July 2021


This year, Doyon Foundation is partnering with the Great Alaska Duck Race, which takes place in Anchorage on September 11. (Please note this duck race is separate from the Rubber Duckie Race in Fairbanks!)

The event is organized by Alaska EXCEL, a nonprofit providing educational opportunities to rural Alaska youth. For every duck we sell, Doyon Foundation will receive half of the proceeds, which will go to support our scholarship program. Visit our fundraising page to buy a duck and help us earn some bucks!

Duck race tickets range from $10 to $20, and the grand prize is $10,000! Last year, there were winners from all over the state. In fact, the $10,000 grand prize was won by a woman in Fairbanks! Only 12,000 tickets will be sold, so don’t wait – get your tickets today on our fundraising page, https://bit.ly/DoyonFoundationDuckRace.

$10 ticket prizes:

  • 1st place duck wins $5,000
  • 2nd place duck wins $500
  • 3rd place duck wins $250 

$20 ticket prizes:

  • GRAND PRIZE duck wins $10,000 
  • 2nd place duck wins $1,000
  • 3rd place duck wins $500

Winners don’t need to be present to win, but if you want to join in the fun, be at Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, September 11 at 11 a.m. If you can’t attend in person, you can watch the livestream on the race website!

We’re also looking for volunteers to help us meet our volunteer commitment as an event partner. Volunteer opportunities include:

  • Selling duck race tickets at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, three-hour shift on a day of your choosing from August 20 to September 6, two volunteers needed
  • Tagging ducks at a TBA location in Anchorage, September 9, 3 – 7 p.m., at least one volunteer needed
  • Race set up or clean up, Ship Creek in Anchorage, September 11, 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., at least one volunteer needed

If you are interested in volunteering, please call 907.459.2048 or email foundation@doyon.com with your preferred date, time and any questions.

Thank you for your support. Go buy a duck – and good luck!

‘If you’re interested in learning your language, then begin today’

A speaker and instructor of Gwich’in at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), Hishinlai’ Peter is the daughter of Katherine Peter of Stevens Village and Steven Peter of Arctic Village. Her grandparents are Soozan and Peter Shajol of Arctic Village. Hishinlai’s family includes her husband, Jeff Currey; daughters, Francine Kazenoff and Hannah Sikorski; and four grandchildren.

Hishinlai’ graduated from UAF where she earned a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, a master’s of education in curriculum and instruction, and a doctorate in applied linguistics for her dissertation that explored the relationship between Gwich’in adult language learning and identity development. She lives in Fairbanks.

Hishinlai’ Peter’s commitment to Gwich’in is far reaching: From teaching the language to university students and working on a Gwich’in dictionary, to annotating traditional stories and providing translations for voting materials and to promote public health during the pandemic, Hishinlai’s work demonstrates the ways that language defines a person’s core.

“Language is the root of your identity,” she says. “If you’re interested in learning your language, then begin today. You don’t need a classroom or money. And you don’t need to sound perfect.”

A key figure in her own learning is Lillian Garnett, an Elder from Arctic Village and noted contributor to linguistic materials and story collections published in Gwich’in.

Gwich’in is among Arctic Indigenous languages in the Doyon region that are a focus of revitalization, including a series of online courses offered through Doyon Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project. In 2019, Hishinlai’ was a member of a Doyon Languages Online team that developed the Foundation’s online language-learning course in Gwich’in. The course is currently available for free to all interested language learners via the Doyon Foundation website.

Hishinlai’ is also a linguist who serves on the advisory board of Tanan Ch’at’oh, the language immersion nest in Fairbanks that enrolled a first group of toddlers 2021.

Hishinlai’ encourages students learning the language to let others know: “Learn how to say in the language, ‘Help me, how do we say….’ Let people know you’re trying.”

“Remember to stay positive,” she adds. “Use the humor that’s inherent in our cultures to learn or teach your language.” She advises students to find others who are at their fluency level and then learn together or to teach what they’ve already mastered.

Her plans include continuing to help children learn the language and developing course materials. When she started teaching at UAF in 2002, language courses were face to face before shifting to online in 2020 because of the virus pandemic. Hishinlai’ at first found it challenging to come up with interactive games to foster language learning. Students eventually worked together through worksheets, and Hishinlai’ developed card games for use in a student’s own environment. She went on to develop activities for teaching other languages, such as Yup’ik or Iñupiaq, that are not in the same language family as Dene.

A hurdle for many students whose first language is English is a tendency to default to English when attempting to speak in another language. Hishinlai’s advice to teachers: Keep speaking to students in the language without falling back on English. “Practice, determination and not being afraid to make mistakes are among the best learning techniques,” she says.

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.

More than $130,000 raised for scholarships at June 17 event

Doyon Foundation supporters came together to raise money for scholarships at the 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, which marked the 20th anniversary of the fundraiser.

After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, the event returned with strong support, including 116 golfers on 29 teams, more than 60 sponsors and more than 50 volunteers. The 2021 golf classic, held June 17 in Fairbanks, raised approximately $131,000 for the Morris Thompson competitive scholarship fund, named in memory of the late Morris Thompson, who served as president and CEO of Doyon, Limited from 1985 – 2000.

The 2021 golf classic took place at Chena Bend Golf Course on Fort Wainwright, where team 15 (Drew Mazzolini, Kirk Butcher, Andrew Honea and Paul Mazzolini) and team 30 (Connie Johnson, Martha Hanlon, Dee Liebl and Janette Smith) tied for first place.

The festivities continued at Pike’s Landing, where donors showed their generosity at the Fund the Future live donation event, and live and silent auctions, which featured items including a stay at Peppermill Resort, a Holland America cruise and a Denali getaway.

Attendees also heard from student speaker, Sheena Tanner, who graduated in December 2020 with her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Alaska Southeast.

Sheena shared how watching her mother obtain a degree inspired her own educational journey. “My mother graduated from UAF with her teaching degree when I was 8 years old,” she said. “Seeing the process firsthand of how beneficial an education is inspired me to earn my degree and start my career in a field that I am passionate about.”

Sheena took her time choosing her educational direction and completing her degrees. “I knew that my strengths were in organization and writing but I wasn’t ready to choose a degree program (after graduating high school),” she said. “I learned not to be impatient when it comes to my education and to assess my workload and move forward with what my schedule allowed.”

Her patience and persistence paid off, as Sheena now holds an Associate of Arts degree and a bachelor’s in criminal justice, in addition to her master’s degree. Doyon Foundation scholarships helped her along the way. “Because I was receiving a scholarship from Doyon Foundation, I used that as a driving force to get my work done, especially when the going got tough,” she said. “I would tell myself that I’m not just doing this for myself, I have others depending on me and others that have invested in me. It was a good reminder to keep moving forward.”

Today, Sheena encourages those around her to keep moving forward with their own education, including her niece, daughter and husband, who are all enrolled in programs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“I’m so proud of my niece, daughter and husband, and especially thankful for Doyon Foundation and all of those who have contributed to the Foundation, as those contributions help to make educational goals possible,” Sheena said. “Education can lead to opportunities.”

The Foundation extends a special thank you to major sponsors KeyBank, Key Equipment Finance, Doyon Family of Companies and Council Tree Investors, as well as Robin Renfroe and Howie Thies, who celebrated 20 years of volunteering, and golfer Woody Wallis, who has participated in 19 of 20 golf classic events.

Since inception, proceeds from the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic have provided 214 scholarships totaling $556,180 to higher education students, including 2020 – 2021 recipients: Shane Derendoff, Cory LePore, Hannah Bagot, Andrianna Albert, and Calee Stark

The golf classic will return to a two-day format next year, with events taking place Thursday and Friday, June 23 and 24, 2022. Watch the Foundation website, www.doyonfoundation.com, for 2022 event information or contact 907.459.2000 or golf@doyon.com with questions. 

We’re giving away 20 laptops to Foundation students!

With the shift to virtual work, classes and social interaction over the past year, computer and online access is more important than ever. At Doyon Foundation, we know this can cause hardship for students who do not have easy access to these resources. 

In an effort to support our students in a comprehensive way, we are pleased to launch our computer gifting program! Thanks to the generosity of donors designDATA and the Google American Indian Network, we have a pool of Lenovo ThinkPads to gift to students at no cost, to help them succeed in their educational journeys.

To be eligible to receive a computer, applicants must:

  • Be enrolled to Doyon, Limited, or the child of an original enrollee.
  • Be accepted to an accredited college, university, technical or vocational school.
  • Have a minimum GPA of 2.0 (undergraduates), 3.0 (graduate/master’s) or 3.25 (specialists/doctorates).
  • Have applied or been awarded a Doyon Foundation scholarship in the past.

This program is need-based. Students who do not currently have access to a computer, and need one to pursue their educational goals, are invited to complete our online student computer need survey. Students who cannot access the online form may contact us at 907.459.2049 or scholarships@doyon.com and a Foundation staff member can complete the online form by proxy.

The deadline to complete the computer need survey is Friday, August 27, at 5 p.m. We will then review the submissions and eligible students will be entered into a random drawing to receive one of 20 Lenovo ThinkPads.

We will announce the computer recipients during our scholarship award recognition presentation, which will take place virtually on Friday, September 10. Watch the Foundation website and social media for more details on the event, or sign up for our email updates to receive the latest news.  

Remember – complete the computer need survey online by Friday, August 27, at 5 p.m. If you have questions or need help completing the form by proxy, contact us at 907.459.2049 or scholarships@doyon.com.

A University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) student graduating in 2021, Rebekah Gidinatiy Hartman is the daughter of Michael and Angela Hartman. Her maternal grandparents are Alice and Rudy Demientieff of Holy Cross. Rebekah’s hometown is Wasilla. 

Two years ago, Doyon Foundation student Rebekah Hartman was the keynote speaker at a Foundation event, where she shared about her educational journey and how the Foundation scholarship program was helping her reach her goal of graduating from UAF with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in printmaking.

At the event, she met Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program, who shared that he was looking for artists to submit work for a book project being led by the Foundation. Fast-forward a year and Hartman just completed a series of illustrations that will be featured in the Foundation’s soon-to-be released Our Languages Everyday Activity Book, designed to help families incorporate Native language learning into their daily lives.

Rebekah Hartman’s art will be featured in Doyon Foundation’s upcoming Our Languages Everyday Activity Book

“I was interested to take on this project because working for Doyon Foundation is a great opportunity and it helps me feel more connected to my language,” Hartman says. “I hope my illustrations will help others too.”

Hartman credits the award-winning animated children’s program “Steven Universe” with helping set the course for her future. “Those are the types of shows I want to work on,” she says. The Cartoon Network adventure series tells the story of friends protecting their own kind in a fictionalized world. “Growing up, I did not really know anything about LGBTQ+ people — I thought they were strange. It was shows like ‘Steven Universe’ that made me realize I was wrong.”

“What attracts me to animation is that, first of all, it’s beautiful and second is the impact that animated stories can have,” Hartman says. “I want to work on stories that are meaningful and inclusive.”

An active volunteer focused on projects to benefit Alaska Native people, Hartman served as student club secretary of the Alaska Native Social Workers Association in the 2019 – 2020 school year. The UAF group’s purpose includes service to others and promoting awareness of Alaska Native cultures in the state. At the winter holidays, Hartman helped make greeting cards for the Fairbanks Native Association Elder Program. She has volunteered with First Alaskans Institute, an Anchorage-based public policy and research group, and with the Elders and Youth Conference sponsored by Alaska Federation of Natives.

One of the pieces Rebekah Hartman created for her fall BFA art show

Hartman hopes other students will be attentive to mental health, especially if interest in school or self-confidence starts to slip. “What I’ve found helpful to address these emotions is going to counseling,” she shares. “It helps clear my mind and to understand myself better.”

As part of her graduation requirements, Hartman will have her BFA thesis exhibition this fall, from September 7 – 17 at the UAF Fine Arts Gallery. Her opening reception takes place Thursday, September 9, from 5 – 7 p.m. “My show theme is Dinayetr ‘Our Breath’: Deg Xinag Language Revitalization. It is about seeing the word and an image with it to help a person remember it.“

“My work in Dinayetr ‘Our Breath’: Deg Xinag Language Revitalization is about creating visual representations of the Deg Xinag language. I create art based on words and phrases from the Deg Xinag online dictionary. My art is centered around a desire to reclaim my family’s Athabascan language, a language skill that was taken from my family due to the prevalence of colonial boarding schools. My artwork is united by a sense of whimsy and wordplay. For instance, my etching titled Yix Xidina’ Yi’idituq, which translates to the Deg Xinag phrase ‘the house spirits jump up,’ is a lively and illustrative image of a girl violently sneezing, startling the house spirits. One example of the wordplay I employ in my art is my print of a dragonfly on a shield. In Deg Xinag, dragonfly or ‘Siq’angine’ literally means ‘protect me,’ which I have visually represented through the shield on my print. The majority of my artwork in this exhibition is created through prints and digital art. My overall goal for this exhibit is to make it easier for people to learn Deg Xinag. Having multiple modes of representation, including visual art, makes language revitalization more accessible to other Deg Xit’an people,” reads Hartman’s artist statement.

After graduating this fall, Hartman plans to attend art school to earn a master’s degree in animation. “I want to work on a show that includes Indigenous people,” she said. “We are constantly forgotten in television and when we are included, there are usually stereotypes.”

Among her favorite animated series is “Molly of Denali,” a first-of-its kind children’s show whose main character is an Alaska Native person. “My goal,” Hartman says, “is to create meaningful stories for people to watch.”

Keep an eye on the Foundation’s website and social media channels for upcoming announcements about the Our Languages Everyday Activity Book, featuring art by Hartman.

After more than a year of being unable to meet in person, Doyon Foundation hosted an ANEP Language Gathering in Tok in early June 2021.

The goal of the three-day gathering was to record audio for use in Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana) and Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross) courses being developed as part of the Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project.

The majority of the necessary audio files were recorded during the recent gathering. As next steps, the Foundation will arrange to bring language teams to Fairbanks to finish out the audio recordings and begin video recordings.

We thank the language gathering participants, including Glen Demit, Cora Demit, Verna Hagen, Irene Arnold, Polly Hyslop and Chance Shank, as well as volunteer Annastasia Johnson, for sharing their time and knowledge.

Once completed, the Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana) and Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross) courses will join the currently available Doyon Languages Online courses in Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in) and Holikachuk, as well as a special Hän course based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby. Additional courses in Hän, Deg Xinag and Denak’i (Upper Kuskokwim) are also in development.

Doyon Languages Online courses are available for free to all interested learners who want to learn the endangered languages of the Doyon region. Learn more at www.doyonfoundation.com/dlo.

View our 2021 graduate yearbook!

Get to know the Doyon Foundation Class of 2021 in our interactive graduate yearbook, and help celebrate our 2021 graduates in our inspiring graduate video! The yearbook was just released on our website and the video just premiered on our YouTube channel.

This year, we celebrated more than 60 Doyon Foundation graduates from high school, certificate, associate, bachelor’s and master’s programs. We are so proud of their efforts and accomplishments, and are excited to introduce and celebrate them in this year’s graduate yearbook and video. Please watch and share!

If you have graduate information additions or corrections, please contact us at scholarships@doyon.com.

Watch our 2021 graduate video!

Photo courtesy of https://pixnio.com/fauna-animals/deers/moose-and-elk/aerial-photo-of-moose-in-river

Thank you to our speakers Steven Nikolai, Sr. and his grandson, Blake Nikolai, for sharing our July 2021 Native Word of the Month in Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim)!

Dineje = Moose

Dineje dot’anh? = What is the moose doing?

Dineje nok’ot miłdiłanh dighnoisdinh ts’e’ hits’tsa el’gotch’. = The moose was sleeping on the sandbar and got up and ran.

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 Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Holikachuk and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (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!