We’re giving away 20 laptops to Foundation students!

With the shift to virtual work, classes and social interaction over the past year, computer and online access is more important than ever. At Doyon Foundation, we know this can cause hardship for students who do not have easy access to these resources. 

In an effort to support our students in a comprehensive way, we are pleased to launch our computer gifting program! Thanks to the generosity of donors designDATA and the Google American Indian Network, we have a pool of Lenovo ThinkPads to gift to students at no cost, to help them succeed in their educational journeys.

To be eligible to receive a computer, applicants must:

  • Be enrolled to Doyon, Limited, or the child of an original enrollee.
  • Be accepted to an accredited college, university, technical or vocational school.
  • Have a minimum GPA of 2.0 (undergraduates), 3.0 (graduate/master’s) or 3.25 (specialists/doctorates).
  • Have applied or been awarded a Doyon Foundation scholarship in the past.

This program is need-based. Students who do not currently have access to a computer, and need one to pursue their educational goals, are invited to complete our online student computer need survey. Students who cannot access the online form may contact us at 907.459.2049 or scholarships@doyon.com and a Foundation staff member can complete the online form by proxy.

The deadline to complete the computer need survey is Friday, August 27, at 5 p.m. We will then review the submissions and eligible students will be entered into a random drawing to receive one of 20 Lenovo ThinkPads.

We will announce the computer recipients during our scholarship award recognition presentation, which will take place virtually on Friday, September 10. Watch the Foundation website and social media for more details on the event, or sign up for our email updates to receive the latest news.  

Remember – complete the computer need survey online by Friday, August 27, at 5 p.m. If you have questions or need help completing the form by proxy, contact us at 907.459.2049 or scholarships@doyon.com.

A University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) student graduating in 2021, Rebekah Gidinatiy Hartman is the daughter of Michael and Angela Hartman. Her maternal grandparents are Alice and Rudy Demientieff of Holy Cross. Rebekah’s hometown is Wasilla. 

Two years ago, Doyon Foundation student Rebekah Hartman was the keynote speaker at a Foundation event, where she shared about her educational journey and how the Foundation scholarship program was helping her reach her goal of graduating from UAF with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in printmaking.

At the event, she met Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program, who shared that he was looking for artists to submit work for a book project being led by the Foundation. Fast-forward a year and Hartman just completed a series of illustrations that will be featured in the Foundation’s soon-to-be released Our Languages Everyday Activity Book, designed to help families incorporate Native language learning into their daily lives.

Rebekah Hartman’s art will be featured in Doyon Foundation’s upcoming Our Languages Everyday Activity Book

“I was interested to take on this project because working for Doyon Foundation is a great opportunity and it helps me feel more connected to my language,” Hartman says. “I hope my illustrations will help others too.”

Hartman credits the award-winning animated children’s program “Steven Universe” with helping set the course for her future. “Those are the types of shows I want to work on,” she says. The Cartoon Network adventure series tells the story of friends protecting their own kind in a fictionalized world. “Growing up, I did not really know anything about LGBTQ+ people — I thought they were strange. It was shows like ‘Steven Universe’ that made me realize I was wrong.”

“What attracts me to animation is that, first of all, it’s beautiful and second is the impact that animated stories can have,” Hartman says. “I want to work on stories that are meaningful and inclusive.”

An active volunteer focused on projects to benefit Alaska Native people, Hartman served as student club secretary of the Alaska Native Social Workers Association in the 2019 – 2020 school year. The UAF group’s purpose includes service to others and promoting awareness of Alaska Native cultures in the state. At the winter holidays, Hartman helped make greeting cards for the Fairbanks Native Association Elder Program. She has volunteered with First Alaskans Institute, an Anchorage-based public policy and research group, and with the Elders and Youth Conference sponsored by Alaska Federation of Natives.

One of the pieces Rebekah Hartman created for her fall BFA art show

Hartman hopes other students will be attentive to mental health, especially if interest in school or self-confidence starts to slip. “What I’ve found helpful to address these emotions is going to counseling,” she shares. “It helps clear my mind and to understand myself better.”

As part of her graduation requirements, Hartman will have her BFA thesis exhibition this fall, from September 7 – 17 at the UAF Fine Arts Gallery. Her opening reception takes place Thursday, September 9, from 5 – 7 p.m. “My show theme is Dinayetr ‘Our Breath’: Deg Xinag Language Revitalization. It is about seeing the word and an image with it to help a person remember it.“

“My work in Dinayetr ‘Our Breath’: Deg Xinag Language Revitalization is about creating visual representations of the Deg Xinag language. I create art based on words and phrases from the Deg Xinag online dictionary. My art is centered around a desire to reclaim my family’s Athabascan language, a language skill that was taken from my family due to the prevalence of colonial boarding schools. My artwork is united by a sense of whimsy and wordplay. For instance, my etching titled Yix Xidina’ Yi’idituq, which translates to the Deg Xinag phrase ‘the house spirits jump up,’ is a lively and illustrative image of a girl violently sneezing, startling the house spirits. One example of the wordplay I employ in my art is my print of a dragonfly on a shield. In Deg Xinag, dragonfly or ‘Siq’angine’ literally means ‘protect me,’ which I have visually represented through the shield on my print. The majority of my artwork in this exhibition is created through prints and digital art. My overall goal for this exhibit is to make it easier for people to learn Deg Xinag. Having multiple modes of representation, including visual art, makes language revitalization more accessible to other Deg Xit’an people,” reads Hartman’s artist statement.

After graduating this fall, Hartman plans to attend art school to earn a master’s degree in animation. “I want to work on a show that includes Indigenous people,” she said. “We are constantly forgotten in television and when we are included, there are usually stereotypes.”

Among her favorite animated series is “Molly of Denali,” a first-of-its kind children’s show whose main character is an Alaska Native person. “My goal,” Hartman says, “is to create meaningful stories for people to watch.”

Keep an eye on the Foundation’s website and social media channels for upcoming announcements about the Our Languages Everyday Activity Book, featuring art by Hartman.

After more than a year of being unable to meet in person, Doyon Foundation hosted an ANEP Language Gathering in Tok in early June 2021.

The goal of the three-day gathering was to record audio for use in Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana) and Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross) courses being developed as part of the Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project.

The majority of the necessary audio files were recorded during the recent gathering. As next steps, the Foundation will arrange to bring language teams to Fairbanks to finish out the audio recordings and begin video recordings.

We thank the language gathering participants, including Glen Demit, Cora Demit, Verna Hagen, Irene Arnold, Polly Hyslop and Chance Shank, as well as volunteer Annastasia Johnson, for sharing their time and knowledge.

Once completed, the Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana) and Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross) courses will join the currently available Doyon Languages Online courses in Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in) and Holikachuk, as well as a special Hän course based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby. Additional courses in Hän, Deg Xinag and Denak’i (Upper Kuskokwim) are also in development.

Doyon Languages Online courses are available for free to all interested learners who want to learn the endangered languages of the Doyon region. Learn more at www.doyonfoundation.com/dlo.

View our 2021 graduate yearbook!

Get to know the Doyon Foundation Class of 2021 in our interactive graduate yearbook, and help celebrate our 2021 graduates in our inspiring graduate video! The yearbook was just released on our website and the video just premiered on our YouTube channel.

This year, we celebrated more than 60 Doyon Foundation graduates from high school, certificate, associate, bachelor’s and master’s programs. We are so proud of their efforts and accomplishments, and are excited to introduce and celebrate them in this year’s graduate yearbook and video. Please watch and share!

If you have graduate information additions or corrections, please contact us at scholarships@doyon.com.

Watch our 2021 graduate video!

Photo courtesy of https://pixnio.com/fauna-animals/deers/moose-and-elk/aerial-photo-of-moose-in-river

Thank you to our speakers Steven Nikolai, Sr. and his grandson, Blake Nikolai, for sharing our July 2021 Native Word of the Month in Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim)!

Dineje = Moose

Dineje dot’anh? = What is the moose doing?

Dineje nok’ot miłdiłanh dighnoisdinh ts’e’ hits’tsa el’gotch’. = The moose was sleeping on the sandbar and got up and ran.

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

We also invite you to access free online language-learning lessons by signing up for Doyon Languages Online! We currently have lessons available for Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Holikachuk and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), as well as a special set of Hän lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby. All interested learners may sign up and access the courses at no charge – sign up today!

“The smile on an Elder’s face when they hear you speak is the best motivation!”

Rochelle Adams

Shoozhrì’ Rochelle Adams oozhįį. Gwichyaa Zhee ts’à’ Tseeduu diink’eedhat. Shiyehghan naįį Angela Peter-Mayo ts’à’ Cliff Adams goovoozhrì’. Shahan Gwichyaa Zhee gwats’an nilįį ts’à’ Shitì’ Tseeduu gwats’an nilįį. Shigii naįį Amaya, Koso Naazhrii ts’à’ Łeeyadaakhan goovoozhrì’. Shalak naįį łyâa gwiintł’oo gooveet’ihthan. Diinan ts’à’ diichuu haa diigwandaii nilii! Nihłaa narilzhii nan vak’aiirinyaa. Chihłak tr’inlii! Mahsì’ choo Shalak naįį! It’ee.

Rochelle Adams is the daughter of Angela Peter-Mayo of Fort Yukon and the late Cliff Adams, Jr. of Beaver. Her maternal grandparents are the late Susie Lord Peter of Nenana and Fort Yukon and Johnny Peter, Sr. of Fort Yukon. Rochelle’s paternal grandparents are Hanna “Babe” Adams and the late Clifford Adams, Sr.

Rochelle’s children are Amaya, Koso and Leeyadaakhan. Her heritage language is Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in).

A member of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization committee, Rochelle Adams is committed to language learning and teaching, especially in ways that involve art to develop materials and content. She serves as a cultural adviser to Molly of Denali, the award-winning animated PBS television series and the first children’s programming of its kind to feature an Alaska Native character in the title role.

Rochelle studied design at the Institute of American Indian Arts and holds a bachelor’s degree with a focus on Native art and languages from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). She is pursuing a master’s degree in applied linguistics at UAF with an emphasis on Native language education.

Rochelle is the Indigenous engagement director for Native Peoples Action, an Anchorage-based advocacy group whose mission is to align the knowledge, values and ways of being of Alaska Native people with regulatory and governing policies that affect daily life. She lives in Anchorage. 

Doyon Foundation: Congratulations on your work with Molly of Denali, recently renewed for a second season. How did the program find you? What does a cultural adviser like you do to help Molly be successful?

Rochelle Adams: I was invited to join as a cultural bearer because of my work in language and culture in my region and also statewide. In the beginning, the cultural advisors really shaped the world of Molly. We envisioned who she was and who her family and community were. Now we advise on all levels of production to tell authentic Alaska stories. We do this out of love and to carry our traditional values from our communities.

It’s exciting that children are growing up in a world where Molly, a young Alaska Native person, shares her stories and adventures. It really brings Indigenous people to the forefront. We get to reset some of those stereotypes and misconceptions. It means so much to me to be a part of this!

DF: Language learning and teaching seem like a natural extension of your upbringing in a traditional Athabascan lifestyle, following the Yukon River seasons of hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering. Who comes to mind as you think about your own language learning?

RA: My grandfathers on both sides of my family were the strongest language speakers and then my grandparents before them. My parents were from the generation that did not speak the language, but they understood a lot. I’m also grateful to my bilingual teachers, including Mary Fields, when I was in grade school.

Language connects me to my people, my community, my place and my ancestors. It’s the tie that connects our long line of culture to a place. It’s our core.

DF: Learning from Elders is one of the things that heritage language learners say they really treasure. Why do you think that is?

RA: Speaking with Elders as often as I can is among the best techniques to learn the language. There’s nothing like the smile and look on an Elder’s face when they hear you speak! It’s the best motivation.

Practice in as many ways as I can has really helped me learn. Reading our stories and listening to recordings have really helped me. Finding every resource and being on this journey of teaching and learning have been so fulfilling.

DF: Readers will know you from your statewide efforts on language advocacy as an aspect of inclusion. To name just a few, you’ve helped to mobilize the Alaska Native vote, promote safety and getting vaccinated during the pandemic, and joined Indigenous-language efforts to see that the Census reaches Alaska Native people. And, in 2019, you helped lead a panel at a language-learning weekend sponsored by Doyon Foundation. How do these efforts fit into your commitment to the Gwich’in language?

RA: I advocate for the language in as many spaces as possible. I enjoy facilitating language panels that do translation and messaging for education purposes. I teach where I can and always find ways to learn.

I really love working with my home region of the Yukon Flats and building Gwich’in content with our local Elders, speakers, educators and language learners. Some of my projects with Elders center on art and traditional activities so that I may learn them and document them to pass on cultural knowledge. I love sharing these resources and uplifting the language in any way I can!

DF: What ideas do you have to practice the language?

RA: The biggest challenge has been to practice with fluent speakers, to use the language. I overcome this by speaking with my children. It’s a great way to teach what I know. And when you teach, you learn – one reinforces the other. I also use social media to practice with fluent speakers and knowledge holders. I use books, videos and audio, and I search out speakers for face-to-face practice.

I want to learn the original place names in Alaska and I ask a lot of questions. I do land acknowledgments that honor the original people whose lands I’m on. I seek the knowledge of place.

DF: You’re guided by an awareness that you’re an Elder in training. How does your commitment to language learning, teaching and advocacy fit in?

RA: I plan to share as I learn. I plan to continue all the work I’m doing now to help grow, support and encourage the next generation of language learners and teachers.

Language is a very important part of who we are and it’s also vital to the health and wellness of our lands and waters. Embedded in our language is an understanding of the need to be good stewards of our homes and all that live alongside us, our fish, bird and animal relatives.

About Doyon Languages Online

Through the Doyon Language Online project, Doyon Foundation is developing introductory online lessons for Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Deg Xinag, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross), Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Hän, Holikachuk and Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana).

The project officially launched in summer 2019 with the first four courses, now available for free to all interested learners.

Doyon Languages Online is funded by a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), awarded in 2016, and an additional three-year grant from the Alaska Native Education Program (ANEP), awarded in 2017.

About the Language Champion Profile Series

As Doyon Foundation continues to grow our language revitalization efforts in the Doyon region, we believe it is important 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, or sign up to access the free Doyon Languages Online courses here.

“Goals influence all of your decisions”

In honor of our 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Shane Derendoff. This is the last in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

A software developer based in North Pole, Shane Derendoff is the son of Cece Derendoff-Nollner and Francis Nollner, both of Huslia. His maternal grandparents are Angeline Happy and Richard Derendoff, both of Cutoff-Huslia. Cutoff, a flood-prone site, was established in the 1920s and eventually relocated to the area known today as Huslia.

Shane has served as president of the Doyon Foundation board and is a past director of the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center in Fairbanks. His hometown is the Koyukon Athabascan community of Huslia.

Shane Derendoff believes that setting goals for yourself — including goals that others may consider far-fetched — are a key to steady success.

“It never hurts to ask,” he said. “These goals influence all of your decisions from that point forward, most times subconsciously.” Pursuing higher education is among self-assigned goals he values, but he’s realistic about obstacles.

“My challenge has been to keep motivated, to keep pushing to completion,” he said. “Often it’s easier to just get a job and make a wage. But sticking to your educational goals will pay long-term dividends and raise your potential career ceiling.”

Shane earned a bachelor of science degree in 1998 from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he was a recipient of Doyon Foundation scholarships. Before enrolling in the master’s of business administration (MBA) program at Alaska Pacific University (APU), where his emphasis is information technology, he served as technical service manager at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and owned Koyukon Consulting. He anticipates graduating from APU in 2022.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Shane went on to volunteer for several years on the Doyon Foundation board. “I gained key nonprofit experience,” he said. “Once I started my MBA, Doyon Foundation has funded me each step of the way.”

Shane plans to continue working as a software developer while attending APU and then start a consulting practice after graduation. His interests are management and nonprofit and leadership training. He enjoys seeking out other professionals whose early-career experiences mesh with his own. And he makes time for traditional activities such as hunting, wood-cutting and helping Elders.

“Doyon Foundation has been a key part of my educational and professional background,” he said.

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. To learn more, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

Congratulations to the 130 students who are receiving a total of $247,200 in scholarships for the summer 2021 semester! We are pleased to award 56 full-time basic scholarships and 74 part-time basic scholarships to students in a wide variety of programs, including certificate, associate, bachelor’s, graduate and vocational.

Students, your scholarship is on its way! Log in to your student account if you have questions about your scholarship status.

We’re busy processing our fall scholarship applications, so keep an eye out for an announcement of those awards this summer. Also, mark your calendar now for our next scholarship application deadline: November 15 is the deadline to apply for scholarships for the spring 2022 semester, and the online application will be available on our website starting in early August.

Learn more about our scholarships in our scholarship brochure, our vocational scholarship brochure and scholarship resource handbook. You can also read about some of our past and current recipients on our blog!

These scholarships are made possible through the generosity of our donors. See a list of last fiscal year’s donors on our website. If you’d like to get involved, we invite you to visit our website to learn about the different ways you can support the Foundation and our students. 

For more information or assistance, contact our scholarship program manager at 907.459.2048 or scholarships@doyon.com.

Boat launch in Tanacross

Thank you to our speakers Nellie Probert, Dollie Jonathan and Irene Arnold for sharing summer-themed translations in Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross) for our June 2021 Native Word of the Month!

Sheen = Summer

Nellie: Sheen tah shaa xuns̲ųų. = I like summer.

Dollie: Sheen tah łuug ghah Dihthâad nits’indah. = In the summer we move to Mansfield for fishing.

Irene: Ą̂ą, sheen tah jêg ts’enehtsíik. = Yes, we pick berries in the summer.

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

We also invite you to access free online language-learning lessons by signing up for Doyon Languages Online! We currently have lessons available for HolikachukDenaakk’eBenhti Kenaga’ and Gwich’in, as well as a special set of Hän lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby. All interested learners may sign up and access the courses at no charge – sign up today!

Doyon Foundation scholarships help me share diversity within health care-related discussions”

– Hannah Bagot

In honor of our upcoming 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Hannah Bagot. This is the latest in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

A graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hannah Bagot is the daughter of Michael and Helen Bagot. Hannah recently completed a master’s degree in health care administration and graduated in May 2021. Her hometown is Pleasanton, California.

Hannah recalls searching out college programs to find one that matched her goals. It’s a path familiar to many students on their way to a rewarding career.

“I explored other majors in health care but they never seemed to be the right fit,” Hannah said, adding that obstacles like these can feel like failure.

“But through volunteering, working and internships, I eventually came to find the right profession for me,” she said. Hannah has volunteered at hospitals in North Carolina and in Utah, where she worked with a physical fitness program for children with special needs.

“My biggest piece of advice for other students is to take opportunities and try new things even if they’re not in your scope of interest or field of study. Everything can be a learning experience,” she said.

“You never know where you will pick up new skills, meet new people, or discover new passions. Try not to compare yourself with others.”

Scholarships from Doyon Foundation have helped Hannah attend schools to gain professional and academic skills for success in health care. “Doyon Foundation has made it possible for me to pursue a graduate degree in a field I’m passionate about,” she said. “Doyon Foundation scholarships have given me the opportunity to share diversity within health care-related discussions.”

After her recent graduation in May 2021, Hannah’s plans include serving as the Health Policy and Management Fellow for Hoag Hospital and Orthopedic Institute in Orange County, California.

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. There are still opportunities to support the event as a sponsor or volunteer; to learn more and get involved, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

“Doyon Foundation has made my dreams possible”

In honor of our upcoming 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Calee Stark. This is the latest in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

An undergraduate at the University of Washington (UW), Calee Stark is the daughter of Emily Pitka of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Wes Stark, raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Calee plans to study psychology with the goal of becoming a physician assistant following her graduation from UW in 2023. Her hometown is Fairbanks.

As a student with an interest in autism, Calee Stark believes that one of the best things about her career field – health care – is that it doesn’t yet have all the answers. “Many things remain unknown that we can one day hope to discover,” she says.

Calee traces her commitment to medicine after witnessing care extended to an uncle who was treated for cancer. “Watching the nurses and physicians attempt to do everything they could inspired me to want to improve the level of care in the future,” she shares.

Her short-term goal includes continuing her work as a certified nursing assistant at a Seattle nursing home and eventually serving her community as a physician assistant (PA) in hospitals. Working under a doctor’s supervision, PAs often are among the first medical staff that a patient meets. Physician assistants may examine and diagnose injury or illness, treat and educate patients, and prescribe medicine, among other primary care duties undertaken by doctors.

“Doyon Foundation has made my dreams of working in the medical field possible,” Calee says. “It allowed me to focus on my studies and not stress about how to afford my education. I’m beyond grateful for that.”

A member of organizations aimed at advancing the interests of Indigenous students, Calee belongs to First Nations at UW, an intertribal group focusing on culture and traditions, and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Her future plans include taking part in a clinical internship with Apex Summer Camp through the UW Autism Center. The camp offers student interns a chance to gain research insight while it helps children build social and behavioral skills.

Calee, who graduated from high school in 2019, says that college students who encounter challenging courses may benefit from re-thinking what they’ve learned about learning: Strategies that served her well in high school were falling short at a competitive university that attracted other bright students.

“For a while I struggled to learn how to properly study,” she shares. “This was a challenge because I wasn’t used to asking for help.” She soon found on-campus sites for academic advising. Calee says she benefited from more efficient study habits as well as learning the rewards of asking for help. “That ended up being the solution to my problem,” she says.

Her advice to other students: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they may sound obvious.

“If you’re struggling in a class, acknowledge that but don’t let it continue for long,” she advises. “More opportunities started lining up for me when I started to ask questions.” That led her to realize that many people are willing to help: “Just ask!” 

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. There are many opportunities to support the event as a sponsor, golfer or volunteer; to learn more and get involved, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

“Thank you so much for your academic support of Alaska Native students!”

– Core LePore

In honor of our upcoming 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Cory LePore. This is the latest in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

Cory LePore is currently an MBA student with a finance concentration at Alaska Pacific University, and will be completing his program this summer. Previously, Cory earned an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in 2018, and received his master of arts degree in economics from the University of Hawaii Manoa in spring 2020. He is a member of the International Economics Honor Society, which recognizes scholastic achievement. Originally from Bethel, Cory is the son of Cory LePore, Sr. and Cindy LePore, both of Bethel. His maternal grandparents are Beverly Turner and Thaddeus Tikiun, both of Holy Cross.

Doyon Foundation: Congratulations on receiving your master’s in economics last spring. What attracts you to that field?

Cory LePore: Our world has many economic challenges that we’re facing daily and the fact that there’s no one correct way to approach those problems is so fascinating. Studying economics provides me with skills to make an impact on those problems throughout my lifetime.

DF: Economics is famous for being a difficult field, one that requires good ability in math and statistics as well as an understanding of human behavior.

CL: My biggest challenge has been trying to find my proper way to study. I found myself trying to cram math material into my brain the night before an exam and I ended up doing subpar.

I was in my first year as undergraduate at UAF when I found a way to study that suited me. I realized I’d have to dedicate more time and effort. I tried breaking my study time into several days, usually starting a week before an exam, and then study a couple of hours a day. I saw a massive change for the better in my grades.

I found this approach by trying all sorts of study techniques. I tried studying in a group and using flash cards. I’d read and research different strategies online.

DF: Your advice to other students is to remember that teachers and advisers are there to help. How did you learn this lesson? Why do you think so many students overlook these sources of help?

CL: I think they’re afraid. Students tend to think that teachers are there to teach and that’s it. But in reality, most teachers love when you interact with them outside of class. It shows you’re willing to challenge yourself and that you really want to learn the topic.

DF: Other than finishing your MBA this summer – an incredible accomplishment – what’s next for you?

CL: I am actually working full-time with Alaska USA as a financial analyst! I will probably be in some sort of financial position in the near future. 

DF: How did Doyon Foundation scholarships help you?

CL: I was able to just take my classes and focus on school. Doyon Foundation scholarships freed up so much of my time and stress by allowing me to not have to work full time while in school.

Thank you so much for your academic support of Alaska Native students. It’s very much appreciated!

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. There are many opportunities to support the event as a sponsor, golfer or volunteer; to learn more and get involved, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

“There is no greater joy than watching children have fun learning their language”

Susan Paskvan se’ooze’ dehoon Denaakk’e hełde K’etsoo seeznee. Sedełnekkaa Eliza yeł Benedict Jones, Sr. hebe’ooze’. Eenaa’e bedełnekkaa setsoo kkaa Josie yeł Little Peter yeł hegheelaa’ee. Eetaa’e bedełnekkaa setsoo kkaa Jessie yeł Harry Jones yeł Andrew Edwin yeł hegheelaa’ee. Toneedze gheltseełne hʉt’aan eslaanh. Meneelghaadze T’oh hʉts’e tsaadaanslet ts’uh Fairbanks lesdo. Seyełledoyee Steve Paskvan. Keel kkaa neeteehne hoolaanh. Jason yeł Adam yeł hebe’ooze’. Denaakk’e yeł Benhti Kokht’ana Kenaga’ hedohʉdege’eeh dehoon hedok’ʉhdeł’eeghenh eslaanh.

My name is Susan Paskvan while in Denaakk’e they call me K’etsoo. My parents are Benedict and Eliza Jones. My mom’s parents are my late grandparents Josie and Little Peter. My dad’s parents are my late grandparents Jessie Edwin and late grandfathers Harry Jones and Andrew Edwin. I am of the Middle of the Stream Clan. I am from Koyukuk but live in Fairbanks. My husband is Steve Paskvan. We have two sons. Their names are Jason and Adam. I am learning Denaakk’e and Benhti while I am also a language teacher.

K’etsoo Susan Paskvan is the Native language coordinator for the Yukon-Koyukuk School District (YKSD), comprising a correspondence program and 10 village schools that dot the Yukon, Koyukuk and Tanana river systems. A Doyon Foundation scholarship recipient, Susan graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is pursuing a master’s degree at UAF in linguistics and Alaska Native languages. She was awarded a shareholder of the year award from Doyon, Limited and the Alaska Federation of Natives for dedication to heritage languages.

The YKSD serves an area larger than Washington state and encompasses three Alaska Native languages: Denaakk’e, Denaakk’a and Inupiaq. Eight village schools are off the road system. Virtually all children enrolled in the village schools are Athabascan. Susan’s languages are Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana) and Denaakk’e (Koyukon).

Doyon Foundation: How did your language learning begin? How did it become your life’s work?

K’etsoo Susan Paskvan: When I was growing up, we learned household words and phrases – nok’eedonh for “time to eat,” and onee’ “come here.” Then at UAF I took two years of language classes with my mother, so I gained a lot of vocabulary and a strong foundation in the grammar of our language. In 1999, I started as an apprentice with Madeline Williams and my sole job was to learn Denaakk’e with her for two years. I learned how to listen and to practice though my ear instead of writing things down all the time.

I led a summer institute for three years at UAF for teachers and that led to my YKSD job in 2003. I work with a language team, including teachers and Elders, and develop curriculum based on what the team wants the children to learn. The team decided what the children should learn to say in both Denaakk’e and Benhti for the workbook that we developed. I teach classes in 18 different classrooms across the YKSD region. Before pandemic restrictions, I traveled to each of the 10 village schools at least once every semester.

DF: You’re also committed to language beyond the classroom. How did that come about?

KSP: My hope is to get language revitalization going in the community, within tribes and with parents. With only 30 minutes a day for language learning in the classroom, it’d take a long time to become fluent.

I’ve learned that adults want to know at least two things: How to introduce themselves in the language and how to sing the traditional memorial songs. The songs are composed to honor a deceased loved one and sung at a memorial potlatch. Some of the old songs have “high language,” full of poetry, riddles and metaphors. Instead of saying, “He was a good hunter,” the song might say, “He laid down his bow and arrow here,” alluding to the place where he camped and hunted.

Memorial songs are meant to lift you up. It’s a great source of cultural pride when people can sing their traditional songs. To help with that, I’ve done workshops in the villages to get those songs recorded, transcribed and translated. We have a nice collection and hope someday to publish a songbook. I’ve also made the audio files available and digitized them for CDs.

DF: So much of your dedication stems from the work of your mother, Eliza Jones, the University of Alaska teacher of Denaakk’e, and your aunt, Madeline Williams of Hughes, the Tanana Chiefs Conference teacher whom you apprenticed with. What is the role of venerated Elders like your mother and aunt in language learning today?

KSP: The Elders have always told me, “Never give up.” They understand that passing on the language depends on people being encouraged to pick it up. “Never give up” means recognizing that the biggest challenge is in finding learners. And for those learners, it means having enough time.

I think what’s meant by “never give up” is a recognition that learning takes a motivated person who’s passionate about the language and accepts that the more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know.

DF: You’re saying that students must learn to accept mistakes.

KSP: Yes. I’ve made mistakes and I’ll continue to make mistakes. I’m always learning spelling! But you just have to keep going.

Some of the reluctance, I think, among people in their 60s and 70s comes from boarding school experience when students were punished for speaking their language. They need healing. Gauging a person’s readiness to learn the language is part of the challenge. Learning can be very difficult if teaching isn’t done in a way where it feels safe to make mistakes.

DF: A goal you’ve set for yourself is to become fluent in Denaakk’e. What are attributes of fluency? How does your study of linguistics fit in?

KSP: Linguistics is a scientific way of understanding every aspect of language, including meaning and use. If I’m meeting with language speakers and we’re talking about tanning furs and if I have some kind of linguistics then I understand how context could help me figure out the names of things like tools, fur, membrane and the actions that people are taking.

Being able to pray in the language, to compose songs in the language — these are top-level fluency skills. I’m not there yet, but mother is. She’s 83 and we talk several times a week. I’m a language teacher, but I’m also learning. I encourage people to just start small, to have success with what you’re learning and practice with people, and then just keep adding on.

My mother’s first language was Denaakk’e. She was born in Cut-Off and traveled with her family to different camps. The family moved to Fairbanks in 1970 where she started her work with linguist Michael Krauss, then director of UAF’s Alaska Native Language Center. The linguists had all these questions for my mother and when she’d ask, “What are you working on?” they’d say iterative grammar or another technical aspect of language. Then she’d have them teach her too. Iteration refers to the structure of a verb.

She learned all that. She became a linguist herself while working with speakers throughout the region, documenting their stories and genealogy and place names. She worked 20 years at UAF to document Denaakk’e and in 2000, she shared authorship on the Koyukon Athabascan Dictionary with the Rev. Jules Jetté who began work on the dictionary draft when he came to Alaska in 1898.

DF: Now that’s an example of never giving up.

KSP: Because of all the language and knowledge that Elders have shared with me over the years, because of my mother’s work at UAF, I have a responsibility to pass this knowledge on. I read every day in Denaakk’e, I lead video-conference teaching sessions. It’s a matter of carrying on my mother’s work.

DF: You believe that language learning is a way of being shaped by the culture. What’s an example that comes to mind?

KSP: When you learn your language, you really get grounded. When I teach our origin stories and songs, students learn our beliefs about birds and animals and plants.

In a Zoom group recently we were talking about feelings. We were learning phrases — “I feel tired, I feel happy, I feel sad.” Then we came to ebaa. It means “ouch” or “I’m sick,” but we also teach young students not to say this word because we don’t want them to grow up complaining about a lot of aches and pains. That’s just one example of learning culture through the language.

DF: Where is your commitment to language learning leading you? What’s on the horizon?

KSP: In addition to becoming fluent in Denaakk’e, I would really like to develop a community digital archive of the language. My goal is to get the stories, songs, etc. that are in audio files and make it useable by language learners.  And I want to have an institute to start an immersion school for children. There really is no greater joy than watching children have fun learning their language.

About Doyon Languages Online

Through the Doyon Language Online project, Doyon Foundation is developing introductory online lessons for Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Deg Xinag, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross), Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Hän, Holikachuk and Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana).

The project officially launched in summer 2019 with the first four courses, now available for free to all interested learners.

Doyon Languages Online is funded by a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), awarded in 2016, and an additional three-year grant from the Alaska Native Education Program (ANEP), awarded in 2017.

About the Language Champion Profile Series

As Doyon Foundation continues to grow our language revitalization efforts in the Doyon region, we believe it is important 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, or sign up to access the free Doyon Languages Online courses here.

There are very few children’s books featuring the Alaska Native languages of the Doyon region, but thanks to the work of student Natilly Hovda and her partnership with Doyon Foundation, there is a new addition to the bookshelf.

During her First Alaskans Institute internship at Doyon Foundation in 2019, Natilly wrote and illustrated a children’s book incorporating Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), one of the Athabascan languages spoken along the Tanana River in Alaska. The book, titled “Łuk’a Ts’iłki One Fish, Łuk’a Notik’a Two Fish, Łuk’a Delk’ezri Red Fish, Łuk’a Lek’wdli White Fish,” is now available as an electronic flipbook and a downloadable PDF on the Doyon Foundation website, www.doyonfoundation.com. A video featuring Natilly reading her book is also posted on the Foundation’s YouTube channel. A limited number of hard copy books are also available upon request from the Foundation.

“My goal overall was to inspire students to learn more about their own culture and the multitude of Indigenous cultures around Alaska and providing some simple terms they can use daily to help them learn Benhti Kenaga’,” shares Natilly, a Doyon, Limited shareholder and previous Doyon Foundation scholarship recipient. “I wanted to inspire people to learn more about our cultures. Not just our traditions, our languages or our songs, but our history and to grow an appreciation of the environment around us.”

Natilly with her fiancé, Jeremy, and their chihuahua, Rozie

“There are a very limited number of books involving Native languages for young readers, so this book fills part of a huge void and hopefully inspires more writers to author books in Indigenous languages,” says Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program.

To further help young students learn the language, Natilly also created a series of flashcards using words and illustrations from the book. The flashcards are now available as a PDF for easy downloading and printing on the Doyon Foundation website. A series of interactive flashcards, featuring the voice of David Engles, are in development and will be available on the Foundation’s website and Instagram.

The book and flashcard project is in line with Natilly’s long-time goal of becoming an elementary school teacher in Fairbanks. Natilly, who was born and raised in Fairbanks, is a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She will graduate with an associate’s degree in performing arts this summer, and expects to complete the elementary education program in 2024.

“I plan to use the knowledge I have gained from Doyon Foundation and my schooling to educate students on the importance of preserving wildlife and learning about Alaska Native cultural traditions, language and history,” says Natilly, who is the daughter of Cosmo Ketzler, and the granddaughter of Nancy Ketzler-Haskins and Thomas Haskins, and the late Don Ketzler. 

Natilly is not the only talented member of her family. Her cousin, Claire Ketzler, also interned at the Foundation in 2019. During Claire’s internship, she wrote and illustrated a short comic in Gwich’in, based on a Gwich’in story, “Shihtthoo Tr’ik, The Young Brown Bear Woman.” Read more about Claire’s project on the Foundation blog.

These projects are among the many efforts of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program, which is dedicated to ensuring that the Native languages of the Doyon region survive – and thrive – for future generations.

To learn more about the Foundation’s language revitalization efforts, or to view or download Natilly’s book and flashcards, visit www.doyonfoundation.com. To request a hard copy of her book, contact the Foundation at haytona@doyon.com or 907.459.2162.

George Demientieff Holly, LaVerne Demientieff, Alice Taff, Jeanette Dementi and Edna Deacon.

Thank you to our speaker Edna Deacon for sharing our May 2021 Native Word of the Month in Deg Xinag.

Doyon xetl’itth ts’in’ Deg Xinag q’a dixi’ine. = Doyon wants Deg Xinag to be strong.

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

We also invite you to access free online language-learning lessons by signing up for Doyon Languages Online! We currently have lessons available for HolikachukDenaakk’eBenhti Kenaga’ and Gwich’in, as well as a special set of Hän lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby. All interested learners may sign up and access the courses at no charge – sign up today!