There are very few children’s books featuring the Alaska Native languages of the Doyon region, but thanks to the work of student Natilly Hovda and her partnership with Doyon Foundation, there is a new addition to the bookshelf.
During her First Alaskans Institute internship at Doyon Foundation in 2019, Natilly wrote and illustrated a children’s book incorporating Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), one of the Athabascan languages spoken along the Tanana River in Alaska. The book, titled “Łuk’a Ts’iłki One Fish, Łuk’a Notik’a Two Fish, Łuk’a Delk’ezri Red Fish, Łuk’a Lek’wdli White Fish,” is now available as an electronic flipbook or a downloadable PDF on the Doyon Foundation website, www.doyonfoundation.com. A limited number of hard copy books are also available upon request from the Foundation.
“My goal overall was to inspire students to learn more about their own culture and the multitude of Indigenous cultures around Alaska and providing some simple terms they can use daily to help them learn Benhti Kenaga’,” shares Natilly, a Doyon, Limited shareholder and previous Doyon Foundation scholarship recipient. “I wanted to inspire people to learn more about our cultures. Not just our traditions, our languages or our songs, but our history and to grow an appreciation of the environment around us.”
“There are a very limited number of books involving Native languages for young readers, so this book fills part of a huge void and hopefully inspires more writers to author books in Indigenous languages,” says Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program.
To further help young students learn the language, Natilly also created a series of flashcards using words and illustrations from the book. The flashcards are now available as a PDF for easy downloading and printing on the Doyon Foundation website. A series of interactive flashcards, featuring the voice of David Engles, are in development and will be available on the Foundation’s website and Instagram.
The book and flashcard project is in line with Natilly’s long-time goal of becoming an elementary school teacher in Fairbanks. Natilly, who was born and raised in Fairbanks, is a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She will graduate with an associate’s degree in performing arts this summer, and expects to complete the elementary education program in 2024.
“I plan to use the knowledge I have gained from Doyon Foundation and my schooling to educate students on the importance of preserving wildlife and learning about Alaska Native cultural traditions, language and history,” says Natilly, who is the daughter of Cosmo Ketzler, and the granddaughter of Nancy Ketzler-Haskins and Thomas Haskins, and the late Don Ketzler.
Natilly is not the only talented member of her family. Her cousin, Claire Ketzler, also interned at the Foundation in 2019. During Claire’s internship, she wrote and illustrated a short comic in Gwich’in, based on a Gwich’in story, “Shihtthoo Tr’ik, The Young Brown Bear Woman.” Read more about Claire’s project on the Foundation blog.
These projects are among the many efforts of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program, which is dedicated to ensuring that the Native languages of the Doyon region survive – and thrive – for future generations.
To learn more about the Foundation’s language revitalization efforts, or to view or download Natilly’s book and flashcards, visit www.doyonfoundation.com. To request a hard copy of her book, contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907.459.2162.