172_DLO Language Champion Promotion_GeorgeHolly_FB-IN“Dina xiyo ngitlith: Our thoughts are powerful”

An artist and songwriter who grew up in Ts’eldahthnu (Soldotna) on the Kahtnu (Kenai) River, George Holly is a content coordinator with Doyon Languages Online whose learning is guided by the wisdom of Chief Peter John: “God has given us each a language to praise Him with.”

George’s parents are the late Joanne Holly of Holy Cross and the late George Holly, Sr., who came to Anchorage, Alaska, when he was 11, in 1951. George’s maternal grandparents are the late Nick and Nellie Demientieff of Holy Cross. Nellie Demientieff grew up in Anvik and together Nick and Nellie raised 10 children, including Sam Demientieff, Irene Catalone, Sugar Merculieff, Tiny Devlin and Lolly Demientieff.

George is the owner of Holly House, a guest house on the Kenai River. His language is Deg Xinag, the language of Alaska Native people of the Lower Yukon and Innoko Rivers.

Doyon Foundation: Take us back to early days of learning your language. Who and what inspires you?

George Holly: My first language teacher and mentor was Ellen Savage, wife of my grandpa’s first cousin, Pius Savage. I was 24 years old when Ellen taught me my first words. She took my hands into hers and told me to never let her words fall from me.

I learned from Ellen that language can be what she would call dinayetr — our breath — and what she’d refer to simply as the good life. I’ve learned that language is not only a vehicle of communication but a good work. It affirms community life, service and time-tested generational experience for good thought.

DF: In addition to providing learning units since joining Doyon Languages Online last year, you remain a diligent student of Deg Xinag. How do the two roles fit together?

GH: I’ve been learning my language for 25 years, sometimes through weekly distance education classes, sometimes listening to and studying the printed text of oral histories, and sometimes through university courses or language development institutes. In 1999 I moved to Shageluk, near Holy Cross in our cultural area of Western Alaska, to be nearer to speakers of Deg Xinag. I stayed nine months.

My teachers have included many Elders, among Deg Xit’an people and also Tlinglit and Dena’ina people. I’m amazed to hear the same spirit of loving guidance in each. (When performing at Camai a few years back, I heard Yup’ik Elders speak to their dance groups backstage and was stunned to hear that same uplifting and ennobling speech there. We all share it.) The Elders pass down what they had learned about life from their own “old people” about community traditions and right living with the world.

DF: That seems like your main point — that language is much more than getting across our thoughts.

GH: Learning and speaking one’s language has the potential to open things inside you, connect you in untold ways to the prayers and hopes, joys and knowledge of those who came before.

DF: You stress the value of listening when it comes to language learning.

GH: Listening, doing activities in the language, being open to what’s being said — these have all helped me learn my language. And working with kids. “Going North Song” and “The Squirrel Love Song” and “Naqanaga” are some of the songs I’ve written being sung across the state and the Yukon Territory.

Growing up outside of my cultural region I didn’t take part in much of the ceremonial life of our community. But I’m Deg Xit’an — one of “the local people” — and I’ve joked that it means wherever I was, I was one of the locals. It works to take part in the local life— supporting the local language is something needed, necessary and good.

How can you say you really lived in a place or really loved a place if you haven’t heard, supported, loved and spoken the language of a place?

DF: You are a talented songwriter; “Naqanaga (Our Language),” “Chenh ditr’al iy (Until We See Each Other Again)” and “Ani Chonh Igili’eyh (Over the Rainbow in Deg Xinag)” are some examples of songs you’ve worked on. What role do you feel music plays in language learning?

GH: I feel strongly about using my talents to support language revitalization. I write music for schools, with teachers, students in small groups and individuals – all with local language. Lorna Vent from Huslia said “music is for building a spirit.” I write music to help build that spirit and the intangibles to experience language in a personal way. Students I’ve worked with usually like to try to add more Native language once they feel it for themselves. 

DF: Where does your work with Doyon Languages Online fit in to your goals as a language learner?

GH: Distance is a big challenge when it comes to being among speakers, learning the language and using it frequently. When I travel anywhere I try to visit places where I know language learning is happening and spend good time with folks.

Helping people overcome these challenges by developing units to people have online access to our language is part of why working for Doyon Languages Online has been so poignant and purpose-driven for me.

DF: You want to become more methodical about language learning. What would that look like?

GH: I’d like to learn more about moving beyond working with individuals. For instance, what can be done so that language takes on more life in a family context? How can culture camps and weekly or monthly or quarterly community events support intergenerational interaction in the language?

How could parents be empowered to use the language with their young ones and other family members? And since kids learn so quickly, how might roles be maintained when a child advances faster than adult family members? How can a social environment be built and supported so that local language use is favored and preferred?

Moreover, regarding language in groups: How does a community experience hope?

I believe the arts help in this area.

These are things I’d like to address. There’s so much to learn and share. Ting getiy dixet’a. Xogho ntr’ixetonik. The trail is awfully rough. We’ll work at it together.

DF: Any closing thoughts?

GH: When it comes to involving Elders working on Doyon Languages Online, Edna Deacon and Jim Dementi deserve mention. It wouldn’t happen without them. And I thank Doyon Foundation for the confidence it has in my role with Doyon Languages Online.

My language learning efforts are dedicated to Ellen Savage, my first teacher, and in memory of my dear folks who allowed me to be a person in my own skin and who were and are such encouragers of art and “the good life.” Dogidinh, xisrigidisddhinh sidithnaqay neg! “Thank you, I’m grateful, my dear parents!”

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 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.

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Anna Clock is a participant in the teacher training through the Doyon Languages Online project. She has formed a learning group with her brother, William, who is using Doyon Languages Online to learn Denaakk’e. They are the grandchildren of Regina Clock of Kaltag. Their parents are Eric Clock of Kaltag and Cindy Clock of Yakima, Washington. Here, Anna shares with us about their experience teaching and learning via distance – Anna at her home in Anchorage, and William working on his tug boat on the Cook Inlet.

Doyon Languages Online, a Doyon Foundation project, is developing online language-learning lessons for the endangered Native languages of the Doyon region. The lessons are available for free to all interested learners. Courses in Holikachuk, Gwich’inDenaakk’e and Benhti Kenaga’ were launched in summer 2019, and the remaining courses will be released this year. Learn more and sign up at www.doyonfoundation.com/dlo.

If you are teaching or learning a language using Doyon Languages Online, we would love to hear your story as well! Please send us photos and tell us about your experience by emailing foundation@doyon.com.

April 20, 2020, story and photos courtesy of Anna Clock

photo 1 - assignmentsWilliam and I video-called through Google Hangouts after the Doyon Languages Online spring teacher training on Monday night. It was our first attempt at distance-learning, and it went well.

When he logged onto his Doyon Languages Online account, he was able to see the class I enrolled him to, and all his assignments.

We agreed that one lesson per week is a good pace. We will meet on Monday nights, and do part of the lesson together. He will try to finish it by Friday. He is a quick learner, so I think he will be successful while still balancing work on his tug boat.

During our call, he was able to screen share, so I could watch him go through Unit 1, Lesson 2. There was some background noise from the engine on his boat, but I could still hear him pretty well. I couldn’t hear the audio from the lesson as he played it, so I asked him to repeat the phrases and I could hear him well. He was picking up the pronunciation good from the audio clips in the lesson.

photo 2

I remembered from K’etsoo’s (Susan Paskvan) class that it was helpful to me as a learner when she pointed out what an individual part of a Denaakk’e phrase meant. This helped me remember the whole phrase’s meaning, so I passed this practice down to my brother and it helped him as well.

I was thankful to have a close family member I am comfortable with supporting me in my new teaching endeavor. It took the pressure off, and we had fun.

After going through part of the lesson, we took a break to play “show me.” We used a few of the flash cards K’etsoo shared.

Our whole call lasted for about an hour and went by quick.

 

159_Employee-Kim Nicholas_FB-INDoyon Foundation is pleased to welcome Kimberly Nicholas as our Doyon Languages Online project coordinator.

“I am so excited to be working at the Foundation in the language department,” she said. “I grew up in Kaltag and was surrounded by my culture and language as a kid. I am fired up about learning more about Denaakk’e language learning and teaching. I love the idea of empowering our young language learners to take a front seat in our language revitalization efforts. I am happy I get to use my skills to help Doyon Foundation in their language revitalization work.”

Kimberly, a Doyon shareholder originally from Kaltag, currently lives in Fairbanks with her husband Eli Nicholas Sr., and their three children, Sida Bessie, Giana and Eli Jr. She is the daughter of Thelma Saunders and the late Lawrence Saunders Sr., of Kaltag and Nulato, respectively. She is the youngest of seven children; her brothers are Floyd Sr., Lawrence Jr., Kevin, Jason and Shawn Saunders, and her sister is Laura Saunders. She says she is “blessed to have many nieces and nephews to enjoy.” Kimberly’s maternal grandparents are the late Bessie Solomon of Kaltag and the late Charles “Spider” Evans of Rampart. Her paternal grandparents are the late Eugene and Irene Saunders of Kaltag/Nulato.

“My Denaakk’e name is Me’enh Nezoonh. It was given to me by my grandma Mary Rose Agnes during a Native Language gathering here in Fairbanks. It means ‘her spirit is strong and good,’” Kimberly said.

Kimberly earned an associate degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2010 and is currently a senior in the Alaska Native studies program, with a minor in Alaska Native languages. She also received certificates as a Child Development Associate Credential in 2001 and was certified through the State of Alaska as a breastfeeding peer counselor. She recently completed a teacher training with the Indigenous Language Institute.

Kimberly received both competitive and basic scholarships from Doyon Foundation to help fund her college education. “I’m so thankful that this valuable resource is here for us as shareholders. With the Foundation’s support, I was able to focus on my family and my studies and stress less about funding,” she said.

Prior to joining Doyon Foundation, Kimberly was an Alaska Native education tutor with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, an associate teacher at Fairbanks Native Association Early Head Start, and a summer intern in Doyon, Limited’s administration department, which turned into a full-time admin receptionist position for five years. Most recently, she became a certified breastfeeding peer counselor and worked at the Resource Center for Parents and Children WIC department for two years.

In her free time, Kimberly loves to be outside with her family, going for walks. She loves to bring them to their little dribbler basketball practices and games. She also meets up with a Native singing group with her children a few times a month.

DKH Headshot 6Doyon Foundation is pleased to welcome Dewey Kk’ołeyo Putyuk Hoffman as our new Doyon Languages Online project manager. In this role, Dewey is responsible for the coordination and completion of the Doyon Languages Online project, which has been in development for the past three years.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for the Doyon Languages Online project, which we launched last summer with the roll-out of the first four online language-learning courses in Holikachuk, Gwich’inDenaakk’e and Benhti Kenaga’,” said Doris Miller, Foundation executive director. “We are thrilled to welcome Dewey, who is a previous Doyon Foundation scholarship recipient and active advocate for culture, education and language.”

“There was great work completed by the Doyon Languages Online team prior to my joining Doyon Foundation. I look forward to building upon that work and seeing the project through to its successful completion,” said Dewey, adding that they are currently working to complete a fifth language course, Hän, which is the language spoken in Eagle, Alaska, and across the Canadian border in Moosehide and Dawson City, Yukon Territory.

A Doyon Foundation alumnus, Dewey received basic and competitive scholarships during his undergraduate and graduate studies program between 2004 and 2019. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 2009, and a master’s in education from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2019.

Dewey’s education and career demonstrate his strong interest in positive youth development through cultural education, which is in line with his lifelong love of language learning and cultural exchange across the world. Prior to joining Doyon Foundation full time in 2020, Dewey was a content creator for the Denaakk’e course through Doyon Languages Online, as well as a community partner who helped host language-related gatherings in Fairbanks and Anchorage. He was a preschool teacher in Fairbanks Native Association’s Denaakk’e Head Start Classroom, the Indigenous leadership continuum director at First Alaskans Institute, and development manager at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. He is also the owner of Hoozoonh, a consulting business offering services in curriculum design, strategic planning, meeting facilitation and other special projects.

“I want to learn more about hands-on language planning, and work with the Interior Native communities to carry forward the vision of one people many languages,” he said. “Our Indigenous languages are extremely important and useful. Nogheedeno’! It is coming back to life!”

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Doyon Foundation is seeking applicants for our open Doyon Languages Online evaluation intern position, which is a temporary, part-time position located at the Goldstream Group office in Fairbanks. Applications will be accepted through Tuesday, January 28, 2020. We are specifically seeking a junior or senior in college. Interested applicants can learn more about the position and apply online via the Doyon, Limited website.

The program evaluation intern will work as a member of multiple teams to complete Doyon Languages Online evaluation tasks, including coordinating and monitoring data collection schedules; coding, entering and cleaning data; creating and maintaining databases; conducting basic analyses; preparing tables and graphs; conducting interviews; writing project report; and conducting online and literature searches.

Applicants should have strong organizational, writing and personal computer skills, and the ability to work well with others and multi-task. The preferred candidate will have experience in data collection, preparation and reporting, and a general familiarity with state and federal grant regulation and reporting, program evaluation techniques, statistical analysis techniques and software, and data management. Junior or seniors in college are preferred.

All interested candidates are encouraged to learn more about the position and apply online via the Doyon, Limited website. Applications will be accepted through Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

Naga’ khwdokhwdeje’ikh … “I am learning our language.” -Benhti Kenaga’

Doyon Foundation hosted a language gathering the weekend of October 25 – 27, 2019, in Fairbanks. The weekend was focused on sharing resources for language teachers and there was also lots of good food, laughter and singing. The hope for this gathering was to begin recruiting and preparing future language teachers for Doyon region languages.

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There is currently a shortage of teachers working among the 10 Indigenous languages of the Doyon region, with only a handful of those languages being actively taught by dedicated teachers. Another objective of this and future gatherings is to provide training on how to use the Doyon Languages Online courses for teaching languages.

Doyon Languages Online is a project of the Doyon Foundation, which is producing online learning opportunities for nine of the 10 Indigenous languages of the Doyon region, including Hän, Gwich’in, Denaakk’e, Benhti Kenaga’, Holikachuk, Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross), Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana), Deg Xinag and Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim). The first set of online courses were made available in summer 2019, and are now accessible for free to all interested learners at doyonfoundation.com/dlo.

Scheduled presenters at the gathering included Chris Cannon, Sophia Flather, Kenneth Frank, Susan K’etsoo Paskvan, Hishinali’ Peter, Sabine Siekmann and Siri Tuttle. Topics included Dene Athabascan grammar, traditional knowledge practices, caribou anatomy, Dene astronomical and sky-related knowledge, curriculum development and utilization, and strategies for language teaching and learning. Facilitators Rochelle Adams and Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman led discussions following each presentation.

The majority of the language gathering participants have been working on the Doyon Languages Online project over the last few years, creating courses to revitalize the endangered Athabascan languages of the Doyon region. During each day of the gathering, the group was presented with “language questions” and their responses were used to generate several posters, including “reasons to learn your language,” “advice to language learners” and “goals for beginning language learners.” The aim of the questions was to gather group feedback to plan future language teacher training sessions. This teacher training is a key part of the Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project.

Doyon Languages Online is a partnership between Doyon Foundation and 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning through software donated by Transparent Language. The project is funded by a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, now in its fourth-year and focused on teacher training, outreach and surveys. Additional project funding is provided through a three-year grant from the Alaska Native Education Program, awarded in 2017.

The launch of Doyon Languages Online coincided with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, which Doyon Foundation is a partner organization of.  In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. At the time, it was estimated that 40 percent of the 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing. This situation is reflected among the Indigenous languages of the Doyon region.

“Along with our languages, we stand to lose our cultures and knowledge systems, and we thank Doyon, Limited for their leadership in safeguarding these living treasures,” said Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program.

For more information on Doyon Languages Online and details on upcoming events and seminars, visit www.doyonfoundation.com or email foundation@doyon.com.

Language Questions Translations

Gen ghū go saakkaay Denaakk’e hedohūhdel’eeh?

Why do we want the younger generation to learn their language? – Denaakk’e

 

Nedaats’e hohaa eey Denaakenaage’ edots’uhdetol’eeh?

How are we going to learn our language? – Denaakk’e

 

Diiginjik k’yaa gwizhit jidii kwaii agwal’ee iindhan?

What are your language learning goals? – Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa

 

Deya denaga ghu ise?

What are your language learning goals? – Benhti Kenaga’

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.

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.

126_DLO Language Champion Promotion_FB-INI’m so proud of Doyon Foundation for its work with our languages”

Paul Mountain is the son of Josephine Rita (Nickoli) and Simeon Charley Mountain Senior. Paul’s maternal grandparents are Maria Catherine (K’elestemets) and Paul (Naakk’oos) Nickoli. His paternal grandparents are Vivian (Sipary) Peter and Cosmas Mountain. Cosmas’ parents are Charley and Mary Mountain.

Paul’s Alaska Native language is Denaakkenaage’, spoken by Koyukon Athabascan people of Nulato and Kaltag. He graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1991, and holds a bachelor’s degree in linguistics with a minor in Alaska Native languages. He is a past recipient of Doyon Foundation scholarships.

“I have always been intrigued by the use of language to communicate,” says Paul, who is tribal administrator for the Nulato Tribal Council.

Paul’s earliest memories include time spent with his grandmother, Maria Nikoli, who spoke only Koyukon Athabascan and helped him gain a good foundation for understanding the language. His mother, uncles and aunts were instrumental in teaching the language.

“The Koyukon language is so interesting,” Paul says. “There are so many different ways to express yourself without saying too much.” For instance, when someone says “emaa,” the word may translate as “ouch” or “it hurts.” The same word may be used today as an idiom, meaning “I feel bum.” For health care providers who may be unfamiliar with Koyukon, its flexibility can be frustrating, Paul says.

As in other languages, some Koyukon words fall out of use. “Songs were made in the past using words even the fluent speakers sometimes don’t understand fully. There’s a certain amount of poetic license on the part of the songmaker,” Paul says.

Connecting words to form sentences was an important step in advancing his fluency. “I think a lot of people know lots of words and what they mean, but what they lack is how to form complete sentences. Repetition was a really good way to learn,” he says.

To remain active in language learning, Paul takes part in a Native singing and dance group based in Nulato. The dance group is sponsored by Nulato Tribal Council in partnership with Andrew K. Demoski School. In his role as tribal administrator, Paul is supportive of a Nulato Tribal Council project to re-translate workbooks into the Lower Koyukon dialect. But as Native language speakers are being lost to old age, he knows that among the biggest challenges to language learning is a lack of people available to speak with and learn from.

“It’s really difficult,” he says. “I’m so proud of Doyon Foundation for its work with our languages.”

Paul plans to continue working with the Native dance group, which includes members as young as 8 years old, to develop their understanding of the meaning behind songs. “It’s so entertaining to help them,” he says. “I’d also like to help as they grow older and learn to make songs themselves.”

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.

About Language Champions

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.

 

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We are excited to share this short comic, written in Gwich’in and illustrated by our summer intern, Claire Ketzler! This book follows a Gwich’in story, Shihtthoo Tr’ik, The Young Brown Bear Woman.

page 2

Translation:
Box 1: There was once a young brown bear woman.
Box 2: She was very, very beautiful.
Box 3: Her father loved her.
Box 4: He did not allow her out alone.

page 3

Translation:
Box 1: Despite this, she left one day for water.
Box 2: When she reached water, she met raven.
Box 3: Raven was always playing tricks.
Box 4: Here! Drink this water I am holding!

page 4

Translation:
Box 1: She decided to drink the water.
Box 2: She drank something black and small in the water.
Box 3: That night she went back home, she fell ill.

page 5

Translation:
Box 1: She was pregnant, about to give birth.
Box 2: She gave birth. It was a beautiful baby boy.

page 6

Translation:
Box 1: The little boy grew up fast.
Box 2: The boy liked the moon that hung up on the wall.
Box 3: It lit up the house but kept the world in darkness.

page 7

Translation:
Box 1: The son took the moon from its place.
Box 2: His grandfather said,
Box 3: “Don’t take the moon away from the house.”
Box 4: “Stay close by.”

page 8

Translation:
Box 1: The boy didn’t mind his grandfather.
Box 2: He took the moon outside to play with it.
Box 3: Raven was sitting high in a tree watching.

page 9

Translation:
Box 1: Raven swooped in.
Box 2: And took the moon.
Box 3: He threw it high into the sky.

page 10

Translation:
Box 1: The moon is there to this day.

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View a video of the full story on our YouTube channel!

Want to learn Gwich’in, or other languages of the Doyon region? Sign up for the Doyon Languages Online course – free and available to all interested language learners!

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Born and raised in Nikolai, the upper Kuskokwim Athabascan community on the south fork of the Kuskokwim River, Daniel Esai is a language learner, teacher and speaker of Dinak’i. His parents are Dora Esai and the late Phillip Esai, both of Nikolai. His family includes sisters Martha Runkle and Jacqueline Esai, both of Nikolai, and several nieces and nephews.

Daniel’s paternal grandparents are Gleman Esai of the Nikolai area and Martha Alexie of the area surrounding Stony River, Sleetmute and Lime Village. Daniel’s maternal grandparents are Golgomy and Alexandria Dennis, both of the Nikolai area.

Daniel, 56, pursued vocational education and went on to work as a roughneck and roustabout for Doyon Drilling. His goals include rejoining Doyon Drilling and taking part soon in the Doyon Leadership Training program for shareholders seeking to develop leadership skills. He’s eager for computer training for work readiness and self-sufficiency. Daniel enjoys hunting and fishing to support his family, while caring for his elderly mother.

“I learned to speak my language from parents and my Grandma Alexandria,” Daniel recalls.

Growing-up years found him gravitating to the Elders, listening to them speak their language and absorbing their wisdom. “I miss the days when I used to listen to my Aunt Katherine Deaphon, when we used to laugh and speak our language a lot,” Daniel says. “I learned a lot from everyone.”

As he writes on his Facebook page, Daniel believes in family, sharing what we’re given and being kind — values he traces to following in the ways of Elders. “I was always hanging around the old people – I don’t know why that is, but I believe it taught me to be nice to others and that has kept me alive.”

He tells the story of an old blind man who lived among the people of Nikolai and was tormented by children who poked the man with sticks before running away. “I would fight with the ones who picked on the blind man,” Daniel says, adding that kindness and helping the vulnerable have kept him alive.

“My language means the whole thing to me,” he says. “It will point me in which direction to go when I die.” He recalls instructions handed down through the generations: “When I pass away, I’ll be asked what my clan is and I will answer in Dinak’i, Dichinanek Hwtana clan.”

Daniel serves on Doyon Foundation’s advisory committee for the Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim) language, as part of the Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project. Doyon Language Online is developing introductory online lessons for the Alaska Native languages of the Doyon region, including 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 Foundation launched the first four online language-learning courses in summer 2019, and courses are now available for free to all interested learners through the Doyon Foundation website.

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

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.

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If you are passionate about the revitalization of Native languages, we have an exciting opportunity: our open Doyon Languages Online project manager position. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. 

We are now seeking applications from qualified applicants for this position, which will be responsible for the coordination and completion of the Doyon Languages Online project. This is an incredibly exciting time for the project, which we launched earlier this summer with the roll-out of the first four online language-learning courses in Holikachuk, Gwich’inDenaakk’e and Benhti Kenaga’.

Our Doyon Languages Online project manager handles a variety of tasks, including representing the project at off-site cultural and language related events, developing teacher training materials and hosting training sessions, conducting outreach, providing support for users of the online lessons, and satisfying grant reporting requirements.

We’re looking for candidates preferably with a master’s degree; experience in language teaching, teacher training, or education planning; strong interpersonal skills; and familiarity with Athabascan languages, the Doyon region, Alaska classrooms, and general education requirements of the k-12 system.

Our Doyon Languages Online project manager works with our language revitalization team in our office in Fairbanks. This is a full-time position with funding secured through September 30, 2020, although future grant opportunities may be secured to extend the position.

Interested applicants are encouraged to review the job description and requirements, and apply online at www.doyon.com.

 

111_DLO_Course Promotion_Denaakk’e_FB-INDenaakk’e course now available for free to all interested learners

Doyon Foundation today released the third course in its Doyon Languages Online project, which is creating introductory online lessons for nine of the 10 endangered Doyon region languages. The Denaakk’e course joins the previously released Benhti Kenaga’ and Gwich’in courses. All three courses are now available at no charge to all interested language learners through the Doyon Foundation website.

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Denaakk’e, also called Tl’eeyegge Hʉkkenaage’ or Koyukon Athabascan language, originates from the areas surrounding the middle Yukon River, the Koyukuk River and the Lower Tanana Rivers in the central region of Alaska. Its traditional territory covers 78,000 square miles, approximately the size of the entire state of Minnesota.

“While our current population of over 3,000 people now live all across Alaska and the world, we estimate that there are 250 active Denaakk’e learners of all ages and races, striving to continue our arts, songs and practices in their schools and individual families. It is a living language that continues to change, evolve, grow and adapt, just like our communities,” said members of the Denaakk’e course content creation team.

Like the other Doyon Languages Online courses, the Denaakk’e course was developed by a team of content creators, Elders and a linguistics consultant, with the support of Foundation staff.

“The Denaakk’e content creation team relied on the expertise of the Denaakk’e language Elders and the materials they published from the 1970s to today,” said Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program. “The course has some wild turns in it, from how to talk with your baby to how to butcher a spruce hen you hit with your car on the way back from Minto. Special attention was paid to making these lessons relatable to today’s learners.”

The finished Denaakk’e course includes 10 units, each with five lessons of content, reviews and unit assessments, as well as 10 conversational videos with subtitles in English and Denaakk’e, and 25 culture and grammar notes. Supplemental resources include an extensive Denaakk’e (Koyukon) dictionary available for purchase through the Alaska Native Language Center, and additional free materials through the Alaska Native Language Archive. The Yukon Koyukuk School District currently hosts a Denaakk’e language program delivered via distance technologies to schools in rural Alaska.

The Foundation extends a special thank you to the Denaakk’e content creation team, including Elders Eliza Jones and Marie Yaska, and content creators Susan Paskvan, Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman and Bev Kokrine; as well as Doyon, Limited; Paul Mountain; Denakkanaaga, Inc.; Yukon Koyukuk School District; Alaska Native Language Center and Alaska Native Language Archive; and the people who worked with the Denaakk’e language from the 1970s to today. Their work makes this course possible.

The declining number of speakers, and the desire to preserve and pass along the Native languages of the Doyon region to future generations is the driving force behind Doyon Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project. The project is creating introductory online lessons for nine of the 10 endangered Doyon region languages: 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).

In the past week, Doyon Foundation officially launched Doyon Languages Online with the release of the Benhti Kenaga’ and Gwich’in courses. Earlier this spring, the Foundation gave a preview of Doyon Languages Online with the release of a special set of Hän language lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby, an Alaska Native leader, respected Elder and language revitalization pioneer. The Foundation plans to release one additional course later this week.

The Doyon Languages Online launch coincides with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, which Doyon Foundation is a partner organization of.  In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. At the time, it was estimated that 40 percent of the 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing.

Doyon Languages Online is a partnership between Doyon Foundation and 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning through software donated by Transparent Language. It 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.

For more information on the Denaakk’e course and the Doyon Languages Online project, please visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact 907.459.2048 or foundation@doyon.com. For assistance signing up for or using Doyon Languages Online, view the instructional video series on YouTube.

ANA Language Revitalization Grant #: 90NL0626. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this publication, and all others associated with the Doyon Languages Online project, do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Administration for Children and Families, or the Administration for Native Americans.

 

 

111_DLO_Course Promotion_Benhti Kenaga'_FB-INCourse now available for free to all interested learners

Doyon Foundation officially launched its Doyon Languages Online project today with the release of a language-learning course for Benhti Kenaga’, one of the 10 endangered languages of the Doyon region. The online course is now available at no charge to all interested language learners through the Doyon Foundation website.

 

 

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Benhti Kenaga’ is one of the string of Athabascan languages and dialects spoken on the Tanana River in Alaska. Benhti, Toghotili, Ch’eno’ and Salchaket are all members of this group, but only Benhti Kenaga’ is spoken now. Benhti means “Among the lakes” and Kenaga’ refers to “the language.”

“Today, language use is strongest within our songs, either alone or in a group. Singing gives us the ability to express a connection to the past. Growing up hearing Elders sing these songs of yesterday prepared us for today, and gives strength to move forward. This also is a part of who we are, something that makes us unique,” shared the Benhti Kenaga’ content creation team.

The course was developed by a team of content creators, Elders and a linguistics consultant, with the support of Foundation staff. The team drafted the initial course over a two-week time period last year. Over the past year, with linguistic consultation and coaching from speakers, the team finalized and recorded the course, and developed supporting content including videos, slides and interactives.

“The Benhti Kenaga’ content creation team is an inspiration,” said Doris Miller, Doyon Foundation’s executive director. “Witnessing them coming together to speak their language, share their stories and develop lessons that would allow them to pass their language on to future generations was an incredible experience. Doyon Foundation is so pleased to have played a role in facilitating this language revitalization.”

The finished course includes 10 units, each with five lessons of content, reviews and unit assessments, as well as 15 conversational videos with subtitles in English and Benhti Kenaga’, and 13 culture and grammar notes. The Benhti Kenaga’ Pocket Dictionary, published in 2009 and available through the Alaska Native Language Center, is a recommended supplemental resource for anyone taking the course.

The Foundation extends a special thank you to Elders Sarah Silas, Vernell Titus, Anna Frank and Andy Jimmie; the Benhti Kenaga’ content creators/contributors David Engles, Vera Weiser and Bertina Titus; linguistic consultant Siri Tuttle; the Village of Minto; the City of Nenana; Doyon, Limited; Doyon Facilities; Julian Thibedeau; and all of the authors and contributors who created materials for the Benhti Kenaga’ language from 1970 to today, making the creation of this course possible.

The Benhti Kenaga’ course is the first in a series of courses to be launched through the Doyon Languages Online project, which is creating introductory online lessons for nine of the 10 endangered Doyon region languages: 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 Foundation plans to release three additional courses over the next month.

Last month, Doyon Foundation gave a preview of Doyon Languages Online with the release of a special set of Hän language lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby, an Alaska Native leader, respected Elder and language revitalization pioneer.

Doyon Languages Online is a partnership between Doyon Foundation and 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning through software donated by Transparent Language. It 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.

The Doyon Languages Online launch coincides with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, which Doyon Foundation is a partner organization of.  In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. At the time, it was estimated that 40 percent of the 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing.

For more information on the Benhti Kenaga’ course and the Doyon Languages Online project, please visit the Foundation website or contact 907.459.2048 or foundation@doyon.com. For assistance signing up for or using Doyon Languages Online, view the instructional video series on YouTube.

ANA Language Revitalization Grant #: 90NL0626. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this publication, and all others associated with the Doyon Languages Online project, do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Administration for Children and Families, or the Administration for Native Americans.

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First course to be released tomorrow; three additional to follow

Tomorrow, Friday, June 21, after three years of dedicated efforts, Doyon Foundation will officially launch its Doyon Languages Online project with the release of the first online language-learning course featuring Benhti Kenaga’, one of the 10 endangered languages of the Doyon region. Over the next two weeks, the Foundation will release three additional courses: Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Denaakk’e (Koyukon) and Holikachuk. All courses will be available at no charge to all interested language learners through the Doyon Foundation website.

Earlier this spring, the Foundation gave a preview of Doyon Languages Online with the release of a special set of Hän language lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby, an Alaska Native leader, respected Elder and language revitalization pioneer. Those lessons are currently available through the Doyon Foundation website.

The declining number of speakers, and the desire to preserve and pass along the Native languages of the Doyon region to future generations is the driving force behind Doyon Foundation’s Doyon Languages Online project, which began in 2016.

With the support of teams of content creators, Elders and linguistics consultants, the project is creating introductory online lessons for nine of the 10 endangered Doyon region languages: 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 content creation teams have been an inspiration,” said Doris Miller, Doyon Foundation’s executive director. “Witnessing them coming together to speak their language, share their stories and develop lessons that would allow them to pass their language on to future generations was an incredible experience. Doyon Foundation is so pleased to have played a role in facilitating this language revitalization.”

The Doyon Languages Online launch coincides with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, which Doyon Foundation is a partner organization of.  In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. At the time, it was estimated that 40 percent of the 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing.

“After years of dedicated efforts, we are so pleased to share this language revitalization work with all interested learners,” Miller said. “It is even more special to launch Doyon Languages Online in conjunction with the International Year of Indigenous Languages.”

Doyon Languages Online is a partnership between Doyon Foundation and 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning through software donated by Transparent Language. It 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. Doyon Foundation is the private foundation of Alaska Native regional corporation, Doyon, Limited.

For more information on the Doyon Languages Online project and upcoming course releases, please visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact 907.459.2048 or foundation@doyon.com. For assistance signing up for or using Doyon Languages Online, view the instructional video series on YouTube.

ANA Language Revitalization Grant #: 90NL0626. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this publication, and all others associated with the Doyon Languages Online project, do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Administration for Children and Families, or the Administration for Native Americans.