Native Culture


Doyon Foundation is pleased to announce the 2017 Our Language grant awardees. After careful consideration, the selection committee chose eight proposals from among an impressive round of 19 applicant organizations. The awarded projects include community language classes, language app development, language learning through song and dance, curriculum development and summer camp activities.

“The 2017 Our Language grant awardees are an outstanding group dedicated to ensuring the ancestral languages of the Doyon region continue on for future generations,” says Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program.

2017 Our Language Awardees

Chalkyitsik: A project to revitalize the Draanjik Gwich’in language. The Chalkyitsik tribe seeks to add to and enhance language teaching in the school by creating language learning opportunities in the community. The project will compile lessons into book form for current and future learners.

Circle: This curriculum development and language teaching project, “Diiginjik Tr’oonta’, Holding On To Our Language,” will be a collaboration of the Circle Tribal Council, Danzhit Hanlaii Corporation, the community and Circle School. Instructor Mary Groat, assisted by Margaret Henry-John and Audrey Fields, will seek to “encourage youth to embrace, love, learn and take pride in their beautiful traditional language.” The project will offer classes throughout the summer in different locations around the community.

Grayling: This project will utilize traditional songs and dance to practice and learn the Holikachuk language. Language teachers will also teach in the classroom. The project will have two gatherings to bring Elders together and share the dances the community has learned.

Nenana: The Summer Youth Fish Camp is an annual program to connect young people with Athabascan culture and language. The Lower Tanana language is the most endangered of all the Doyon region languages, and this program is essential to instilling in younger generations the knowledge and traditions of the ancestors. This program is part of a larger community plan to address the challenges of language and culture loss.

Northway: A proposal to build a language app for the Née’aaneegn language of Northway to both preserve and teach the language. This project will be using technology developed by Native Innovation, a company based in Arizona. The app allows users to search for words in Née’aaneegn and provides the English translation, or vice-versa. It is an open source technology that will allow continued entries for no additional cost.

Ruby: This project will consolidate past language efforts and develop materials to be used by young learners. The project will begin by identifying and learning 30 essential words and phrases. They will then hold a weekly meeting to go over what they have learned, and then identify an additional 30 new words and phrases. These words and phrases will be recorded, and developed into flash cards and other materials for learners.

Tanana: This project will create video recordings of Elders speaking conversational Denaakk’e, as well as documenting traditional food gathering, medicinal plant use, and cultural activities. These videos will be used to develop pilot lesson plans for use in classrooms. The project aims to generate enthusiasm and impetus for continued language use in the school and community.

“All of these projects together embody the great hope we have for our languages, and how the languages can contribute to the success and wellbeing of our communities,” Allan shares. “It was a difficult task for the selection committee to narrow down their selections to this group of eight awardees. We thank everyone for applying, and we hope communities will submit their proposals to multiple funding organizations.”

Specifically, Doyon Foundation recognizes Arctic Village, Anvik, Dena’ Cultural Heritage Education Institute, Eagle, Hughes, Koyukuk, McGrath, Nikolai, Telida, and Tetlin, for their commitment to language revitalization.

About the Our Language Awards
The 10 ancestral languages of the Doyon region are all severely to critically endangered, and the Our Language grant program was developed to support the revitalization of these languages. Doyon, Limited originally established the language grant program in 2012. The Foundation’s language revitalization program now administers the grant program.

About the Language Revitalization Program

Due to the rapidly decreasing health of creative and fluent Native language speakers, the Native languages within the Doyon region are not being passed on quickly enough to ensure their survival. There is an urgent need to promote and foster language opportunities for non-speakers.

In 2009, Doyon Foundation created the language revitalization committee to respond to this need, and began creating a region-wide language revitalization program that would address one of the Foundation’s vision elements for a “Strong Demonstration of Native Traditional Language and Culture.”

In 2012, the Doyon, Limited board of directors, along with full support from Doyon President Aaron Schutt, agreed with the language revitalization committee and awarded start-up funding to establish the language revitalization program.

For more information about the grants or the program, please visit www.doyonfoundation.com, or contact 907.459.2048 or foundation@doyon.com.

The Alaska Native Artist Resource Workbook is produced by the Alaska State Council on the Arts in partnership with The CIRI Foundation to assist Alaska Native artists in furthering their artistic careers.

Click HERE to view the handbook.

Editor’s note: Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jennie Irwin, who passed away on January 18, 2017. Jennie is pictured below in several of the photos from the Nenana Fish Camp.

The Nenana Native Association and Toghotthele Corporation hosted their annual Fish Camp July 18 – 29, 2016. The camp, organized by Janet Allen, Jeri Knabe and Amanda Salmon, and staffed by Kelly Ann Burke, Tracy Snow and Lynn Puryear, was open to all. Children and families from neighboring communities and many from the “non-Native” community attended the camp. Doyon Foundation’s Our Language grant and Doyon, Limited’s Daaga’ Awards were among the funders for this year’s Fish Camp, which promotes Lower Tanana Athabascan values of knowledge and respect for culture and heritage.

Lower Tanana language was a cornerstone of this year’s camp, and the children learned the names for parts of the human body, greetings, familial names, and how to identify many different animals in the language. They also had a great time singing songs in their ancestral language loudly and with confidence.

Parents have reported that their children have retained the knowledge from the camp – and are now sharing with the community. Carol Thomas shared, “I really enjoyed talking with my granddaughter about what she had learned during each day.” Lilly O’Brien, parent of two attendees, said, “I think my girls learned this year – they learn more and more every year.”

“I am confident that if you asked my kids if they would rather spend two weeks at fish camp – or two weeks at Disneyland – that they would choose Fish Camp.” – Tracy Snow

Camp attendees also went berry picking, took boat rides, learned camping and safety skills, and made many crafts. All attendees – kids, staff, elders and parents – truly enjoyed all aspects of Fish Camp. The kids enjoyed the games, the field trips and the food. The adults enjoyed talking with the kids about what they had learned. Adults also took pride in the fact that their children are now singing at cultural events and encouraging others to do so.

Attendees talked about goals for next year, including having kids stay at camp during bad weather to get a feel for what fish camp is “really” like during less-than-favorable conditions. They would also like to put additional focus on camping skills, such as setting up camp, collecting wood, tanning hides or collecting the birch bark for baskets. Parents would like their children learning skills from the beginning (collecting materials) to the end (finished product).

Each year families enjoy coming together at “Toghotthele,” which means “mountain that parallels the river,” to learn the language, music, and ways of the ancestors. Tracy Snow, staff and parent of four attendees, shared, “I am proud that my kids can sing and dance and speak at cultural events, and that they enthusiastically ask others to participate too.”

For more information on the Our Language grants or Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program, please visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact Allan Hayton at haytona@doyon.com or 907.459.2162.

First Alaskan Institute Elders & Youth Conference will be hosted in Fairbanks this year on October 17-19, 2016.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

WWW.FIRSTALASKANS.ORG

ELLATONUCHUK

EY FLYER (002).pdf

By Allan Hayton

Doyon Foundation Language Revitalization Program Director

The 2016 Alaska Language Summit organized by the office of Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, and hosted by the Sealaska Heritage Institute, took place February 22-23 at the Walter Soboleff Building in Juneau.

The event brought together leaders in Alaska Native language revitalization together with representatives from Hawaiian, Mohawk, and Maori languages. Guest lecturers Dr. Larry Kimura (University of Hawaii Hilo), Dr. Kēhaulani ʻAipia-Peters (‘Aha Punana Leo), Jeremy Tehota’kera:ton Green (Mohawk Six Nations), and Hana Mereraiha (Maori) shared their experiences, knowledge, and strategies for language revitalization with the summit.

This language summit was among the first of its kind here in Alaska. One of the major goals of the summit was to build a statewide network of support for those working in language revitalization. Kreiss-Tomkins, while working on the Alaska Native official languages bill, noticed that “people were independently developing models and practices in different regions of the state, and we felt there’s a lot of opportunity for people in different parts of Alaska to learn from each other.”

Attendees shared their concerns about the decline of Alaska Native languages, and also their hopes for the future. Dr. Edna Ahgeak MacLean, commissioner of Iñupiat History, Language, and Culture for the North Slope Borough, stated that the Indigenous languages of Alaska are “a source of wealth,” and that “no responsible leader would stand idly by while one of their riches is dwindling away.”

X’unei Lance Twitchell, assistant professor of Alaska Native languages at the University of Alaska Southeast, spoke about a hopeful vision for the future of Alaska Native languages where we could look back and ask ourselves, “Hey, remember how much trouble we were in? Remember how scary it was to think we might lose our languages?”

During the language summit there were presentations involving different education models from Sally Samson and Agatha John-Shields of the Ayaprun Elitnaurvik School in Bethel (charter school), Nikaitchuat Ilisagvait immersion school in Kotzebue (private/tribal), and Brandon Locke of the Anchorage School District (public). Other participants shared their language revitalization efforts including developing pre-kindergarten learning materials, master-apprentice programs, creating immersion childcare centers, creating wikis and online language classes, and building “language nests.”

It was truly empowering hearing all of the different languages, songs, ideas, inspiration, and the support for one another. The work of language revitalization can seem like such an uphill battle at times, so it is good to know we are not alone in this work. I hope that there will be many more language summits like this one in the future. Hai’ shalak naii datthak. Tth’aii nihk’it gwiinzii gwitr’it t’agoh’in. Thank you all my relatives. Keep up the good work.

Allan Hayton, Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program director, spoke recently at the invitation-only TEDxFairbanks 2016. The event, which was the first TEDx event to be held in Fairbanks, took place February 21 at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center Theater, and was also web-streamed live around the world. View photos of the event.Hayton at TEXx 2

“It is an honor, and a great opportunity (to speak at the event),” Hayton said. “I think we all have important stories to share, and so I feel privileged to share some small part of my journey.”

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading,” and supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.

In his talk, titled Intimate Space: Athabascan Language, Land, Culture, Hayton discussed how the Athabascan languages of Alaska have developed over centuries in intimate conversation with the natural world.

“Each Athabascan language is a linguistic landscape: the sounds tł’, ts’, shr, a rustle of leaves; ghw, k’, t’, the feel of the earth beneath the feet; aii, oo, uu, branches growing towards the sun,” Hayton explained.

“Athabascan language, stories, beliefs and knowledge passed down for generations are intertwined with the land, representing a living, breathing life force. We must reconnect the broken ties with the land and our languages for healing and revitalization to begin,” he added.

Hayton said he enjoyed the other TEDx speakers, whose topics ranged from sparking innovation and reintegrating the arts, humanities and sciences, to social justice, art, and climate change.

“The genius and beauty of the TED series is that it’s about sharing ideas and inspiration from many different points of view,” Hayton remarked.

As the director of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program, Hayton believes it helps to speak publicly and share the story of language revitalization.

“A general audience doesn’t spend much time thinking about language revitalization, and why it is important,” he said. “I speak about language revitalization from my experiences within my own life. It helps to put a personal spin on such a large topic; people are better able to understand and relate from a human perspective.”

Hayton’s passion for language revitalization stems from time spent with elders during his youth in Arctic Village. “‘Diiginjik k’yaa riheeł’ee … We hold our language in high regard.’ I heard this expression many times from elders as I was growing up,” he shared. “They impressed it upon us younger people, and held us responsible for speaking and passing on the language. I still hear their voices in my memory, and I have to honor their wishes as best I can.”

For more information on Doyon Foundation and the language revitalization program, visit www.doyonfoundation.com. For more information on TEDxFairbanks, visit www.ted.com/tedx.

By Allan Hayton

Doyon Foundation Language Revitalization Program Director

Evan Gardner and Susannah Ciotti returned to Fairbanks for a month-long series of Where Are Your Keys (WAYK) workshops, hosted by Doyon Foundation in January. The WAYK system is a comprehensive method for revitalizing endangered languages and skills.

Athabascan languages, as with all Alaska Native languages, are endangered, some with only a handful of speakers. As we are losing more and more first language Athabascan speakers, it is important to find engaging ways for young learners to begin picking up the languages.

WAYK is a fun method for beginning learners, using sign language to avoid the use of English in the learning setting. Many of the signs, or techniques, such as “angel on your shoulder,” “mumble,” “slow down,” and “again” are geared toward beginning learners and the challenges they face. WAYK trainings give a good picture of what language revitalization looks and feels like by bringing together elders and speakers with new learners. It is always a great experience seeing people light up when they learn something new about their language.

Day-long refresher/introduction workshops were held focusing in on three languages: Gwich’in (January 2 in Fairbanks); Lower Tanana (January 16 in Fairbanks); and Upper Tanana (January 23 in Northway). Following the workshops were daily classes in each of the three languages. There were also participants from other Athabascan languages, as well as Ahtna and Alutiiq languages. Doyon Foundation assisted Grant Rebne gather 14 Ahtna Language Learners (ALL) for a language workshop. Providing the space is a great way for Doyon Foundation to help out another language revitalization effort.

The January 2 workshop was a great success, and in the follow-up sessions Evan and Susannah worked closely with Effie Kokrine Charter School language instructor Kenneth Frank on employing WAYK in his classroom. They also visited the Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’atoh Language Nest and Lower Tanana sessions with Sarah Silas at Denakkanaaga’, providing community organizing tips for each of the sites and language events they visited.

The month of WAYK workshops brought together the key teachers and perpetuators of culture and language learning in their communities, and there were many highlights. I was especially moved to see the people of Nenana and Minto coming together in the January 16 Lower Tanana workshop. It was also great having Lower Tanana and Gwich’in groups meeting together as one before dividing into focused language learning groups. This was also the first time Doyon Foundation has held a WAYK training in a rural community, Northway. In addition to the sessions at the Youth Center, WAYK was brought to the school where young students were led on “language learning walks” through the school.

It was a very good month, and we are happy for all those who attended. It is their participation that made this series of WAYK workshops a great success. Photos from the January workshops have been posted to the Doyon Foundation Facebook Page.

The staff of Doyon Foundation worked as a team on the 2016 WAYK series of language learning and teaching workshops. I would like to express my gratitude to the staff for their assistance on promotion, making phone calls, sending emails, organizing, making moose soup, and sacrificing a couple of Saturdays for these workshops.

Mahsi’ choo ts’a’ gwiinzii adak’ohtii, thank you and take care.

Next Page »