Native Culture


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Native American Heritage Month Series

Here are this week’s events! We hope to see you there!

Wood Carving Workshop – Tuesday from 5:30-7:00pm

Watch Da-ka-xeen Mehner demonstrate wood carving and listen to him discuss the cultural history of his style.

Koyukon Language Circle – Friday from 2-3:00pm

Led by Dewey Hoffman, join us for an afternoon of Koyukon language!

Positive Connection Night: Potluck-Style Family Dinner – Friday from 5-7:00pm

Join us for a potluck-style family dinner! Bring a dish, grab some food, sit down, relax, and enjoy everyone’s company. Stuffed moose heart and soup will definitely be there.

All events are free and will be in the Brooks Gathering Room.

If you have any questions, please contact Brianna Pauling at bpaulin1@alaska.edu.

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Rural Student Services

Fall 2017 Office Hours:
Monday through Friday – 8:00am-5:00pm

If you need to schedule an appointment with an advisor, please call (907) 474-7871 (locally) or (888) 478-1452 (toll free within Alaska).

You can also schedule online at:

http://www.uaf.edu/ruralss/advising-appointments/

Office location: Second Floor Brooks Buildling

Email: uaf-rss

Website: www.uaf.edu/ruralss/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/uafrss/

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Contact
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Rural Student Services
PO Box 756320, Fairbanks, AK 99775
(888) 478-1452
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“Student success is achieved with the help of family, a group of persons of common ancestry. At Rural Student Services, I feel at home.”

– Karly Gundersen, Port Lions

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University of Alaska Fairbanks Rural Student Services, Rural Student Services, PO BOX 756320, Fairbanks, AK 99775
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The University of Alaska Fairbanks Native Student Union is proud to present the Fall 2017 UAF Alaska Native Oratory Competition to be held November 10th from 6:00-9:00pm in the Rural Student Services Gathering Room (2nd Floor of Brooks Building). Students may enter one or more categories. Prizes for each category include: a 3 credit tuition waiver (1st place) and prize baskets (2nd & 3rd place).

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScOTLIUifvmKPRVDTr7k8TqHgw8aW-ff8K5kvpcVYypaUZK-w/viewform?c=0&w=1

Celebrate by sharing your language!

 

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Today is Indigenous Peoples Day, and Doyon Foundation invites you to celebrate by sharing YOUR language!

Earlier this summer, Gov. Bill Walker signed legislation recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day in Alaska. The law establishes Alaska as the second state in the nation to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October, replacing Columbus Day.

Join in the celebration by finding the “happy Indigenous Peoples Day” translation in your language below and sharing it on social media. Be sure to tag @DoyonFoundation and your language!

Upper Tananatanacrossfinalhan2Gwich'indin2Denaakk'eDeg XinagBenhti Kenaga'

Holikachuk#BenhtiKokhut’anaKenaga’

#DegXinag

#Denaakk’e

#Dinak’i

#DinjiiZhuhK’yaa

#Hän

#Holikachuk

#DihthâadXt’eenLlinAanďěg’

#Née’aaneegn’

#DoyonLanguages

Help us develop lessons for online language learning

Elder and youth recording Native language translations
Doyon Foundation
is looking for fluent speakers of Gwich’in (Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa) and Holikachuk to serve on our Native Speaker Review Committee. The volunteer members of this committee will assist us in reviewing lesson materials produced for the Doyon Languages Online project, and provide linguistic and/or cultural knowledge.

Interested individuals are encouraged to contact Allan Hayton or Nathan Feemster by Wednesday, November 15, 2017, using the following contact information:

Committee members may be Elders or anyone else wishing to be involved with the Doyon Languages Online project.

The Doyon Languages Online project, funded with a 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.

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.

October 17 at Elders & Youth Conference

 

Planning to be at AFN? If so, don’t miss Doyon Foundation’s “Taking Language Revitalization Online – Using GIFs to Get the Word Out” workshop during the First Alaskans Institute Elders & Youth Conference on Tuesday, October 17 at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. We are currently on the schedule for 3:45 p.m., but please check the daily schedule for current details on time and location.

edzooThe workshop will introduce Doyon Languages Online (DLO), a project to create and publish introductory language lessons for Native languages of the Doyon region. FAI summer intern, Diloola Erickson, will share her experience creating media content for DLO using Native GIFs. During the workshop, we will create a GIF live with youth participants’ ideas and Elders’ leadership. We will also brainstorm other forms of social media that could be used to get people excited and engaged with language revitalization.

This fun workshop is ideal for anyone interested in social media, language revitalization, youth engagement, and those with a good sense of humor. We hope you’ll join us!

Learn more about Doyon Foundation and Doyon Languages Online on our website, www.doyonfoundation.com, or contact Allan Hayton at haytona@doyon.com or 907.459.2162.

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:

 

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