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 not 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.