Strong roots connect us to our well-being”

Jennifer with Great Aunt Elizabeth Fleagle

Jennifer with her great-aunt, Dr. Elizabeth Fleagle

Originally from the Interior community of Allakaket on the Koyukuk River, Jennifer Adams is the daughter of the late Bob Maguire of Chelan, Washington, and the late Cora (Moses) Maguire of Allakaket. Jennifer’s maternal grandparents are Johnson Bergman Moses of Allakaket and the late Bertha (Nictune) Moses of Alatna. Other family include Jennifer’s great-aunt, Dr. Elizabeth Fleagle, a sister of Bertha Moses.

Jennifer is director of the Juneau-based Small Business Development Center, a unit within the Alaska Small Business Development Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. A Doyon Foundation scholarship recipient, Jennifer graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a bachelor’s degree in 2004 and a master’s of business administration in 2013. Her languages are Denaakk’e, spoken by Koyukon Alaska Native people, and Inupiaq, spoken by Inupiaq Alaska Native people.

Jennifer was a child when her father began introducing her to Inupiaq and Koyukon Athabascan. A non-Native teacher who came to Alaska straight out of college to teach at rural schools, Bob eventually arrived at Allakaket and met Cora, Jennifer’s mother.

Bob immersed himself in Koyukon and Athabascan cultures and in the lifestyles of Allakaket and Alatna. From his father-in-law, Johnson Moses, Bob learned Koyukon Athabascan vocabulary; his mother-in-law, Bertha Nictune Moses, taught him Inupiaq words. Jennifer grew up hearing her father readily incorporate both languages in everyday life.

“He’d say, ‘Wipe your nuvuk,’ (‘boogers,’ in Inupiaq) or ‘You have a big chaga,’ (‘stomach,’ in Koyukon Athabascan),” Jennifer says. And while Episcopal missionaries arriving in the early 1900s taught Jennifer’s parents not to speak their languages – and to not pass them on to their children – Jennifer’s mother went on to learn to speak Koyukon Athabascan as adult after studying at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Jennifer was enrolled in a fifth-grade bilingual Inupiaq class at Shugnak while her mother completed student teaching at a local school.

Jennifer believes that reconnecting Indigenous people to their culture and languages promotes a healthy society. And though her home in Juneau is far from people who speak her Native languages, Jennifer retains her connection by taking part in programs, including the He ‘ lelo Ola Hilo Field Study Conference in Hilo, Hawaii, in 2017.

“The conference was vital to learning about language immersion programs,” she says. Knowledge gained there led her to write a $1.6 million grant awarded to the Fairbanks Native Association for a Koyukon Athabascan classroom immersion program for preschoolers.

Her plans include continuing to research and write grants and enrolling in language courses in Inupiaq and Koyukon Athabascan. She also serves on Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization committee and was elected to the Foundation board of directors in November 2019.

“I’d like to thank Doyon Foundation and any other organizations that are instrumental in language learning programs,” she says. She knows from her own childhood that one of the best ways to acquire language is to use it in everyday settings.

“Language connects me to my culture,” Jennifer says. “It’s important to learn and preserve language knowledge so we have strong roots that connect us to our well-being.”

About Doyon Languages Online

Through the Doyon Language Online project, Doyon Foundation is developing introductory online lessons for Holikachuk, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Benhti Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Hän, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Deg Xinag, Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross) and Née’aaneegn’ (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.

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 foundation@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.

136_30Year Promotion_Blog

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Doyon Foundation! Over the coming year, we will be celebrating our 30 years of providing educational, career and cultural opportunities to enhance the identity and quality of life for Doyon shareholders.

Join us in commemorating this milestone by sharing a story, photo or video about how the Foundation has touched your life on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram. Be sure to tag #DF30 so we can see it!

133_PCG ThankYou Promotion_FB-IN

The 2019 report is in, and we give our thanks to the 51 Alaskans who donated to Doyon Foundation through Pick. Click. Give. this year. The $3,475 in donations was up slightly from last year, and we – and our students – are very grateful for your support. See a list of our 2019 donors on our website.

These donations go directly to our general scholarship fund, which provides basic scholarships ranging from $800 for part-time students to $1,200 for full-time students. These scholarships support not only students pursuing traditional four-year degrees, but also certificates, associate degrees and vocational training. We invite you to visit our blog to read profiles featuring students who have benefitted from your generosity!

Mark your calendar – the 2020 Pick. Click. Give. season begins January 1, with the opening of the Alaska PFD application period! It’s simple and easy to make a pledge when completing your PFD application – and it makes a big difference for our students.

Pick. Click. Give. is just one way you can show your support of Doyon Foundation. Other options include:

However you show your support, know that you are helping us work toward our mission to provide educational, career and cultural opportunities to enhance the identity and quality of life for Doyon shareholders. Thank you for your support!

134_Thanksgiving2019 Promotion_blog

Doyon Foundation will be closed Thursday and Friday to celebrate the holiday with our families and friends. We give thanks for all of our students, volunteers, language teachers and learners, staff, board members, donors and other supporters. We wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Oline (far left), her granddaughter Stephanie in the middle, and Teresa Hanson

Oline (far left) with her granddaughter, Stephanie (middle), and Teresa Hanson

Born in the Athabascan community of Nikolai, Oline Petruska is a Doyon Foundation language champion committed to speaking and writing Dinak’i, the language of Alaska Native people of the upper Kuskokwim River. Oline is a daughter of Miska and Anna Alexia, and a granddaughter of Alex and Lena Alexia, all of Nikolai.

From 1961 to 1963, Oline attended Mount Edgecumbe High School, the Sitka-based residential school attracting primarily Alaska Native students from around the state. In 1969, she joined VISTA, the Kennedy-era national service program aimed at alleviating poverty, and served as a preschool and adult basic education teacher in Nikolai.

Oline’s family includes her daughter, Shirley, of Nikolai; brother, Mike, of Anchorage; and granddaughter, Stephanie, of Nikolai. All are studying Dinak’i through Doyon Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project, which offers free access to online courses in Alaska Native languages spoken throughout the Doyon region. Doyon Foundation officially launched Doyon Languages Online in summer 2019 with the release of the first four courses in Gwich’inDenaakk’eBenhti Kenaga’ and Holikachuk.

A visitor dropping by is likely to find Oline busy with her language lessons, turning Dinak’i written words into sentences describing the world around her. “I know the language,” she says, “but I want to learn to write it, so that kids in the future will have something to learn by. I’ve always had a desire to see people learn and get ahead.”

Motivating her own learning are childhood memories of her grandmother and mother, making their way in a world where sled dog teams ran the mail trail through Nikolai and her mother worked at a local roadhouse. “It brings back memories of mom and grandma, talking a long time ago,” Oline says of her own efforts to speak and write the Dinak’i language.

As a little girl attending school in Nikolai, Oline recalls being punished for speaking her language. “I had no interest in writing or speaking (Dinak’i) until just about a year ago. It just takes me to make up my mind to do something,” she says with a laugh. She enrolled in lessons through Doyon Foundation and has been working steadily with the goal of writing in Dinak’i.

“I’m constantly writing words down – words that I think are cool – and after a while I’ll write a sentence. It’s been exciting to learn,” she says. A recent afternoon had Oline observing the changing seasons: In Dinak’i she wrote, It’s windy and the leaves are falling. 

Consulting a dictionary helps. So does persistence. Oline says that compared with English, written words in Dinak’i can seem very long. Even an everyday word like “sewing” can send Oline to the dictionary to check her translation. “I still have trouble figuring out how to write some words,” she says. “I enjoy the challenge.”

A chance to work with schoolchildren last year convinced her that language revitalization efforts belong in the elementary-grade classrooms. She recalls two children – a fourth grader and fifth grader – so ready to learn that they acquired Dinak’i surprisingly fast. “More people will take the language once it gets into the classrooms, and especially with the young ones,” Oline says. “That’s my hope.”

Doyon Language Online develops introductory online lessons for Holikachuk, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Benhti Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Hän, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Deg Xinag, Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross) and Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana).

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.

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 foundation@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.

59_DF_FB_AutoGraphic_512x512Doyon Foundation held its board of directors election at its annual membership meeting on November 15 in Fairbanks. At that time, the board also voted to increase the number of board seats from seven to nine.

“As a small, private foundation, we rely on our volunteer board and committees to help us provide services and work toward our mission,” said Doris Miller, Foundation executive director. “Expanding the board means we have more talented people bringing their skills to the table.”

Sonta Hamilton Roach and LaVerne Demientieff were re-elected to the board, and newly elected board members include Jennifer Adams, Matthew Calhoun and Mariah Pitka-Jenkins.

These members join Jennifer Fate, Marie Cleaver, LaVerne Huntington and Aaron Roth on the Foundation board.

The Foundation extends its deep gratitude to exiting board member, Lanien Livingston, who has served on the Foundation board as president for the past seven years.

“We are very grateful for Lanien’s service on our board. Her leadership, ideas and dedication have helped grow the Foundation over the past seven years. With her support, we have expanded our scholarship program to serve even more students at a higher level, and are launching a groundbreaking online language revitalization project. We thank her, we will miss her, and we wish her the very best,” Miller said.

Alyssa“I would not have been able to reach my goals without Doyon Foundation”

 

An undergraduate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) scheduled to graduate with an associate degree in process technology in May 2020, Alyssa Sommer is the daughter of Fred Sommer, Jr. and Diane Evans-Sommer of Fairbanks. Alyssa’s maternal grandparents are Lily and Alfred “Dick” Evans of Galena. Her paternal grandparents are Dorothy and the late Fred Sommer, Sr. of Nulato.

Alyssa’s hometown is Fairbanks. She attends UAF with support from a Doyon Foundation competitive scholarship.

Among Alyssa’s lifelong ambitions has been to help run the Fort Wainwright power plant, where she has worked as a coal operator since August 2019. The plant is one of three units owned and operated since 2007 by Doyon Utilities LLC and supplying service to military sites in Alaska. Fairbanks-based Fort Wainwright is home to an electrical distribution system, a central heat and power plant, and a heat distribution system, among other services operated by Doyon Utilities.

Alyssa’s plans after graduation include advancing to boiler operations and controls at the power plant. Fort Wainwright is an Army installation that includes some 1,400 on-post housing units. Its civilian and military population totals about 11,000.

“I’m looking forward to learning and progressing,” says Alyssa, who enjoys tracing various boiler system components to gain greater insight into the unit overall. Daily tasks include unloading coal from rail cars; directing coal through the plant system; and inspecting equipment and hauling ash to the landfill. “From the first time I saw process technicians in action in 2011, I knew that was the job I wanted,” Alyssa says. She values the chance to work close to home and among welcoming coworkers.

“I would not have been able to reach my goals without Doyon Foundation,” Alyssa says. “Doyon Foundation has helped me start the journey in my desired lifelong field.” In 2016 she earned a certificate in welding from UAF and an associate degree in diesel mechanics from the University of Alaska Southeast. In each semester she was awarded Doyon Foundation scholarships.

Attending school full-time while working a physically demanding full-time job has Alyssa managing a hectic schedule. “It’s quite important to me to get in family time whenever I can,” she says. Going for long drives, taking walks, swimming, cooking and going to the movies are among ways that she manages stress while enjoying family and friends.

“Time has its challenges,” she says. “I never quite feel prepared at times. But I push forward. I try not to beat myself up if I don’t get the grade I want or if I find I need to take a break for a day.”

Her advice to other students: Remember that stress can undermine focus that’s needed to do well in school. “Try not to stress,” Alyssa says. “Take a day to relax when needed.”

Meet more of our students! Check out our more student profiles on our blog. 

Learn more about Doyon Foundation and our scholarships on our website!