June 2021


“The smile on an Elder’s face when they hear you speak is the best motivation!”

Rochelle Adams

Shoozhrì’ Rochelle Adams oozhįį. Gwichyaa Zhee ts’à’ Tseeduu diink’eedhat. Shiyehghan naįį Angela Peter-Mayo ts’à’ Cliff Adams goovoozhrì’. Shahan Gwichyaa Zhee gwats’an nilįį ts’à’ Shitì’ Tseeduu gwats’an nilįį. Shigii naįį Amaya, Koso Naazhrii ts’à’ Łeeyadaakhan goovoozhrì’. Shalak naįį łyâa gwiintł’oo gooveet’ihthan. Diinan ts’à’ diichuu haa diigwandaii nilii! Nihłaa narilzhii nan vak’aiirinyaa. Chihłak tr’inlii! Mahsì’ choo Shalak naįį! It’ee.

Rochelle Adams is the daughter of Angela Peter-Mayo of Fort Yukon and the late Cliff Adams, Jr. of Beaver. Her maternal grandparents are the late Susie Lord Peter of Nenana and Fort Yukon and Johnny Peter, Sr. of Fort Yukon. Rochelle’s paternal grandparents are Hanna “Babe” Adams and the late Clifford Adams, Sr.

Rochelle’s children are Amaya, Koso and Leeyadaakhan. Her heritage language is Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in).

A member of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization committee, Rochelle Adams is committed to language learning and teaching, especially in ways that involve art to develop materials and content. She serves as a cultural adviser to Molly of Denali, the award-winning animated PBS television series and the first children’s programming of its kind to feature an Alaska Native character in the title role.

Rochelle studied design at the Institute of American Indian Arts and holds a bachelor’s degree with a focus on Native art and languages from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). She is pursuing a master’s degree in applied linguistics at UAF with an emphasis on Native language education.

Rochelle is the Indigenous engagement director for Native Peoples Action, an Anchorage-based advocacy group whose mission is to align the knowledge, values and ways of being of Alaska Native people with regulatory and governing policies that affect daily life. She lives in Anchorage. 

Doyon Foundation: Congratulations on your work with Molly of Denali, recently renewed for a second season. How did the program find you? What does a cultural adviser like you do to help Molly be successful?

Rochelle Adams: I was invited to join as a cultural bearer because of my work in language and culture in my region and also statewide. In the beginning, the cultural advisors really shaped the world of Molly. We envisioned who she was and who her family and community were. Now we advise on all levels of production to tell authentic Alaska stories. We do this out of love and to carry our traditional values from our communities.

It’s exciting that children are growing up in a world where Molly, a young Alaska Native person, shares her stories and adventures. It really brings Indigenous people to the forefront. We get to reset some of those stereotypes and misconceptions. It means so much to me to be a part of this!

DF: Language learning and teaching seem like a natural extension of your upbringing in a traditional Athabascan lifestyle, following the Yukon River seasons of hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering. Who comes to mind as you think about your own language learning?

RA: My grandfathers on both sides of my family were the strongest language speakers and then my grandparents before them. My parents were from the generation that did not speak the language, but they understood a lot. I’m also grateful to my bilingual teachers, including Mary Fields, when I was in grade school.

Language connects me to my people, my community, my place and my ancestors. It’s the tie that connects our long line of culture to a place. It’s our core.

DF: Learning from Elders is one of the things that heritage language learners say they really treasure. Why do you think that is?

RA: Speaking with Elders as often as I can is among the best techniques to learn the language. There’s nothing like the smile and look on an Elder’s face when they hear you speak! It’s the best motivation.

Practice in as many ways as I can has really helped me learn. Reading our stories and listening to recordings have really helped me. Finding every resource and being on this journey of teaching and learning have been so fulfilling.

DF: Readers will know you from your statewide efforts on language advocacy as an aspect of inclusion. To name just a few, you’ve helped to mobilize the Alaska Native vote, promote safety and getting vaccinated during the pandemic, and joined Indigenous-language efforts to see that the Census reaches Alaska Native people. And, in 2019, you helped lead a panel at a language-learning weekend sponsored by Doyon Foundation. How do these efforts fit into your commitment to the Gwich’in language?

RA: I advocate for the language in as many spaces as possible. I enjoy facilitating language panels that do translation and messaging for education purposes. I teach where I can and always find ways to learn.

I really love working with my home region of the Yukon Flats and building Gwich’in content with our local Elders, speakers, educators and language learners. Some of my projects with Elders center on art and traditional activities so that I may learn them and document them to pass on cultural knowledge. I love sharing these resources and uplifting the language in any way I can!

DF: What ideas do you have to practice the language?

RA: The biggest challenge has been to practice with fluent speakers, to use the language. I overcome this by speaking with my children. It’s a great way to teach what I know. And when you teach, you learn – one reinforces the other. I also use social media to practice with fluent speakers and knowledge holders. I use books, videos and audio, and I search out speakers for face-to-face practice.

I want to learn the original place names in Alaska and I ask a lot of questions. I do land acknowledgments that honor the original people whose lands I’m on. I seek the knowledge of place.

DF: You’re guided by an awareness that you’re an Elder in training. How does your commitment to language learning, teaching and advocacy fit in?

RA: I plan to share as I learn. I plan to continue all the work I’m doing now to help grow, support and encourage the next generation of language learners and teachers.

Language is a very important part of who we are and it’s also vital to the health and wellness of our lands and waters. Embedded in our language is an understanding of the need to be good stewards of our homes and all that live alongside us, our fish, bird and animal relatives.

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.

About the 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 haytona@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.

“Goals influence all of your decisions”

In honor of our 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Shane Derendoff. This is the last in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

A software developer based in North Pole, Shane Derendoff is the son of Cece Derendoff-Nollner and Francis Nollner, both of Huslia. His maternal grandparents are Angeline Happy and Richard Derendoff, both of Cutoff-Huslia. Cutoff, a flood-prone site, was established in the 1920s and eventually relocated to the area known today as Huslia.

Shane has served as president of the Doyon Foundation board and is a past director of the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center in Fairbanks. His hometown is the Koyukon Athabascan community of Huslia.

Shane Derendoff believes that setting goals for yourself — including goals that others may consider far-fetched — are a key to steady success.

“It never hurts to ask,” he said. “These goals influence all of your decisions from that point forward, most times subconsciously.” Pursuing higher education is among self-assigned goals he values, but he’s realistic about obstacles.

“My challenge has been to keep motivated, to keep pushing to completion,” he said. “Often it’s easier to just get a job and make a wage. But sticking to your educational goals will pay long-term dividends and raise your potential career ceiling.”

Shane earned a bachelor of science degree in 1998 from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he was a recipient of Doyon Foundation scholarships. Before enrolling in the master’s of business administration (MBA) program at Alaska Pacific University (APU), where his emphasis is information technology, he served as technical service manager at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and owned Koyukon Consulting. He anticipates graduating from APU in 2022.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Shane went on to volunteer for several years on the Doyon Foundation board. “I gained key nonprofit experience,” he said. “Once I started my MBA, Doyon Foundation has funded me each step of the way.”

Shane plans to continue working as a software developer while attending APU and then start a consulting practice after graduation. His interests are management and nonprofit and leadership training. He enjoys seeking out other professionals whose early-career experiences mesh with his own. And he makes time for traditional activities such as hunting, wood-cutting and helping Elders.

“Doyon Foundation has been a key part of my educational and professional background,” he said.

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. To learn more, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

Congratulations to the 130 students who are receiving a total of $247,200 in scholarships for the summer 2021 semester! We are pleased to award 56 full-time basic scholarships and 74 part-time basic scholarships to students in a wide variety of programs, including certificate, associate, bachelor’s, graduate and vocational.

Students, your scholarship is on its way! Log in to your student account if you have questions about your scholarship status.

We’re busy processing our fall scholarship applications, so keep an eye out for an announcement of those awards this summer. Also, mark your calendar now for our next scholarship application deadline: November 15 is the deadline to apply for scholarships for the spring 2022 semester, and the online application will be available on our website starting in early August.

Learn more about our scholarships in our scholarship brochure, our vocational scholarship brochure and scholarship resource handbook. You can also read about some of our past and current recipients on our blog!

These scholarships are made possible through the generosity of our donors. See a list of last fiscal year’s donors on our website. If you’d like to get involved, we invite you to visit our website to learn about the different ways you can support the Foundation and our students. 

For more information or assistance, contact our scholarship program manager at 907.459.2048 or scholarships@doyon.com.

Boat launch in Tanacross

Thank you to our speakers Nellie Probert, Dollie Jonathan and Irene Arnold for sharing summer-themed translations in Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross) for our June 2021 Native Word of the Month!

Sheen = Summer

Nellie: Sheen tah shaa xuns̲ųų. = I like summer.

Dollie: Sheen tah łuug ghah Dihthâad nits’indah. = In the summer we move to Mansfield for fishing.

Irene: Ą̂ą, sheen tah jêg ts’enehtsíik. = Yes, we pick berries in the summer.

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!

Doyon Foundation scholarships help me share diversity within health care-related discussions”

– Hannah Bagot

In honor of our upcoming 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Hannah Bagot. This is the latest in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

A graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hannah Bagot is the daughter of Michael and Helen Bagot. Hannah recently completed a master’s degree in health care administration and graduated in May 2021. Her hometown is Pleasanton, California.

Hannah recalls searching out college programs to find one that matched her goals. It’s a path familiar to many students on their way to a rewarding career.

“I explored other majors in health care but they never seemed to be the right fit,” Hannah said, adding that obstacles like these can feel like failure.

“But through volunteering, working and internships, I eventually came to find the right profession for me,” she said. Hannah has volunteered at hospitals in North Carolina and in Utah, where she worked with a physical fitness program for children with special needs.

“My biggest piece of advice for other students is to take opportunities and try new things even if they’re not in your scope of interest or field of study. Everything can be a learning experience,” she said.

“You never know where you will pick up new skills, meet new people, or discover new passions. Try not to compare yourself with others.”

Scholarships from Doyon Foundation have helped Hannah attend schools to gain professional and academic skills for success in health care. “Doyon Foundation has made it possible for me to pursue a graduate degree in a field I’m passionate about,” she said. “Doyon Foundation scholarships have given me the opportunity to share diversity within health care-related discussions.”

After her recent graduation in May 2021, Hannah’s plans include serving as the Health Policy and Management Fellow for Hoag Hospital and Orthopedic Institute in Orange County, California.

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. There are still opportunities to support the event as a sponsor or volunteer; to learn more and get involved, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

“Doyon Foundation has made my dreams possible”

In honor of our upcoming 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Calee Stark. This is the latest in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

An undergraduate at the University of Washington (UW), Calee Stark is the daughter of Emily Pitka of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Wes Stark, raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Calee plans to study psychology with the goal of becoming a physician assistant following her graduation from UW in 2023. Her hometown is Fairbanks.

As a student with an interest in autism, Calee Stark believes that one of the best things about her career field – health care – is that it doesn’t yet have all the answers. “Many things remain unknown that we can one day hope to discover,” she says.

Calee traces her commitment to medicine after witnessing care extended to an uncle who was treated for cancer. “Watching the nurses and physicians attempt to do everything they could inspired me to want to improve the level of care in the future,” she shares.

Her short-term goal includes continuing her work as a certified nursing assistant at a Seattle nursing home and eventually serving her community as a physician assistant (PA) in hospitals. Working under a doctor’s supervision, PAs often are among the first medical staff that a patient meets. Physician assistants may examine and diagnose injury or illness, treat and educate patients, and prescribe medicine, among other primary care duties undertaken by doctors.

“Doyon Foundation has made my dreams of working in the medical field possible,” Calee says. “It allowed me to focus on my studies and not stress about how to afford my education. I’m beyond grateful for that.”

A member of organizations aimed at advancing the interests of Indigenous students, Calee belongs to First Nations at UW, an intertribal group focusing on culture and traditions, and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Her future plans include taking part in a clinical internship with Apex Summer Camp through the UW Autism Center. The camp offers student interns a chance to gain research insight while it helps children build social and behavioral skills.

Calee, who graduated from high school in 2019, says that college students who encounter challenging courses may benefit from re-thinking what they’ve learned about learning: Strategies that served her well in high school were falling short at a competitive university that attracted other bright students.

“For a while I struggled to learn how to properly study,” she shares. “This was a challenge because I wasn’t used to asking for help.” She soon found on-campus sites for academic advising. Calee says she benefited from more efficient study habits as well as learning the rewards of asking for help. “That ended up being the solution to my problem,” she says.

Her advice to other students: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they may sound obvious.

“If you’re struggling in a class, acknowledge that but don’t let it continue for long,” she advises. “More opportunities started lining up for me when I started to ask questions.” That led her to realize that many people are willing to help: “Just ask!” 

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. There are many opportunities to support the event as a sponsor, golfer or volunteer; to learn more and get involved, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.