Foundation to Award $64,000 to Nine Organizations 

 

Doyon Foundation has selected nine organizations to receive Our Language grants totaling $64,000 this year. Recipients include:

  • Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) – Indigenous Language Institute Annual Symposium in October 2018. With this grant support, ANHC will send its language project director and two language project instructors to the annual symposium, allowing project staff to learn directly from organizations and individuals running language revitalization programs across the U.S.

 

  • KRFF – Athabascan Fiddlers Association, Inc. (AFA) Word of the Day and Phrase of the Day Language Project through December 2018. AFA plans to edit KRFF 89.1 FM’s existing “Word of the Day” and “Phrase of the Day” electronic files and broadcast them out to KRFF’s listening audience in the interior of Alaska and beyond.

 

  • Native Village of Eagle – Revitalization of Hän Language Project through fall 2019. Through this project, the village will provide a forum for fluent Hän Hwëch’in speakers to become teachers. By the end of summer 2018, the goal is to have at least two fluent speakers living in the village providing language lessons to others in the community. By the end of the year, the project seeks to have audio lessons available to those outside the village.

 

  • Native Village of Fort Yukon – Youth and Cultural Language Program through October 2018. Community youth have their own council and have planned year-round cultural activities, which will have Gwich’in language immersed throughout. CDs will also be produced for local radio and presentations on the language skills and cultural knowledge learned through the activities.

 

  • Native Village of Tetlin – Enhancing Culture Camp with Language Sessions in June 2018. During the culture camp, participants will be exposed to language materials and learn basic Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana) Tetlin dialect expressions.

 

  • Nikolai Village – Nikolai Culture/Language Camp in August 2018. In partnership with the Iditarod Area School District – Top of the Kuskokwim School and Telida Village Council, Nikolai Village will offer a culture and language camp with a focus on preserving the Upper Kuskokwim language and igniting a spark in the younger generation.

 

  • Tanacross – Language and Culture Classes through September 2018. The effort will include recording culture and language, offering regular culture and language meetings, and documenting Native culture, including stories and language, with an overall goal of having youth speak the language.

 

  • Tanana Tribal Council – Tanana Cooperative Community Language Preservation and Revitalization Project through September 2018. This project will continue and expand work started in 2017 by creating video recordings of Elders, developing and piloting lesson plans, encouraging multi-generational learning, and building on previous Where Are Your Keys workshops.

 

  • Yukon Flats School District – Honoring the Past, Building for the Future Through Gwich’in Language through September 2018. In collaboration with the Council of Athabascan Tribal Government, the project will promote language revitalization through professional development of current Gwich’in language and culture teachers.

The goal of the Our Language grant program is to support efforts to revitalize the endangered languages of the Doyon region, which include Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana), Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross), Hän, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Deg Xinag, Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga (Lower Tanana), Holikachuk, and Inupiaq.

Doyon, Limited originally established the language grant program in 2012. The Foundation’s language revitalization program now administers the grants, which are available to Doyon region tribal governments/tribal councils/communities; nonprofit Alaska Native organizations, societies and community groups; and Alaska Native cultural, educational and recreational organizations/centers.

For more information, visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact 907.459.2048 or foundation@doyon.com.

 

“When I’m learning my language, I feel like I’m finding myself and understanding who I am.”

 

Diloola Erickson’s parents are Susan Erickson from Kaltag and Arne Erickson from Tok. Her maternal grandparents are the late Irene and Alexander Solomon, Jr., of Kaltag. Her paternal grandparents are Joyce Erickson and the late John Erickson of Tok. Diloola’s language is Denaakk’e (Koyukon).

Diloola edited

Born in Sitka, Diloola Erickson was raised in the Tlingit village of Hoonah in Southeast Alaska, where her favorite part of school was Tlingit class. And though she loved learning Tlingit, she remembers feeling that something was missing.

“I grew up so far from my culture that I always felt distant from it – I always had a longing to know more,” she says.

To help ensure that her 3-year-old daughter, Tsee’ołyeets, is immersed in her language and culture from an early age, Diloola is focused on becoming fluent in Denaakk’e, the language of the Athabascan people of the central Koyukuk and Yukon rivers.

Along with Dewey Hoffman, who works with language revitalization in Fairbanks, and University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) language instructor Lorraine David, Diloola co-hosts a weekly language-learning group at her home and has enrolled her daughter in a language-learning classroom at Fairbanks Native Association. She practices Denaakk’e with her daughter daily, using a Denaakk’e weather wheel and family name chart. “I want to pass on my language and culture so that she’ll always know who she is and where she comes from,” Diloola says.

A Doyon, Limited shareholder, Diloola’s commitment to Denaakk’e fluency deepened when she attended the Alaska Native Studies conference in 2017. It was at an intensive workshop facilitated by Dewey Hoffman that Diloola met Lorraine David, a fluent Denaakk’e speaker who inspired Diloola to start her language journey. Lorraine is a former Doyon Foundation board member and veteran language instructor at UAF.

“I was craving more sessions like that,” Diloola says, and Lorraine agreed to meet with Diloola and her group weekly. She often records their sessions and tries to listen daily to gain vocabulary and pronunciation.

“Lorraine is passionate about passing on our language. She has been one of the biggest supporters in my journey,” Diloola says.

A UAF student graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in rural development and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Diloola plans to pursue work in positions that will allow her to help raise up Alaska Native people. She sees language revitalization as part of the efforts to create positive change in Alaska Native communities. DErickson

As a First Alaskans Institute summer intern at Doyon Foundation in 2017, Diloola contributed to the Doyon Languages Online team by developing multimedia materials promoting language revitalization in the Doyon region. The team’s favorites include stickers featuring beaded gloves conveying everyday phrases in Denaakk’e, like “Enee!” (“good!”). Familiar to any conference-goer, “Hello, my name is …” adhesive name tags were created by Diloola in each of the Doyon region languages. Name tags were available at school fairs throughout Anchorage and Fairbanks.

edzooDiloola also helped lead a workshop at the 2017 First Alaskans Institute Elders & Youth Conference, “Taking Language Revitalization Online – Using GIFs to Get the Word Out.” Participants developed their own GIFs – a format that animates images to easily share them online – and brainstormed other forms of social media aimed at encouraging people to take join in language revitalization.

“Ultimately my goal is to use my education to uplift my culture and the Alaska Native community,” Diloola says. “Learning my language is the biggest part of learning who I am.”

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.

Candidates sought for Doyon Languages Online II Project Manager

DF_15_Job Post Promotion_BlogDoyon Foundation is seeking a project manager for its Doyon Languages Online II project, which will work to increase the number of people who speak the Doyon region languages of Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross), Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana), Deg Xinag and Denak’i (Upper Kuskokwim). Applications will be accepted until Wednesday, January 17.

The position is currently posted on the Doyon, Limited website, and interested applicants are encouraged to review the job description, which includes the duties and responsibilities, and applicant qualifications. Those interested in the position may also apply online through the Doyon website.

The Foundation received a three-year, $977,423 grant from the U.S. Department of Education – Alaska Native Educational Program for the project, which will create more than 220 online language-learning lessons, train teachers in the use of the technology, and field test the lessons with students.

This project builds 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).

The project manager will be responsible for the coordination, implementation and the evaluation of the Doyon Languages Online II project, and will work directly under the Foundation’s language revitalization program director. It is preferred that candidates have a master’s degree in the education field with experience in language teaching, curriculum development or evaluation, and past experience in program design, education planning, and teaching language.

To view the job description and to apply, visit the Doyon, Limited website. For more information on the Foundation’s language revitalization program, visit www.doyonfoundation.com.

 

Foundation Seeks Linguistics Consultants and Content Creators

Doyon Foundation is pleased to announce a second call for linguistics consultants and content creators for the Doyon Languages Online project. Interested applicants are encouraged to review the RFQs (request for qualifications) for linguistics consultants and content creators, and apply for the position of interest.

The Doyon Languages Online project is working 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.

Doyon Languages Online is funded with a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Administration for Native Americans. 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, and to access the application, please see the linguistics consultants RFQ and content creators RFQ.

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.

Supported by Doyon Foundation, Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh (“Our Language Nest”) is an immersion program that teaches children to become fluent speakers of Gwich’in while helping preserve one of the world’s most threatened Indigenous languages.

Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh meets Saturdays at various sites in and around Fairbanks so that parents and children may speak Gwich’in, sing songs, share lessons and create learning activities. Virtually all activities are in Gwich’in, and the activity is free of charge.

“The group is open to everyone, but especially parents with young children,” says Allan Hayton, the Foundation’s language revitalization program director. “The goal is to teach Gwich’in to children by talking to them in the language.”

Gatherings typically attract a half-dozen or so parents and as many as 10 children. There is no fee to attend and parents also rely on the group to learn Gwich’in.

A “no-English” policy is typical of language nest immersion programs in Alaska and throughout the world. Adopting the metaphor of a nest as a safe place to learn, Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh is an early childhood education project that brings together Elders who are fluent speakers and parents and children, who typically speak English only.

Hayton began working with parents in 2015 to start Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh; today he’s among the group’s leaders, which includes parents and other community members. Partners include University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Rural Student Services and Denakkanaaga, the Fairbanks-based nonprofit organization for Native Elders. Over the years, the group has met outdoors, at parents’ homes, at Denakkanaaga and the UAF campus.

“No two Language Nest meetings are the same,” says Charlene Stern, a mother who has been involved since the group’s very first meeting. By the time her son was born, Charlene says she realized she wanted him to hear Gwich’in daily, at home. Charlene’s first language is English; her mother and siblings are fluent Gwich’in speakers.

Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh differs from teaching that introduces vocabulary in a new language by having students memorize isolated words or phrases. Some meetings involve getting together to share a meal and practice Gwich’in table phrases. Other gatherings focus on games and songs or venturing outdoors. This in-context approach teaches Gwich’in by offering everyday, appealing situations that “feed” the language into ears of young children. Two primary teachers who are fluent speakers are on hand at Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh gatherings. Parents who are second-language learners also are welcome to lead activities and lessons.

Worldwide language nest projects trace their start to 1982 and successful efforts to revive the Maori language in New Zealand. In Alaska, the nine ancestral languages of the Doyon region were the first languages spoken by the people as recently as 100 years ago. Revitalization programs like Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh can add to the number of fluent speakers and lessen the risk that the language will be lost.

“For me, one of the most important things about the Language Nest is that it creates a space where our children positively engage with our culture and language,” Charlene says. Alaska Native children typically are a minority in urban public schools, and she says Native children often experience discrimination that fosters feelings of inferiority. “Language Nest helps equip our children with stronger identities so that they become more resilient individuals and tribal members.”

Language nests such as Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh adhere to evidence-based strategies in early childhood education. For instance, research shows that up to about age 7, children acquire a second language – or third or fourth – as naturally as they learn a first language.

Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh is one of several Foundation-supported programs to revitalize Indigenous languages in the Doyon region. Efforts include the Native Word of the Month and Doyon Languages Online, the grant-funded project that is developing online lessons for five of the Doyon languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e, Benhti Kenaga’, Hän and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa. Plans eventually call for online lessons in all Doyon region languages.

Charlene is among the Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh parents from families who encouraged English as a step to success in the Western world. “Today we know that speaking more than one language carries many benefits,” she says. “And we know that culture and language revitalization is critical to personal identity and collective well-being.”

She’s looking forward to a time when more families take part in Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh or similar community-driven efforts.

“We participate because it’s something that’s important to us, our children, and generations yet to come,” she says. “We can’t look to organizations, school districts or government grants to singlehandedly revitalize the Gwich’in language. I believe it’s up to us.”

For more information on Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh and how to get involved in the Language Nest, please contact Allan Hayton at 907.459.2162 or haytona@doyon.com.

Language speakers, teachers, learners and anyone else interested in revitalizing the lIMG_1063anguages of the Doyon region are invited to the Deg Xinag and Holikachuk Language Gathering, hosted by Doyon Foundation in Holy Cross on Sunday and Monday, June 4 and 5.

The gathering will begin with dinner at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 4. A meeting will take place 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Monday, June 5. Both events will be held at the Holy Cross School, and are free of charge.

IMG_1151The event will bring together Elders, speakers, teachers, learners and other stakeholders to create momentum for current and future language revitalization initiatives.

The goal of the gathering is to create a call to action, develop practical steps toward long-range goals, and share inspiration and hope around language revitalization.

The event is sponsored by Doyon Foundation with support from the Administration for Native Americans.

To RSVP for the gathering, or for more information on the event or the language revitalization program, contact Allan Hayton at 907-459-2162 or haytona@doyon.com.

The Doyon Languages Online program has had a busy spring! Read on for recaps of recent activities, and be sure to subscribe to the Doyon Foundation blog to receive future monthly updates.

Here’s what you will find in our spring update:

Doyon Languages Online Project Gets Underway

Language Demos Now Available

Presenting at the Alaska Native Studies Conference

Collaborating on Language Revitalization

Get Involved


Doyon Languages Online Project Gets Underway

The Doyon Languages Online (DLO) project got underway with a gathering of educators, speakers, and curriculum developers at Doyon Foundation on Saturday, February 18, 2017. Doyon Foundation Executive Director Doris Miller along with board president Lanien Livingston welcomed key representatives from five languages: Denaakk’e, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Hän, Holikachuk, and Behnti Kenaga’.

The purpose of the meeting was to begin the first phase of a three-year project to create and post basic lessons online through partner 7000 Languages. 7000 Languages is a non-profit that connects endangered language communities with the technology to teach, learn, and revive their languages. The technology used in the DLO project is donated by Transparent Language. The open source platform will have the capacity to be continually modified and added to, ensuring it will be a valuable resource for learners for many generations to come. Ultimately, the project will include all languages in the Doyon region.

The day began with attendees introducing themselves in their own languages. Eliza Jones expressed that she was happy to be involved in the project, and that “working with my Denaakk’e language is nourishment for the soul.” As we finished the circle of introductions, Minto elder Sarah Silas said she loved hearing everyone speaking Athabascan language, and to her it sounded like “the most beautiful music, like all of the birds singing together and making the most amazing song.” She inspired the room with her warm comforting smile and gave everyone love and hope. Sarah shared that she was “so happy and proud that younger people were doing this good work.”

To familiarize everyone with the Transparent Language software, attendees broke into groups and recorded short conversations in their respective languages. This activity was instructive for everyone involved, and served as a “pilot demo” for the work ahead. These demos are available to preview at the end of this article.

The group enjoyed moose soup and fry bread for lunch, prepared by Doyon Foundation admin Sommer Stickman, and the crew at Doyon Facilities. After lunch Vera Weiser brought everyone back together with an uplifting song, “Onee’,” made by Evelyn Alexander as a prayer for a safe return of her granddaughter from firefighting in the Lower 48.

Sunday, February 19 was day two of the weekend workshop, and was a smaller group that focused on creating a template or “roadmap” for the 10 units of lessons in the project. Team members shared their ideas for creating “Day 1, Lesson 1” of the first unit. A development team will create a complete document for the 10 units by July, and this document will serve as a style guide for all five languages.

The DLO project strives to create a collaborative space for all team members to produce the best learning material possible. Doyon Foundation language committee member Rochelle Adams of Beaver stated, “I’m honored to do this good work for our people. I’m grateful to work alongside our elders and to connect with others that share the same passion and fire to put the breath back into our languages!”

David Engels of Minto added, “We are good Athabascans who travel and do not forget who we are, or where we come from.”

Darren Deacon of Kalskag has always loved languages, and has studied Russian and Japanese among other languages. His family teased him that he “loved to talk so much that he had to learn five different languages so he could talk some more.” This project will provide an opportunity for him to learn his Holikachuk language.

Language committee member and Holikachuk elder Elizabeth Keating felt that “It was special, heart-warming, hopeful, exciting and more. I especially enjoyed Darren’s enthusiasm for learning our language.”

Overall, it was a great weekend, and the group represented a model of collaboration that included elders, PhD-level professors, community members, and teachers that share a passion for the ancestral languages of our region.

Alexa Little, executive director of 7000 Languages, shared after the meeting, “We do a lot of our work over video conference, so it was a special experience for me to visit Alaska and meet the Doyon Languages Online team in person. I’m so excited watching this project take shape — it’s clear that everyone involved is extremely passionate about revitalizing these languages.”


Language Demos Now Available

Doyon Languages Online (DLO) is excited to announce our first series of demo lessons! These demos were created during the February 18 and 19 kick-off meeting, and provide short examples of what the DLO project is creating.

Test out demos of lessons in Denaakk’e, Holikachuk, Hän, Benhti Kenaga’, and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in) by clicking on the icons below:

Han Demo button

Benhti button

holikachuk button

dinjii button

denaakke button


Presenting at the Alaska Native Studies Conference

The 2017 Alaska Native Studies Conference was held at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) April 7 – 9. Doyon Foundation staff Allan Hayton and Nathaniel Feemster presented at this year’s conference, sharing updates on the Doyon Languages Online (DLO) project.

Attendees at their presentation learned more about the DLO project, and were able to test out demos of lessons in Denaakk’e, Holikachuk, Hän, Benhti Kenaga’, and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in). Allan also facilitated a Gwich’in language preconference session along with Caroline Tritt-Frank and Kenneth Frank, and co-presented on a panel for the Diiginjik K’yaa Ch’at’oh language nest.

The 2017 Alaska Native Studies Conference was an inspiring gathering of people, ideas, and hope for the future of our languages and cultures of the Doyon region and across the state. We look forward to the 2018 conference scheduled to be held in Juneau.

See more event photos on Facebook!


Collaborating on Language Revitalization

Doyon Languages Online (DLO) is a unique collaborative effort between five languages: Denaakk’e, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Benhti Kenaga’, Hän, and Holikachuk. Due to the great distance between team members, collaboration takes place via technology such as Google Drive, email, video and teleconferencing.

We were fortunate to have everyone in the same room February 18 and 19, and we are aiming to host another gathering before July. The DLO project has held two more collaborative meetings (one on March 26 and one on April 23) via audio teleconference with the development team since the February 19 initial development meeting.

During these collaborative meetings, we share and discuss the material each language team has developed in the time between meetings. These meetings capitalize on the creativity and passion of each language team and allow them to work in conjunction, meaning that each language benefits from the work produced.

See more photos on Facebook!


Get Involved

If you’d like to get involved in the Doyon Languages Online efforts to revitalize our Native languages, or want to learn more, please contact Allan Hayton at 907.459.2162 or haytona@doyon.com, or Nathaniel Feemster at 907.459.2107 or feemstern@doyon.com.