Doyon Foundation Events


Doyon Foundation will host our 2017 Scholarship Award Ceremony on Friday, September 8 at 2 p.m. The event, which celebrates our 302 fall scholarship recipients, will take place in the Doyon Facilities classroom, located at 701 Bidwell Ave. in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Nursing student in photo booth

The scholarship award ceremony will feature our always popular photo booth!

This fall, the Foundation will award a total of $395,300 in scholarships. The fall 2017 awards include 37 competitive scholarships, 73 basic part-time scholarships, and 192 basic full-time scholarships. Congratulations to all of this fall’s recipients!

In addition to presenting the scholarship recipients, the ceremony will also feature an opening prayer by Allan Hayton, our language revitalization program director; a welcome from Doris Miller, our executive director; and words from our alumni speaker and student speaker! The event will culminate with light refreshments and our always-popular photo booth.

Tanya - alumni speakerWe are excited to announce this year’s alumni speaker is Tanya Kaquatosh of Hughes, Alaska. Tanya is the daughter of Barbara Beatus and the late Norman Beatus of Hughes.  Her maternal grandparents are Johnson Moses and the late Bertha Moses of Allakaket and her paternal grandparents are Henry and Sophie Beatus of Hughes. Tanya holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford and a MBA from Arizona State University.  She has also completed the Doyon Leadership Training in 2014. Tanya has worked as the director of regulatory affairs at Doyon Utilities since 2015; previous to that she was a financial specialist in the finance department for 3 years. Tanya was also the executive assistant to the president/CEO of Doyon, Limited for over 4 years. Tanya resides in Fairbanks with her husband, Steve, and their daughters, Skye and Kaytona.

Julian - student speakerJoining Tanya is our student speaker, Julian Thibedeau. Julian is a freshman at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he is in the Rural Human Services Program.

Students, family, friends, teachers, donors and other supporters are invited and encouraged to attend. We hope to see you there!

Supported by Doyon Foundation, Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh (“Our Language Nest”) is an immersion program that teaches children to become fluent speakers of Gwich’in while helping preserve one of the world’s most threatened Indigenous languages.

Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh meets Saturdays at various sites in and around Fairbanks so that parents and children may speak Gwich’in, sing songs, share lessons and create learning activities. Virtually all activities are in Gwich’in, and the activity is free of charge.

“The group is open to everyone, but especially parents with young children,” says Allan Hayton, the Foundation’s language revitalization program director. “The goal is to teach Gwich’in to children by talking to them in the language.”

Gatherings typically attract a half-dozen or so parents and as many as 10 children. There is no fee to attend and parents also rely on the group to learn Gwich’in.

A “no-English” policy is typical of language nest immersion programs in Alaska and throughout the world. Adopting the metaphor of a nest as a safe place to learn, Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh is an early childhood education project that brings together Elders who are fluent speakers and parents and children, who typically speak English only.

Hayton began working with parents in 2015 to start Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh; today he’s among the group’s leaders, which includes parents and other community members. Partners include University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Rural Student Services and Denakkanaaga, the Fairbanks-based nonprofit organization for Native Elders. Over the years, the group has met outdoors, at parents’ homes, at Denakkanaaga and the UAF campus.

“No two Language Nest meetings are the same,” says Charlene Stern, a mother who has been involved since the group’s very first meeting. By the time her son was born, Charlene says she realized she wanted him to hear Gwich’in daily, at home. Charlene’s first language is English; her mother and siblings are fluent Gwich’in speakers.

Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh differs from teaching that introduces vocabulary in a new language by having students memorize isolated words or phrases. Some meetings involve getting together to share a meal and practice Gwich’in table phrases. Other gatherings focus on games and songs or venturing outdoors. This in-context approach teaches Gwich’in by offering everyday, appealing situations that “feed” the language into ears of young children. Two primary teachers who are fluent speakers are on hand at Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh gatherings. Parents who are second-language learners also are welcome to lead activities and lessons.

Worldwide language nest projects trace their start to 1982 and successful efforts to revive the Maori language in New Zealand. In Alaska, the nine ancestral languages of the Doyon region were the first languages spoken by the people as recently as 100 years ago. Revitalization programs like Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh can add to the number of fluent speakers and lessen the risk that the language will be lost.

“For me, one of the most important things about the Language Nest is that it creates a space where our children positively engage with our culture and language,” Charlene says. Alaska Native children typically are a minority in urban public schools, and she says Native children often experience discrimination that fosters feelings of inferiority. “Language Nest helps equip our children with stronger identities so that they become more resilient individuals and tribal members.”

Language nests such as Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh adhere to evidence-based strategies in early childhood education. For instance, research shows that up to about age 7, children acquire a second language – or third or fourth – as naturally as they learn a first language.

Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh is one of several Foundation-supported programs to revitalize Indigenous languages in the Doyon region. Efforts include the Native Word of the Month and Doyon Languages Online, the grant-funded project that is developing online lessons for five of the Doyon languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e, Benhti Kenaga’, Hän and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa. Plans eventually call for online lessons in all Doyon region languages.

Charlene is among the Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh parents from families who encouraged English as a step to success in the Western world. “Today we know that speaking more than one language carries many benefits,” she says. “And we know that culture and language revitalization is critical to personal identity and collective well-being.”

She’s looking forward to a time when more families take part in Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh or similar community-driven efforts.

“We participate because it’s something that’s important to us, our children, and generations yet to come,” she says. “We can’t look to organizations, school districts or government grants to singlehandedly revitalize the Gwich’in language. I believe it’s up to us.”

For more information on Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh and how to get involved in the Language Nest, please contact Allan Hayton at 907.459.2162 or haytona@doyon.com.

“Xisrigidisddhinh … so grateful. I absolutely loved spending time with Elders and learners speaking Deg Xinag. It was invaluable to me.” –LaVerne Demientieff, PhD, Doyon Foundation Board Member

Language speakers, teachers, learners and those interested in revitalizing Deg Xinag and Holikachuk languages gathered in Holy Cross June 4 – 7. The gathering, sponsored by Doyon Foundation with support from the Administration for Native Americans, began with dinner at the Holy Cross School on Sunday evening, and continued Monday through Wednesday, overlapping with the 2017 Denakkanaaga Elders and Youth Conference.

Elders gather in the Holy Cross school library to share language and stories

Elders gather in the Holy Cross school library to share language and stories.

Deg Xinag is the traditional language of Deg Hit’an Athabaskans in four villages on the Lower Yukon River: Shageluk, Anvik, Holy Cross and Grayling. Holikachuk is the traditional language of the former village of the same name on the Innoko River. In 1962, residents of Holikachuk relocated to Grayling on the Lower Yukon River.

Deg Xinag and Holikachuk languages are among the most endangered in the Doyon region. The remaining speakers of each can all be known by first name only, and most were present at the gathering in Holy Cross.

The gathering brought together Elders, speakers, teachers, learners and other stakeholders to create momentum for current and future language revitalization initiatives in the Doyon region. Elders and speakers in attendance included Edna Deacon, Mary Deacon, Jim Dementi, Daisy Demientieff and Elizabeth Keating, along with University of Alaska Southeast linguist Alice Taff, and teachers and learners Donna MacAlpine, Jeanette Dementi, LaVerne Demientieff, Sonta Hamilton Roach and Kyle Worl. Doyon Languages Online content creators Susan Paskvan and Bev Kokrine, and Doyon Foundation board member and language revitalization committee chair Paul Mountain were also in attendance.

Participants playing the table top language learning game led by Susan Paskvan

Participants playing the table top language learning game led by Susan Paskvan.

Elder Elizabeth Keating, who grew up in the village of Holikachuk before it was relocated to present day Grayling, and who spoke Holikachuk fluently until her teenage years, shared eloquent words about her time at the gathering. “It was a powerful and sometimes emotional experience for me,” she said. “First time in a long time that I’ve been involved where everyone was speaking my language. It dredged up memories and emotions in a wholesome way. I am more dedicated than ever to revitalizing the language.” The process of delving into ancestral language can be a profound and life-changing endeavor for those with a passion to learn, as evidenced by Elizabeth’s and others’ comments during the gathering.

The goal of the gathering was to create a call to action, develop practical steps toward long-range goals, and share inspiration and hope around language revitalization. The event created a space for learners to ask Elders questions about the language, and for Elders to share their knowledge and experience with learners. For many, language provides a source of connection with departed loved ones, with the culture, with one another, and with the land. Edna Deacon shared that when she has difficulty recalling a word or phrase, she will silently ask her late father, and in time it will come to her as though he were “whispering in her ear.”

The focus on Indigenous language over several days was particularly meaningful in this community, former home to the Holy Cross Mission Orphanage where oppression of Alaska Native language and culture was a common practice and whose repercussions are still felt very strongly generations later. Read more in the article “The Last Orphans of Holy Cross” by Mary Annette Pember.

Holy Cross village from the cross on the hill

Holy Cross village from the cross on the hill.

LaVerne Demientieff, Ph.D., a professor in social work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a Doyon Foundation board member, has drawn connections between language learning and healing from trauma. “When people experience trauma it can be hard to regulate our nervous system, feel safe, trust, connect with others, build relationships, etc. It is always a work in progress to ‘feel normal,’ or what we perceive ‘normal’ to be. This directly relates to language in my understanding and experience and it is why there should be love, safety and strengths that are included in language revitalization efforts.”  

A wonderful outcome of the gathering in Holy Cross was the formation of a language-learning group that will continue to meet regularly. Demientieff, who is also a Foundation language committee member, shared her commitment to moving forward. “My personal goals are to listen daily to language via audio and maybe take a linguistics class or two. I am open to writing about language, working on language activities, like documentation, preservation of older materials, working with community and being a part of Deg Xinag language classes,” she stated. The group will meet via teleconference, and is open to anyone interested in learning Deg Xinag.

For more information on the gathering, the language revitalization program, or the newly formed language-learning group, please contact Allan Hayton, Doyon Foundation language revitalization program director, at 907.459.2162 or haytona@doyon.com.

See more photos from the gathering on the Foundation’s Facebook page.

Missed the language gathering? Check out these video clip highlights from the event:

 

Doyon Foundation, with the support of the golfers, sponsors, planning committee, staff and volunteers, held another successful Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic June 22 – 23 in Fairbanks, Alaska. In addition to raising money for the Foundation’s Morris Thompson Scholarship Fund, the popular annual event also honored the memory of the late Morris Thompson.

“Morris was an enthusiastic and tireless supporter of education, and we are honored to hold this event in his memory,” said Doris Miller, Foundation executive director. “The Morris Thompson Scholarship Fund was established to provide scholarships to students who exhibit the qualities we admired most in Morris – vision, dedication to excellence, exemplary leadership and integrity.”

The 17th annual event kicked off Thursday, June 22 with a skills tournament warm-up at Chena Bend Golf Course on Fort Wainwright, followed by a reception and Calcutta at Wedgewood Resort. See the skills tournament results on the Foundation website.

AS MF

Aaron Schutt and Marissa Flannery announce the new competitive scholarship for law students at the Calcutta reception.

The reception featured two very special moments. The first was when Doyon, Limited President and CEO Aaron Schutt took the stage with his wife, Marissa Flannery, to announce the establishment of an endowment for a new competitive scholarship for aspiring young lawyers.

Both graduates of Stanford Law School, the couple partnered with the Doyon, Limited board to help establish the new scholarship fund, making a five-year commitment to getting the scholarship in place.

“I know very well the cost and benefits a legal degree can have for Native students,” said Flannery, who said she and her husband each graduated with more than $100,000 in student loan debts. “We’ve never regretted our choice, and we hope that other students will make that choice.”

Annie

Student speaker Annie Sanford addresses reception guests.

Student speaker Annie Sanford of Tok, Alaska, then shared her story, giving the audience a real-life example of how their support makes a difference in the lives of students.

“Let’s see if I learned anything from my communications class I took last semester,” Sanford quipped at the start of her speech, drawing encouraging laughter from the filled room.

“Normally I don’t volunteer myself to give speeches, but I felt it was important to express how important of a role Doyon Foundation has played in my higher education,” continued Sanford, who is pursuing an associate’s degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and hopes to join the university’s very competitive radiologic technology program in 2018. Her post-graduate plans include staying in Fairbanks to give back to the community that has given her so much.

“I feel like Doyon Foundation is a third proud parent in my pursuit of a higher education,” Sanford said. “I want to thank Doyon Foundation and their sponsors for supporting not only me but students across Alaska pursuing our educational dreams.” Read more about Sanford on the Foundation’s blog and see a video of her speech on the Foundation YouTube channel.

The evening concluded with a spirited Calcutta, where teams and members of the audience bid on the teams they thought would win the golf tournament the next day. Always a popular event, the Calcutta brought in more than $50,000, which was split between the winning bidders and the Foundation scholarship fund.

The festivities continued on Friday, June 23 with the golf tournament, which drew 33 teams of four players each. By early afternoon, the teams had finished the 18 holes at Chena Bend and were celebrating at the golf banquet.

2017 winning team

First-place team at the 2017 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic.

Congratulations to the first-place team comprised of Rick Boyles, Dan Clark, Rob Graves and Scott Jepsen. See the full list of winners on the Foundation website.

“Thank you to the golfers, sponsors and volunteers for bringing your great energy and fun to the tournament this year,” Miller said. “We couldn’t have asked for better conditions and fundraising results. Thanks for your continued support and generosity.”

This year marked the 17th year of the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic. Since inception, the event has enabled the Foundation to award 173 students with Morris Thompson scholarships totaling $370,180.

For more information on Doyon Foundation or the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, visit www.doyonfoundation.com.

Annie Sanford’s parents are Lena Blair Sanford and Dewayne Sanford, both from Tok. Her maternal grandparents are Mary Tom Tom Blair and William Blair of Snag, Yukon, Canada; her paternal grandparents are Laura Isaac Sanford of Tanacross and Walter Sanford of Chistochina. Annie’s hometown is Tok.

annie.jpeg
“Normally I don’t volunteer myself to give speeches, but I felt it was important to express how important of a role Doyon Foundation has played in my higher education,” Annie shares as she takes the stage as the student speaker at Doyon Foundation’s Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic Calcutta reception in June. The annual golf classic raises money for the Morris Thompson Scholarship Fund, which honors the memory of the late Morris Thompson and awards scholarships to students exhibiting leadership, integrity and a commitment to excellence.

“There is a lot to take into account when it comes to higher education, and Doyon Foundation has helped take the financial burden off of my shoulders,” Annie explains. “I feel like Doyon Foundation is a third proud parent in my pursuit of a higher education. They stay involved, they provide encouragement, and they are genuinely happy to witness my educational journey.”

“I want to thank Doyon Foundation and their sponsors for supporting not only me but students across Alaska pursuing our educational dreams,” Annie concludes. See the full video of her speech on the Foundation YouTube channel.

Annie is a University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) student who plans to complete her associate’s degree and join the university’s radiologic technology program in 2018. It’s a competitive process; only a half-dozen or so of the top students are selected to enroll each year. “I’m improving every aspect of my application to be among the top six or seven,” she says.

Her goals including graduating from the radiologic technology program in 2020 and pursuing her career in Fairbanks. “I want to work to give back to the community that has given me so much,” says Annie, who hopes to work at the Chief Andrew Isaac Health Clinic or Fairbanks Memorial Hospital before continuing her studies to become an ultrasound technologist.

“Early on, in high school, I knew I wanted to help people medically and not just from your typical office cubicle,” Annie recalls. After high school, while she was trying to figure out what to do, it was a coworker who inspired Annie to go into radiology.

“Due to radiology not being commonly talked about, I wish to mentor future students who want to pursue radiology because I know I would have liked to have someone to talk to who already went through the process and could answer my questions,” she says.

For now, Annie advises other students to stay organized and keep motivated. “Using a planner and whiteboard are essential,” she says. “I highly recommend them.”

Kaylen’s mother is Shari Rempp, whose parents are Glenn and Marjorie Buss. Kaylen’s father is Chris Demientieff, whose parents are Rudy and Alice Demientieff. Kaylen’s hometown is Anchorage.

Kaylen“The greatest challenge I had in going back to school was supporting myself financially,” Kaylen says. A member of the 2017 graduating class of Colorado Mesa University, Kaylen met financial challenges by competing for scholarships, including the Morris Thompson Competitive Scholarship through Doyon Foundation.

“Doyon Foundation helped me to graduate,” she says. Foundation support helped with tuition as well as day-to-day expenses like rent. Because of the Foundation, she says, “I’m one step closer to becoming debt free.”

Named for the late president and chief executive of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson Competitive Scholarship Fund has awarded nearly $400,000 over the years to students like Kaylen who share his commitment to excellence, leadership and integrity. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, starting tomorrow, is the Foundation’s largest fundraiser to benefit these scholarships.

“I devoted my time to working hard and studying,” says Kaylen, who held a job while going to school. She studied radiologic technology and plans to work toward mammography certification. Her goals include becoming a traveling mammography technologist. She graduated in May.

“College can be overwhelming, especially if you must work outside of school. I spent my free time hiking and sewing. It’s important to stay focused and work hard, but remember to have fun!”

 

Jessica’s parents are the late Catherine Maki and the late Gordon Ruck; her grandparents are Nancy (Senungetuk) Felton, of Wales and Nome, and the late Willard Felton. Jessica’s hometown is Anchorage.

Jessica“Without Doyon Foundation’s support, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Jessica, a doctoral student in social welfare at the University of Washington. Doyon Foundation scholarships, including the Morris Thompson Competitive Scholarship, helped her pursue her bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my educational successes,” she says. In addition to completing research, writing and exams that will precede her dissertation, Jessica reviews journal articles in her field and advocates for social welfare policy. She volunteers in her children’s school, offers guest lectures at UW and the University of Alaska Anchorage, and plans to resume a role with the Alaska Native Dialogues on Racial Equity. She also serves as a co-president of the Native Organization of Indigenous Scholars.

“The stress of multiple demands can become overwhelming,” she acknowledges. “I’ve had to learn to limit what I take on.” Her advice to other students: Remember that persevering to Graduation Day takes more than going to class and cranking out papers.

“Do what brings you internal happiness and satisfaction, help others, always tend to your relationships. Stay connected to who you are and where you come from. Forgive. And always do the best you can.”

Named for the late president and chief executive of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson Competitive Scholarship Fund has awarded nearly $400,000 over the years to students like Jessica who share his commitment to excellence, leadership and integrity. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic held in June is the Foundation’s largest fundraiser to benefit these scholarships.

 

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