Native Culture


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.

The 2016 FNA Potlatch & Pageants are to be held on March 19th at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall. Applications for Miss FNA, FNA Princess, and Baby Contest can be found at: www.fairbanksnative.org

Miss 2015 FNA Flyer.pdf

2016 FNA Potlatch & Pageant Flyer.pdf

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