the sun

Gwiink’oo gwilii dai’, geetee hee shreeneech’ilt’aii gwaraah’in. = When it is getting cold out, we sometimes see a circular rainbow around the sun.

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!