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.

Transparent Language, Inc. and the Doyon Foundation today announced the launch of the Doyon Foundation 7000 Partnership. The goal of the partnership is to create leading-edge software for the teaching and learning of the Athabascan languages of Alaska’s Doyon region, which encompasses approximately 12.5 million acres in Interior Alaska.

The Doyon Foundation 7000 Partnership is the latest initiative of Transparent Language’s 7000 Languages Project. With approximately 7,100 living languages in the world today, the goal of the 7000 Languages Project is to create world-class web- and mobile-delivered learning materials for the 7,000 languages beyond the top 100 or so that attract significant commercial support.

The technology for the 7000 Languages Project is donated by Transparent Language, but the passion and expertise for each project is brought together by regionally-focused 7000 Partnerships, of which the Doyon Foundation 7000 Partnership is the latest.

The Doyon Foundation 7000 Partnership is an initiative of the Doyon Foundation, a private, Alaska-based nonprofit working to strengthen language and culture within the Doyon region. “Providing cultural opportunities and a strong demonstration of Native traditional language and culture is at the core of Doyon Foundation’s mission and vision,” said Doris Miller, Foundation executive director. “This partnership will enable us to make significant strides toward the revitalization of our Native languages, which is critical for their survival.”

The 7000 Partnership also responds to a directive from the people and entities of the Doyon region to develop computer-assisted language-learning tools that support the preservation and revitalization of the region’s languages.

Transparent Language develops transformational language-learning and teaching software for serious language schools and programs in the US government and elsewhere. “We do deep work in less-common languages because our customers need to respond quickly and effectively to humanitarian crises or conflicts anywhere in the world,” says Michael Quinlan, CEO of Transparent Language. “The same technology is perfect for creating powerful learning software for the world’s under-resourced languages, so we created the pro bono 7000 Languages Project to meet that need.”

There are nine Athabascan languages in the Doyon region: Benhti Kenaga’ (Tanana), Deg Xinag, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Denak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Han, Holikachuk, Tanacross, and Née’ aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana). The Doyon Foundation 7000 Partnership will initially focus on one or two of those and later extend to the remaining languages. Potentially the partnership could evolve to include additional Alaska Native languages.

More information at http://www.doyonfoundation.com.

Due to the rapidly decreasing number of fluent speakers, Native languages within the Doyon region are not being passed on quickly enough to ensure their survival, creating an urgent need to promote and foster language opportunities for non-speakers.

“In 5 to 10 years, language extinction is possible,” said Wesley Roberts Dalton, former vice president of the Doyon Foundation board of directors and former chair of the Foundation’s language revitalization committee.

To address this critical issue, Doyon Foundation is launching the Language Revitalization Program, a comprehensive, region-wide program to capture, preserve, share and perpetuate Athabascan languages.

Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization committee has been working on this goal for almost four years.  A 10-year strategic plan and program proposal were developed, and the committee is now working on a business plan. The committee also researched many different language-learning software and technology options before selecting the Byki language-learning program, offered by Transparent Language, which has helped millions of individuals learn new languages and is used by more than 12,000 schools and universities, including top government language schools.

The committee and Foundation staff also developed one- to five-year goals. Some first-year goals include hiring a language revitalization program director, building relationships and collaborating with like-minded partners, securing additional funding, and creating a pilot language learning program, among other tasks.

“The Doyon Foundation program could grow into a multi-million dollar, grant-funded department. That’s been demonstrated by other Native corporations in the state,” Dalton said. “We can become leaders in language revitalization.”

Earlier this year, the Doyon, Limited board of directors approved a resolution and a $150,000 contribution to the Foundation to establish and operate the first year of the program.

“The resolution reaffirms the board’s mission to strengthen our Native way of life and support the Doyon Foundation, which provides educational, career and cultural opportunities to enhance the identity and quality of life for Doyon shareholders,” said Aaron Schutt, Doyon, Limited president and CEO.

“Providing cultural opportunities and a strong demonstration of Native traditional language and culture is at the core of Doyon Foundation’s mission and vision,” said Doris Miller, Foundation executive director. “Doyon’s support of this program will enable us to make significant strides toward the revitalization of our Native languages, which is critical for their survival. We are grateful beyond words for Doyon, Limited’s support.”

The need for the program is clear: According to the Alaska Native Language Center, there are less than 500 speakers of the nine Athabascan languages in the Doyon region. Gwich’in and Koyukon have the most, with 150 speakers. Most of the others have fewer than 30 speakers.

In addition to the declining number of speakers, there are insufficient numbers of qualified Athabascan language teachers, and there is not a solid, region-wide language revitalization effort to provide easily accessible language programs.

But this need is not just about language; it is also about bringing positive change to the people of the Doyon region. Research has shown that the ability to speak one’s language is essential to strong self-identity, self-esteem and the perpetuation of cultural beliefs, values and traditions.

A quote from Victor Nicholas, Doyon, Limited board vice president and Doyon Foundation board member, sums it up. “It’s our language – it’s who we are,” he said.

The development of this program has been a labor of love for the Foundation’s language committee members, including Chair Paul Mountain, Lorraine David, Wesley Roberts Dalton, Teisha Simmons, Patricia Paul, Alan Hayton, Polly E. Hyslop and Susan Paskvan, as well as many others who have volunteered their time.

“These individuals have demonstrated their deep commitment to our people and culture by volunteering countless hours researching the need, similar programs and possible solutions, as well as building relationships and developing a plan for the program. We are deeply grateful for their efforts and look forward to seeing our vision come to life,” Miller said.