Online Lessons to be Created for Nine Indigenous Languages of Doyon Region

 

Doyon Foundation has received a three-year, $977,423 grant from the U.S. Department of Education – Alaska Native Educational Program to expand its language revitalization efforts through the Doyon Languages Online II project.

Group of language learners participate in an activity

Holy Cross Deg Xinag Language Gathering

Through the project, the Foundation will increase the number of people who speak Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross), Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana), Deg Xinag and Denak’i (Upper Kuskokwim) by creating more than 220 online language-learning lessons, training teachers in the use of the technology through partnerships with the Alaska Gateway and Iditarod school districts, and field testing the lessons with students.

The funding will allow the Foundation to build on the progress of the existing Doyon Languages Online project, which is already in the process of developing online language-learning lessons for five of the Doyon region languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Benhti Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Hän, and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in).

“With this new grant, we will be able to produce online learning opportunities for nine of the 10 indigenous languages of the Doyon region,” said Doris Miller, executive director of Doyon Foundation. The nine languages targeted in the two Doyon Languages Online projects currently have little or no online educational materials for those wanting to learn.

Doyon Languages Online is a project of the Foundation’s language revitalization program, and is 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.

Two women at table reviewing Native language learning documents

Northway Where Are Your Keys Workshop

The 10 indigenous languages of the Doyon region represent half of the 20 total Alaska Native languages, which were recently made official languages of the state of Alaska. The 10 Doyon region languages are all severely to critically endangered, and are not being passed on to younger generations quickly enough to ensure their survival.

“Every year we are losing more of our Elders and first language speakers,” said Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program. “Today there are no villages in the Doyon region where children are learning their ancestral language as their first language.”

“But with this grant funding, combined with the support of our partners, the expertise of our Elders and teachers, and the interest of our people, there is real hope that we will pass on our languages to the next generations,” he said.

Doyon Foundation is the private foundation established in 1989 by Doyon, Limited to provide educational, career and cultural opportunities to enhance the identity and quality of life for Doyon shareholders. The Foundation, with support from Doyon, Limited, created the language revitalization program in 2012 to ensure the cultures and languages of the Doyon region are taught, documented and easily accessible.

For more information on Doyon Foundation and its language revitalization program and Doyon Languages Online project, visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact Doris Miller, executive director, or Allan Hayton, language revitalization program director, at foundation@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

Language learners from the communities of Rampart and Tanana came together for a five-day Denaakk’e workshop at the Rampart Community Hall July 11 – 15, 2016. The goal of the workshop, which was funded in part by an Our Language grant from Doyon Foundation, was for learners to be able to introduce themselves in Denaakk’e. Participants also learned common greetings and traditional place names. Each learner made a book of nouns and book of verbs in order to use the content in different combinations to create new and complete sentences.

Patty Elias, Faith Peters and Helen Peters traveled from Tanana to Rampart, joining Mary Ann Wiehl, Paul Evans, Jr., Brittany Woods-Orrison, Brook Wright, Frank Yaska, Liyana Woods, Ariyah Woods, Darian Woods, Ian Woods, Tristan Woods, David Wiehl, Jr., Janet Woods, Jennifer Wiehl, Sandy Cummings, Georgianna Lincoln, Toni Mallot, Joni Newman, Natalie Newman, Dee Wiehl, Fayleen Peters and Yavonne Woods, and the most important person of all, Rosemary Wiehl, who was hired as the cook for the week. In all, 25 people participated throughout the week.

Participants learned introductions, kinship terms, common expressions, verb conjugations, family trees, and traditional place names. A song was also created for Tanana Chiefs Conference Tobacco Prevention Program. The song will be featured in a play written by Frank Yaska, which will be touring six villages this school year.

During the workshop, Elder and teacher Helen Peters worked with everyone on how to make the sounds needed to speak correctly. A big highlight was a 4-year-old participant introducing herself, who her parents are, and that she lives in Rampart.

The workshop culminated in a community gathering where everyone enjoyed a meal of moose soup, king salmon, salads, fry bread and cake. The group held an overview of the week and selected what was to be incorporated in interactive books. They also developed a language plan to be used in the school this year, and have plans to meet monthly and practice their language to continue this revitalization effort.

For more information on the Our Language grants or Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program, please visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact Allan Hayton at haytona@doyon.com or 907.459.2162.