Language is what grounds me”

Born in Fairbanks, Tristan Madros is the son of Franklin Madros, Jr. and Cora McGinty Madros. Tristan’s paternal grandparents are Franklin Madros, Sr. and Anna Ruben Madros. Maternal grandparents are Sebastian McGinty, Sr. and Eva Neglaska McGinty. Tristan’s family includes Martina Ekada, an aunt who raised him for most of his childhood. 

Tristan lives in Kaltag, the Yukon River community in Koyukon Athabascan territory, roughly 300 miles west of Fairbanks. He graduated from Andrew K. Demoski School, a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school in Nulato. His Alaska Native language is Denaakk’e (Koyukon).

A content creator with Doyon Languages Online, Tristan Madros knows that singing traditional songs and listening as Elders speak the language — along with persevering — are key to becoming more assured in his Denaakk’e language. 

“The biggest challenge was having to record (for Doyon Languages Online) when I didn’t feel confident enough. I overcame that with encouragement from Elders and other speakers,” he said. 

Today he’s among speakers helping to revitalize Alaska Native languages of the Doyon region by providing content available as free, online lessons through the Doyon Foundation website. “Thank you so much, Doyon Languages Online, for the wonderful work that you do,” he said. 

In addition to contributing to Doyon Languages Online, Tristan encourages language learning by introducing Denaakk’e vocabulary and songs to the next generation, including his nieces and nephews. His teachers have included Elders in Kaltag and Nulato and K’etsoo’ (Susan Paskvan), the Native language coordinator with the Yukon-Kuskokwim School District.

Tristan’s goal is to become fluent. “Language is important to me because it’s ours, our people’s, it’s what grounds me,” he said. “I think I always felt that there was something missing until I started learning our language. Then I felt whole.”

About Doyon Languages Online

Through the Doyon Language Online project, Doyon Foundation is developing introductory online lessons for Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Deg Xinag, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross), Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Hän, Holikachuk and Nee’aanèegn’ (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.