Learning Opportunities


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.

Last call!
Date – August 11-13, 2017
Location – Camp Bingle on Harding Lake

  • Airfare for Yukon Koyukuk School District Students & meals are included
  • Overnight at camp Friday – Sunday
  • Open to youth entering grades 8-12

For more information contact Andrea Durny at adurny@yksd.com or (907) 374-9424.

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See below for our August Native word of the month in Gwich’in!

Zhehk’aa – Family
Shizhehk’aa naii gwiintł’oo goovihtsai’. – I cherish my family very much.

Listen to an audio recording.

August

Hai’ (thank you) to Allan Hayton for providing this month’s translation.

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

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

Below is a class list for Fall 17 and Spring 18 in the Alaska Native Business Management area of study at UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy. For more information contact Sharon Guenther Lind at 907-786-4166 or email at sglind@alaska.edu.

Alaska_Native_Organizational_Management.pdf

UAF’s Department of Alaska Native Studies & Rural Development is seeking an Alaska Native graduate student (current or prospective) to join their team. Students could pursue Master’s or Ph.D. studies in Rural Development, Indigenous Studies, or Fisheries at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Student must be based in Alaska, but location is flexible. Students must be willing to travel to rural communities across Alaska. We offer two full years of funding (tuition, stipend, and benefits). Expected start date is fall 2017. Interested applicants should contact Courtney Carothers or Jessica Black. Applications, including CV, statement of interest, copy of transcript(s), and names and contact information of three references should be emailed to by August 11.

Please contact Courtney Carothers at clcarothers@alaska.edu or 907-375-1412; Jessica Black at jcblack@alaska.edu or (907) 474-7434 for more information.

AISES is pleased to announce they will begin accepting applications for travel scholarships to this year’s National Conference in Denver, CO September 21-23, 2017.

Award Amount:

Awards will vary in amount and are meant to help cover the following expenses: roundtrip airfare, lodging, and conference registration. Any remaining funds after those items will help to cover other associated travel costs.

Once an award is made, AISES will:

  • Purchase roundtrip airfare;
  • Make hotel accommodations, students will be assigned a roommate; and
  • Send awardees a code to register themselves.

Meals that are not provided at the conference, parking fees, and transportation to and from the airport are the student’s responsibility.  Likewise, expenses that exceed the scholarship amount are the student’s responsibility.  AISES will provide lodging for four (4) nights: September 20, 21 22, and 23, 2017.

 

Click HERE for more information or to apply.

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.

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