Language Revitalization


drumSee below for our March Native word of the month in Gwich’in and Deg Xinag!

Gwich’in

Vadzaih dhaa = Caribou hide

Vadzaih dhaa haa shuh dhałtsaii. = I made a drum from caribou hide.

Listen to an audio recording. Hai’ (thank you) to Allan Hayton for providing the translation.

Deg Xinag

Ghinoy vidhith = Caribou hide

Ghinoy vidhith yił sigisrosr dhitlsenh. = I made my drum with caribou hide.

Listen to an audio recording. Dogidinh (thank you) to George Demientieff Holly for providing the translation.

Each month, a new Native word or phrase and definition will be shared on our website, as well as on our blog and Facebook page, along with an audio recording of the pronunciation.

Have a translation in another language? Share it with us on Facebook!

Have an idea for a Native Word of the Month? Please email your idea to haytona@doyon.com.

Continuing a lifetime of language work

Ruth Ridley and John Ritter

Ruth recording lessons with John Ritter at the Yukon Native Language Centre

As Doyon Foundation continues to grow our language revitalization efforts in the Doyon region, we are noticing a group of people who are committed and dedicating their own time 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.

Ruth Ridley is a fluent speaker of the Eagle, Alaska, dialect of the Hän Athabascan language. She has been a language champion for many years, following in the footsteps of her late mother Louise Paul. Ruth’s lifetime work of transcribing and translating Hän language began when she was a child. “I started off doing transcriptions for Hän language that mom recorded with John Ritter (of the Yukon Native Language Centre),” she explains.

Ruth Ridley

Ruth at home with sewing projects

Ruth was brought up by her parents Louise and Susie Paul in a mining camp just downriver from Eagle. “We grew up in Coal Creek mining camp. Our families lived there, summer and winter,” Ruth shares. “My mom’s parents were Eliza and Joe Malcolm in Eagle, and my dad’s parents were Elizabeth and Paul Josie in Old Crow.” Ruth has many good memories of growing up in the Eagle area. “There are creeks with grayling, and beaver ponds, and lots of porcupine, and lots of moose, caribou, and a lot of grizzly bear,” she says.

Ruth sometimes spent all summer with her grandparents. “We would go to fish camp with my grandma and grandpa and they spoke Loucheux or Gwich’in. My grandma didn’t speak English, so we had to speak to her in Hän, and then she would talk back to us in Gwich’in. So that’s how we learned too,” Ruth recalls.

Over the years, Ruth has maintained language connections with her Hän and Gwich’in-speaking relatives in Canada, attending workshops in both Dawson City and at the Yukon Native Language Centre (YNLC) at Yukon College, Whitehorse. “My dad’s sister was Edith Josie, who did lot of language work in Old Crow,” Ruth says.

Ruth has been involved in Hän language work since the late 1970s when she collaborated with professor Michael Krauss at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) to develop the first practical writing system for the language. She composed a collection of stories in Hän based on traditional village life, Eagle Hän Huchʼinn Hòdök, published in bilingual format by the Alaska Native Language Center in 1983. Also in that year, she served as Alaska chair of an important Athabaskan language conference held at UAF, a gathering that attracted participants from throughout Canada and the United States. She also served as principal speaker in a three-week Hän practicum offered as a part of CoLang 2016 at UAF.

Recently (2015-2016) Ruth has been a Hän language consultant for Doyon Foundation, working with YNLC linguist John Ritter to record and transcribe a set of basic Hän language lessons. These lessons will be shared first as a booklet with accompanying audio, and later posted on the internet as part of the Doyon Languages Online project, a partnership of Doyon Foundation and 7,000 Languages.

On the importance of creating language lessons such as these, Ruth shared, “I think it would be easier to speak in sentences than just one word at a time. And that way kids can look at the words and they could pronounce it, like my grandchildren they say they’re hungry and they’re thirsty in Hän.”

Ruth feels language is important because “you could really find out about your culture and the kind of person you are, if you could understand and speak your language. I think it’s important that people learn where they come from and where they are going.”

Ruth is looking forward to sharing these lessons with learners. “I guess the biggest challenge is to get started and get going in the right direction,” she remarks. “If they could get started with these lessons then they’ll know which way they’re supposed to go.”

Ruth is also curious about the next steps of posting the lessons online through the Doyon Languages Online project. “I’m just waiting for them to get on the internet to see how people like the language, or how useful they would be for teaching themselves on the computer,” she says.

According to the Alaska Native Language Center, “Hän is the Athabascan language spoken in Alaska at the village of Eagle and in Yukon Territory at Dawson. A writing system was established in the 1970s, and considerable documentation has been carried out at the Alaska Native Language Center as well as at the Yukon Native Language Centre in Whitehorse.”

For more information about how to get copies of Ruth’s Hän language lessons, or to learn more about the Doyon Languages Online project, please contact Allan Hayton at 907.459.2162 or haytona@doyon.com.

Woman and child

Mary “Dzan” Johnson and daughter Lena, Fort Yukon circa 1916. Photo courtesy of Allan Hayton.

See below for our February Native word of the month in Gwich’in and Deg Xinag!

Gwich’in

Dink’indhat – He or she grew up.
Shahan Gwichyaa Zhee dink’indhat. – My mom grew up in Fort Yukon.
Shiti’ Natick dink’indhat. – My father grew up in Natick.

Listen to an audio recording. Hai’ (thank you) to Allan Hayton for providing the translation.

Deg Xinag

Nadhiyonh – He or she grew up in
Singonh Deloychet nadhiyonh. – My mom grew up in Holy Cross.
Sito’ Qay Xichux nadhiyonh. – My dad grew up in Anchorage.

Listen to an audio recording. Dogidinh (thank you) to George Demientieff Holly for providing the translation.

Each month, a new Native word or phrase and definition will be shared on our website, as well as on our blog and Facebook page, along with an audio recording of the pronunciation.

Have a translation in another language? Share it with us on Facebook!

Have an idea for a Native Word of the Month? Please email your idea to haytona@doyon.com.

If you are planning to apply for a language revitalization grant or submit an RFQ for the Doyon Languages Online project, be sure these fast-approaching deadlines are on your calendar!
For additional information on the Doyon Languages Online RFQ, contact Allan Hayton at haytona@doyon.com or 907.459.2162.
For more information on the language grant, contact Sommer Stickman at stickmans@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

Linguistics Consultant and Content Creators Sought

Doyon Foundation is pleased to announce a call for a linguistics consultant as well as content creators for the Doyon Languages Online project. RFQs (request for qualifications) for both positions are posted at www.doyonfoundation.com. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply by March 6, 2017 (note the deadline has been extended from February 20).

The Doyon Languages Online project, funded with a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Administration for Native Americans, aims to create 280 introductory online lessons for five of the endangered Doyon region languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e, Benhti Kenaga’, Hän, and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa. Ultimately, Doyon Foundation aims to create online courses for all 10 of the Doyon region languages.

The project is a partnership with 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning partially through software donated by Transparent Language Online.

For more information on the project scope, background, qualifications and selection process, please see the linguistics consultant RFQ and content creator RFQ, both available at www.doyonfoundation.com. Interested applicants should apply online by March 6.

For additional information on Doyon Foundation or the Doyon Languages Online project, visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact Allan Hayton at haytona@doyon.com or 907.459.2162.

Join the Mother Language Meme Challenge by creating a humorous or reflective internet meme in your native tongue. Starting today and running through February 21st, you are invited to take part in this fun online campaign to commemorate International Mother Language Day.

International Mother Language Day was founded to promote and celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity around the world, with a special emphasis on indigenous, minority, heritage, and endangered languages. With the help of digital tools and the internet, there is now a unique space for expression and connecting with others also working to revitalize their mother tongue.

Co-organized by Rising Voices and our friends at the Living Tongues Institute, First Peoples’ Cultural Council, Indigenous Tweets, Endangered Languages Project, First Languages Australia, and the Digital Language Diversity Project, as well as a number of global partners, the Mother Language Meme Challenge invites you to put your creativity and passion for languages to work by creating a meme in your mother language.

Click here for more information about the Mother Language Meme Challenge!

Doyon Foundation is pleased to welcome Nathan Feemster, who was hired in December as the Doyon Languages Online project manager. In this role, Feemster is responsible for the coordination, implementation and evaluation of the Doyon Languages Online project.nathan-for-web

The Doyon Languages Online project is a partnership with 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning partially through software donated by Transparent Language. Funded with a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Administration for Native Americans, the project aims to create a total of 280 introductory online lessons for five of the endangered Doyon languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e, Benhti Kenaga’, Hän, and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa. Ultimately, the Foundation aims to create online courses for all of the Doyon region languages.

Originally from Seward, Alaska, Feemster has a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). He previously worked as a substitute teacher for the Anchorage School District, and was a production assistant for the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Feemster was inspired to apply for the job at Doyon Foundation by Ruth Ridley, whom he met while pursuing his undergraduate degree at UAF. “Her nearly 50-year endeavor to help create a place for the Hän language in the future inspired me to apply to Doyon Foundation,” Feemster shared. “Through my work with Doyon Foundation, I hope to support her dream and the dreams of the many who work with the Athabaskan Dene languages. I am humbled to be working on the Doyon Online Languages project and I look forward to the many learning opportunities it offers.”

Outside of work, Feemster enjoys helping his community and is an active volunteer. “I’ve done everything from planting plots for the Stone Soup Community Gardens, to training cats at the animal shelter in my home town,” he said.

A self-described “lifelong learner,” Feemster said he fills his spare time with learning opportunities or projects, which most recently include a bed frame and epublishing a small “chose your own adventure” book.

For more information on Doyon Foundation and the Doyon Languages Online project, visit www.doyonfoundation.com.

Next Page »