Language Revitalization


92_Valentine's Day Promotion_Blog_v3

Happy Valentine’s Day! To help you celebrate today, we’ve worked with our wonderful team of speakers to share 11 different ways to say “I love you” in the Alaska Native languages of the Doyon region.

  1. Neghw estsen’, Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana)

 

  1. Ngq’a dist’a, Deg Xinag

 

  1. Nʉgh estsen’, Denaakk’e (Koyukon, Koyukuk River)

 

  1. Nekk’aa dest’aa, Denaakk’e (Koyukon, Yukon River)

 

  1. Naa ihtsįį’, Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross)

 

  1. Nughistin’, Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim)

 

  1. Neet’ihthan, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in)

 

  1. Nihtsį̀’, Hän

 

  1. Niq’a dist’a, Holikachuk

 

  1. Pikpaġigiikpin, Inupiaq

 

  1. Naa ihtsįį’, Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana)

 

Happy Valentine’s Day from Doyon Foundation!

We are pleased to present our February 2019 Native words of the month. Thank you to our translators Avis Sam (Upper Tanana) and Irene Solomon Arnold (Tanacross)

Tanacross

February - Beads

Photo by Allan Hayton

Nat-tl’êdz = Beads

Natl’êdz éł ch’enih’ées. = I’m sewing with beads.

Listen to an audio recording:

Upper Tanana

February2

Photo by Allan Hayton

Naatl’ädn = Beads

Naatl’ädn eh nach’inihkąą’. = I’m sewing with beads.

Listen to an audio recording:

For more translations, view our Native word of the month archives on the Foundation website.

“Native languages are important to all Alaskans”

Beth LeonardBeth Leonard is a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage where she directs the Alaska Native Studies Program. She holds a doctorate in cross-cultural and Alaska Native studies in addition to degrees in linguistics and language and literacy. In 2014, she traveled to New Zealand as a Fulbright scholar.

Her parents are James Dementi of Nenana/Shageluk and the late Jean Dementi, originally from Ventura, California. Her maternal grandparents are Charles and Ruth Aubrey of Ventura, California; her paternal grandparents are Charlie Dementi of Dishkaket and Lena Phillips Dementi of Shageluk.  

Immediate family members include her husband, Michael Leonard; daughter, Samantha Jean Quinn, and son-in-law, Richard Quinn; and Jeanette Dementi, her father’s second wife, originally from Michigan.  

“I didn’t learn Deg Xinag growing up, so I didn’t understand and appreciate my culture as much as I could have,” Beth says. “Language helps connect me with my immediate and extended family. It strengthens my identity as a Deg Xit’an person.”

Beth was in her early 30s when she began learning the language from her father, James Dementi. “He was very patient,” she recalls. The two recently worked together to contribute translations for a new Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation building in Bethel. Elders who taught community-based language and cultural activities, sometimes including audioconferenced university courses, were also instrumental to her learning. These Elders included Raymond Dutchman, Hannah Maillelle, Katherine Hamilton, Louise Winkelman, Edna Deacon and Lucy Hamilton. Beth also learned from audio recordings of Belle Deacon of Grayling, Grace John of Shageluk, and others who were recorded during the 1970s Alaska Native Oral Literature Project.

“Because Alaska Native languages are so different from English, they’re often considered hard to learn,” Beth says. Learning to speak authentically can be a challenge; everyday activities may be expressed in several ways, so that some variations are more suited to certain situations or seasons than others.

“Fear of making mistakes has been among my biggest challenges,” Beth says.

She’s grateful for chances to learn with other language students and Elders: “I wish I’d learned more of the language as a younger person. Immersion programs, like those in Anchorage and Fairbanks, among other sites, are signs that young people are eager to learn Native languages.”

“I’m thankful for Elders and young people who take on this work,” she says. While administrative duties have limited her teaching lately, she’s eager to help guide efforts for Native language learning at the university level and beyond, including language revitalization work undertaken by some members of the Alaska Native Studies Council.

A class in Athabascan linguistics taught by Professor James Kari at the University of Alaska Fairbanks inspired Beth’s interest in learning Deg Xinag. His course and others introduced her to the history of ways that indigenous languages had been suppressed and marginalized. She went on to work with Alice Taff, a professor from the University of Alaska Southeast, who’s since retired. Alice contributed to a grammar of Deg Xinag and, with the help of educator Donna MacAlpine and several Elders, developed a Deg Xinag online dictionary. More recently, Alice and Donna recorded stories by Hannah Maillelle, Ellen Savage and Edna Deacon, available through a University of Alaska Southeast website.

Instrumental work in Deg Xinag has been done by many community members and educators, including Malinda and Marilyn Chase of Fairbanks/Anvik, George Holly of Soldotna/Holy Cross, and Jeanette Dementi, who helped translate the Lord’s Prayer and developed language-learning games, songs and other materials. Jeanette also recorded Beth’s father’s story about butchering a moose.

Sonta Hamilton Roach from Shageluk and Dr. LaVerne Demientieff from Fairbanks/Holy Cross have been active most recently in Deg Xinag language teaching initiatives, including facilitating the “Where Are Your Keys” method. LaVerne also began hosting a telephone language learning group in fall 2018.

Immersion methods of language learning, along with listening to recorded stories and conversations, are useful strategies for Beth because she’s not distracted by writing. “I found that I became too dependent on the writing system when I should have been developing my listening skills,” she says. For language learning, active listening can help with memorizing and pronunciation.

“Native languages are important to all of us Alaskans, as they carry thousands of years of knowledge and wisdom,” Beth says, adding that the languages embody worldviews that contrast with Western ways.

Virtues such as respect and reciprocity and the importance of right relationships are a foundation for many indigenous peoples in the way they speak about – and with – other people, the land and waters, and other beings that share the world. “These values are carried through Alaska Native languages in complex, academic ways,” Beth says.

As Doyon Foundation continues to grow our language revitalization efforts in the Doyon region, we would like 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.

85_our language grants promotion_blog

DEADLINE EXTENDED to Friday, February 15, 2019

 

In a continuing effort to revitalize the endangered Native languages of the Doyon region, Doyon Foundation will award grants of up to $5,000 to support language revitalization efforts. The application deadline for the 2019 Our Language grants has been extended to Friday, February 15, 2019, at 5 p.m. 

Download the 2019 Our Language grant application

Download and share grant informational flyer

Doyon region tribal governments/tribal councils/communities; nonprofit Alaska Native organizations, societies and community groups; and Alaska Native cultural, educational and recreational organizations/centers are eligible to apply for an Our Language grant.

Grant proposals must include a project description and timeline; plan for language documentation; project budget; completed community language survey; letter of support from village council or tribal office; and community language plan (optional).

The 10 ancestral languages of the Doyon region are all severely to critically endangered, and will be lost within the span of a few generations if no action is taken. These endangered languages include Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana), Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross), Hän, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Deg Xinag, Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga (Lower Tanana), Holikachuk, and Inupiaq.

Doyon, Limited established the language grant program in 2012, and the Doyon Foundation language revitalization program now manages the grant program. Last year, the Foundation awarded nine grants totaling $64,000 to support projects including professional development, radio broadcasts, teacher training, audio and video lesson development, language immersion activities, culture camps, and lesson plan development. Read more about the 2018 grant recipients on the Foundation blog.

“The goal of the Our Language grant program is to support efforts to revitalize the endangered languages of the Doyon region. We are honored to support awardees as they bring their language projects to life,” said Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program.

An application packet, with complete details and instructions, is available here. For additional information, contact Jennifer Mayo-Shannon at 907.459.2074 or mayo-shannonj@doyon.com.

We are pleased to present our January 2019 Native words of the month. Thank you to our translators Irene Solomon Arnold (Tanacross), Avis Sam (Upper Tanana) and George Holly, Jr. (Deg Xinag).

Tanacross 

Xey January

Photo by Allan Hayton

Naxaxaldíik = They tell stories.

Xey ta naxaxaldíik. = In the winter they tell stories.

Listen to an audio recording:

Upper Tanana 

January

Photo by Allan Hayton

Nahiholnek = They tell stories.

Xay tah nahiholnek. = In the winter they tell stories.

Listen to an audio recording:

Deg Xinag

songsGilekiye = Songs

Sraqay oxo q’oded gilekiye iłtse. = He is making new songs for the kids.

Listen to an audio recording:

For more translations, view our Native word of the month archives on the Foundation website.

DF_25_PCG Thank You Promotion_blog

Happy New Year – or as many Alaskans know it, happy first day to apply for your PFD! As you complete your PFD application this year, please consider supporting Doyon Foundation through Pick. Click. Give. Pledging a portion of your PFD through Pick. Click. Give. is a simple task, but one that makes a big difference.

Your tax-deductible gift will forward the efforts of the hundreds of students who depend on our scholarship program, as well as support the important work of our language revitalization program, striving to revitalize the endangered languages of the Doyon region.

Read more about our students, scholarship program and language revitalization efforts on our website. And remember, the last day to apply for your 2019 PFD is Sunday, March 31!

Of course, you are also welcome to make a direct gift to the Foundation on our website.

On behalf of the Foundation staff, board and students we serve, thank you for your support. Happy New Year!

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Photo courtesy of Jdmoar.

As you make your New Year’s Eve plans, consider an end-of-year gift to Doyon Foundation. Your tax-deductible gift will forward the efforts of the hundreds of students who depend on our scholarship program, as well as support the important work of our language revitalization program, striving to revitalize the endangered languages of the Doyon region.

There are many easy ways to show your support of the Foundation now and throughout the year:

On behalf of the Foundation staff, board and students we serve, thank you for your support. Happy New Year!

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