Woman and child

Mary “Dzan” Johnson and daughter Lena, Fort Yukon circa 1916. Photo courtesy of Allan Hayton.

See below for our February Native word of the month in Gwich’in and Deg Xinag!

Gwich’in

Dink’indhat – He or she grew up.
Shahan Gwichyaa Zhee dink’indhat. – My mom grew up in Fort Yukon.
Shiti’ Natick dink’indhat. – My father grew up in Natick.

Listen to an audio recording. Hai’ (thank you) to Allan Hayton for providing the translation.

Deg Xinag

Nadhiyonh – He or she grew up in
Singonh Deloychet nadhiyonh. – My mom grew up in Holy Cross.
Sito’ Qay Xichux nadhiyonh. – My dad grew up in Anchorage.

Listen to an audio recording. Dogidinh (thank you) to George Demientieff Holly for providing the translation.

Each month, a new Native word or phrase and definition will be shared on our website, as well as on our blog and Facebook page, along with an audio recording of the pronunciation.

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

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

Linguistics Consultant and Content Creators Sought

Doyon Foundation is pleased to announce a call for a linguistics consultant as well as content creators for the Doyon Languages Online project. RFQs (request for qualifications) for both positions are posted at www.doyonfoundation.com. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply by March 6, 2017 (note the deadline has been extended from February 20).

The Doyon Languages Online project, funded with a three-year, $900,000 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. Ultimately, Doyon Foundation aims to create online courses for all 10 of the Doyon region languages.

The project is a partnership with 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning partially through software donated by Transparent Language Online.

For more information on the project scope, background, qualifications and selection process, please see the linguistics consultant RFQ and content creator RFQ, both available at www.doyonfoundation.com. Interested applicants should apply online by March 6.

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.

Language revitalization in the Doyon region took a giant leap forward this week when the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) announced that Doyon Foundation has been selected to receive a Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance grant totaling $900,000 over a three-year period.Doyon_Language_Map

The 10 ancestral languages of the Doyon region, including nine Athabascan languages plus Inupiaq, represent half of the 20 Native languages in the state of Alaska. All of the Doyon region languages are severely to critically endangered, and will be lost within the span of a few generations if no action is taken. Doyon Foundation, with support from Doyon, Limited, established its language revitalization program in 2009 to support the revitalization of Interior Alaska’s Native languages.

“We are humbled and grateful to have been awarded in a highly competitive selection process. This news is very exciting, and this project will be a huge assist to those wanting to teach and learn their ancestral language,” said Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program.

The grant will help fund the Doyon Languages Online project, a partnership with 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning partially through software donated by Transparent Language. The Foundation first partnered with 7000 Languages in 2014 to create and provide learning content for the languages of the Doyon region in an accessible, engaging and proven online environment.

“As Native people, our languages are part of our identity and are very precious to us. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren deserve to have the opportunity to learn their language,” said Doris Miller, Foundation executive director. “We are honored to be able to assist in creating this learning and teaching software to further language revitalization in the Doyon region.”

During the three-year grant project, a total of 280 introductory online lessons will be created for five of the Doyon languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e, Benhti Kenaga’, Hän, and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa. Ultimately, the Foundation aims to create online courses for all of the Doyon region languages.

The lessons will be made widely available to language teachers and learners in Alaska and throughout the United States. Language teachers will also receive training in using the lessons in local educational settings, from schools to homes to community events.

“We’re thrilled that, after years of hard work, our partners at Doyon Foundation are finally getting the funding they deserve to revitalize their languages. We can’t wait to get started on this project,” said Alexa Little, executive director of 7000 Languages.

“We greatly enjoy supporting 7000 Languages, and I’m especially excited to see the Doyon Foundation 7000 Partnership using the Transparent Language technology platform for such a wonderful purpose,” said Michael Quinlan, CEO of Transparent Language, Inc.

ANA, which is an office of the Administration for Children and Families, promotes self-sufficiency and cultural preservation for Native Americans by providing discretionary grant funding for community-based projects, and training and technical assistance to eligible tribes and Native organizations.

For more information on ANA and its grant programs, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/ana/grants. For information on Transparent Language and 7000 Languages, visit www.transparent.com/about/7000-languages.html.

For more information on Doyon Foundation and the Doyon Languages Online project, visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact Doris Miller, executive director, at millerd@doyon.com or 907.459.2050.

Doyon Foundation Language Revitalization Program Director Allan Hayton recently gave a plenary talk on Language Revitalization & The Arts at the Institute on Collaborative Language Research (CoLang), an international conference that took place at the University of Alaska Fairbanks June 20 – July 24, 2016.

CoLang is a biennial gathering designed to provide an opportunity for community language activists and linguists to receive training in community-based language documentation and revitalization. The conference consisted of two weeks of intensive language revitalization workshops and presentations, followed by a three-week linguistics field methods practicum in endangered languages.

In his June 28 presentation, available online here, Hayton shared his experiences collaborating on endangered language theatre projects, including a Perseverance Theatre production of Macbeth in the Tlingit language that was presented at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, a Gwich’in adaptation of King Lear (Lear Khehkwaii), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring Tlingit, Yup’ik and Gwich’in languages (both productions with Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre).

The focus of Hayton’s talk was how the theatre can create a space for endangered languages to come to life, and how the arts can engage the imagination in the language classroom for educators and learners. A future production Hayton is currently dreaming up is a Romeo & Juliet in Gwich’in and Inupiaq languages.

In addition to the many wonderful workshops and presentations at CoLang, Hayton was especially interested in participating in the three-week practicum in linguistic field methods that closed out the conference. Participants could choose from among Hän (Athabascan), Unangam Tunuu (Aleut), or Miyako (Ryukyuan) practica. These practica provided excellent opportunities to sharpen documentation skills, engage with speakers, and make connections with others teaching and revitalizing these endangered languages.

Professor Dr. Willem De Reuse taught the Hän Athabascan practicum, with invaluable assistance from speakers Ruth Ridley, Ethel Beck, Adeline Juneby and Percy Henry. There were also young teachers and learners participating, including Shyanne Beatty from Eagle, and Georgette McLeod, Mary Henry, Angie Joseph-Rear, Melissa Hawkins and Erika Scheffen from Dawson, Yukon Territory. Graduate and undergraduate linguists from several different universities rounded out the class.

Hän is a very close sister language to Gwich’in, Hayton noted. “If you laid the two languages side by side, you would see many similarities,” he said. “But you cannot assume the rules for one language would automatically apply to the other. Each language in the world is unique, and the rules are implicitly decided among the speakers, changing fluidly over time.”

For example, he said, notice the similarities and differences in the translations below:

  • English: The moose walked towards the lake.
  • Hän: Jë̀jùu män ts’ą̈̀’ ä̀haww.
  • Gwich’in: Dinjik van ts’à’ ah’àl.

“It was a great experience in the classroom with the speakers, and everyone learned a great deal that will help in upcoming projects involving Hän, as well as other languages of the Doyon region,” Hayton said.

CoLang 2016 was an inspiring gathering of many different people from around the world, all focused on the work of documenting and revitalizing endangered languages, Hayton said. Endangered language communities face similar challenges, and this gathering allowed attendees to share their ideas, inspirations, solutions and hope with one another.

Hayton said he will take what he learned from his fellows at CoLang, and apply those lessons to work for languages in the Doyon region. “Adak’ohtii, ts’a’ diiginjk k’yaa kwaii eenjit tth’aii nihk’it gwiinzii gwitr’it t’agwahah’yaa yuu,” he said. “Take care, and keep up the good work on behalf of our languages.”

CoLang 2018 will be held at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Allan Hayton, Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program director, had the honor of speaking at the invitation-only TEDxFairbanks 2016, which took place in Fairbanks in February. The video of his presentation is now available online – watch it here!TEDx YouTube.jpeg

“Despite years of experience in front of audiences as an actor and storyteller, this TEDx talk was an intimidating and nerve-wracking challenge. I am grateful for the supportive and encouraging circle of friends in the Morris Thompson Cultural Center that day,” Hayton said.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. 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.

“Most of all I wanted to convey the story of our ancestral languages, and hopefully inspire others to become involved in learning and teaching them,” Hayton said.

For more information on Doyon Foundation and the language revitalization program, visit www.doyonfoundation.com. Find the video of Hayton’s TEDx talk on YouTube.

 

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.