Continuing a lifetime of language work

Ruth Ridley and John Ritter

Ruth recording lessons with John Ritter at the Yukon Native Language Centre

As Doyon Foundation continues to grow our language revitalization efforts in the Doyon region, we are noticing a group of people who are committed and dedicating their own time 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.

Ruth Ridley is a fluent speaker of the Eagle, Alaska, dialect of the Hän Athabascan language. She has been a language champion for many years, following in the footsteps of her late mother Louise Paul. Ruth’s lifetime work of transcribing and translating Hän language began when she was a child. “I started off doing transcriptions for Hän language that mom recorded with John Ritter (of the Yukon Native Language Centre),” she explains.

Ruth Ridley

Ruth at home with sewing projects

Ruth was brought up by her parents Louise and Susie Paul in a mining camp just downriver from Eagle. “We grew up in Coal Creek mining camp. Our families lived there, summer and winter,” Ruth shares. “My mom’s parents were Eliza and Joe Malcolm in Eagle, and my dad’s parents were Elizabeth and Paul Josie in Old Crow.” Ruth has many good memories of growing up in the Eagle area. “There are creeks with grayling, and beaver ponds, and lots of porcupine, and lots of moose, caribou, and a lot of grizzly bear,” she says.

Ruth sometimes spent all summer with her grandparents. “We would go to fish camp with my grandma and grandpa and they spoke Loucheux or Gwich’in. My grandma didn’t speak English, so we had to speak to her in Hän, and then she would talk back to us in Gwich’in. So that’s how we learned too,” Ruth recalls.

Over the years, Ruth has maintained language connections with her Hän and Gwich’in-speaking relatives in Canada, attending workshops in both Dawson City and at the Yukon Native Language Centre (YNLC) at Yukon College, Whitehorse. “My dad’s sister was Edith Josie, who did lot of language work in Old Crow,” Ruth says.

Ruth has been involved in Hän language work since the late 1970s when she collaborated with professor Michael Krauss at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) to develop the first practical writing system for the language. She composed a collection of stories in Hän based on traditional village life, Eagle Hän Huchʼinn Hòdök, published in bilingual format by the Alaska Native Language Center in 1983. Also in that year, she served as Alaska chair of an important Athabaskan language conference held at UAF, a gathering that attracted participants from throughout Canada and the United States. She also served as principal speaker in a three-week Hän practicum offered as a part of CoLang 2016 at UAF.

Recently (2015-2016) Ruth has been a Hän language consultant for Doyon Foundation, working with YNLC linguist John Ritter to record and transcribe a set of basic Hän language lessons. These lessons will be shared first as a booklet with accompanying audio, and later posted on the internet as part of the Doyon Languages Online project, a partnership of Doyon Foundation and 7,000 Languages.

On the importance of creating language lessons such as these, Ruth shared, “I think it would be easier to speak in sentences than just one word at a time. And that way kids can look at the words and they could pronounce it, like my grandchildren they say they’re hungry and they’re thirsty in Hän.”

Ruth feels language is important because “you could really find out about your culture and the kind of person you are, if you could understand and speak your language. I think it’s important that people learn where they come from and where they are going.”

Ruth is looking forward to sharing these lessons with learners. “I guess the biggest challenge is to get started and get going in the right direction,” she remarks. “If they could get started with these lessons then they’ll know which way they’re supposed to go.”

Ruth is also curious about the next steps of posting the lessons online through the Doyon Languages Online project. “I’m just waiting for them to get on the internet to see how people like the language, or how useful they would be for teaching themselves on the computer,” she says.

According to the Alaska Native Language Center, “Hän is the Athabascan language spoken in Alaska at the village of Eagle and in Yukon Territory at Dawson. A writing system was established in the 1970s, and considerable documentation has been carried out at the Alaska Native Language Center as well as at the Yukon Native Language Centre in Whitehorse.”

For more information about how to get copies of Ruth’s Hän language lessons, or to learn more about the Doyon Languages Online project, please contact Allan Hayton at 907.459.2162 or haytona@doyon.com.

If you are planning to apply for a language revitalization grant or submit an RFQ for the Doyon Languages Online project, be sure these fast-approaching deadlines are on your calendar!
For additional information on the Doyon Languages Online RFQ, contact Allan Hayton at haytona@doyon.com or 907.459.2162.
For more information on the language grant, contact Sommer Stickman at stickmans@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

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.

Doyon Foundation is pleased to welcome Nathan Feemster, who was hired in December as the Doyon Languages Online project manager. In this role, Feemster is responsible for the coordination, implementation and evaluation of the Doyon Languages Online project.nathan-for-web

The Doyon Languages Online project is a partnership with 7000 Languages, a nonprofit that supports endangered language learning partially through software donated by Transparent Language. Funded with a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Administration for Native Americans, the project aims to create a total of 280 introductory online lessons for five of the endangered 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.

Originally from Seward, Alaska, Feemster has a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). He previously worked as a substitute teacher for the Anchorage School District, and was a production assistant for the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Feemster was inspired to apply for the job at Doyon Foundation by Ruth Ridley, whom he met while pursuing his undergraduate degree at UAF. “Her nearly 50-year endeavor to help create a place for the Hän language in the future inspired me to apply to Doyon Foundation,” Feemster shared. “Through my work with Doyon Foundation, I hope to support her dream and the dreams of the many who work with the Athabaskan Dene languages. I am humbled to be working on the Doyon Online Languages project and I look forward to the many learning opportunities it offers.”

Outside of work, Feemster enjoys helping his community and is an active volunteer. “I’ve done everything from planting plots for the Stone Soup Community Gardens, to training cats at the animal shelter in my home town,” he said.

A self-described “lifelong learner,” Feemster said he fills his spare time with learning opportunities or projects, which most recently include a bed frame and epublishing a small “chose your own adventure” book.

For more information on Doyon Foundation and the Doyon Languages Online project, visit www.doyonfoundation.com.

As a first step since receiving the three-year, $900,000 Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance grant from the Administration for Native Americans, Doyon Foundation is seeking applications for a project manager for the Doyon Languages Online project.

“We are very excited to start working on this project and are looking for a dynamic individual to join our team,” said Doris Miller, Foundation executive director.

As part of the Doyon Languages Online project, a total of 280 introductory online lessons will be created for five of the critically endangered Doyon languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e, Benhti Kenaga’, Hän, and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa. 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.

Under the supervision of the Foundation’s Language Revitalization Program director, the Doyon Languages Online project manager will be responsible for all stages of the Doyon Language Online project, to include project development, implementation, oversight, and grant compliance requirements. In this exciting position, the project manager will design a curriculum template, oversee content creation and delivery, lead community outreach, and handle grant reporting.

Applicants should have at least three years experience in education or related field, a bachelor’s degree in education or related field, at least two years demonstrated experience managing federal grant awards and grant reporting requirements, and experience or studies in Alaska Native languages or linguistics.

View the job description for more information on essential functions; required knowledge, skills and abilities; minimum qualifications and other details. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply online. The job application closing date is November 1.

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.

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.