Language Revitalization Program

The 10 ancestral languages of the Doyon region, including nine Athabascan languages plus Iñupiaq, represent half of the 20 Native languages in the state of Alaska. Due to the rapidly decreasing health of creative and fluent Native language speakers, the Native languages within the Doyon region are not being passed on quickly enough to ensure their survival. 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. There is an urgent need to promote and foster language opportunities for non-speakers.

To respond to this need, Doyon Foundation began laying the groundwork for a region-wide language revitalization program in 2009. In 2012, Doyon, Limited generously awarded start-up funding to establish the program. The program has continued to grow since then.

We believe that every Doyon shareholder and descendant should have the opportunity to learn their language and culture. With that in mind, our immediate program goals are to:

  • Expand the organizational capacity of Doyon Foundation to effectively and efficiently develop, implement and sustain a Native language revitalization program.
  • Develop a language revitalization program that will ensure the cultures and languages of the Doyon region are taught, documented and easily accessible.

Our language revitalization program is not intended to replace any other current efforts, but rather to collaborate and partner with like-minded organizations, and align efforts, goals and resources.

Language Program Strategic Plan

Doyon Foundation is committed to ensuring that current and future generations have the opportunity to hear, to learn, and to speak the language of our ancestors. The Doyon Foundation Language Revitalization Strategic Plan 2018-2021 is our roadmap towards that vision. The plan provides a general strategy for moving forward through the identification of key areas of focus, long-term goals, and short-term actions.

Learn your language with Doyon Languages Online

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.

The project is creating introductory online lessons for nine of the 10 of the endangered Doyon region languages: Holikachuk, Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Benhti Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Hän, Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Deg Xinag, Denak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Nee’anděg’ (Tanacross) and Née’aaneegn’ (Upper Tanana). The first set of online courses were made available in summer 2019, and are 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.

Native Word of the Month

Each month, we share a new Native word or phrase and definition here on the website, along with an audio recording of the pronunciation. Have a translation in another language? Share it with us on Facebook! Have an idea for a Native Word of the Month? Please email your idea to haytona@doyon.com.

Our Language grants

Each year, in a continuing effort to revitalize the endangered Native languages of the Doyon region, Doyon Foundation awards grants of up to $5,000 to support language revitalization efforts in the Doyon region.

Language resources

Access our free language-learning resources, including a Doyon region language map, name tags, stickers and more.

Language revitalization committee

We are grateful for our language revitalization committee, which guides the development of our language revitalization program and subsequent language projects. This committee represents shareholders, descendants and tribal members from the region’s nine languages. It meets monthly and is composed of Doyon Foundation board members and volunteer community members, who have expertise and interest in language revitalization.

Language champions

As we continue 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.

Mentor-Apprentice Program Materials Now Available to All

We’ve been busy preparing for the official start of our brand new Native language Mentor-Apprentice Program! The first cohort of mentor-apprentice teams will gather for orientation and training on August 12 – 13 in Fairbanks. As part of efforts to support our MAP...

July 2022 Native Word of the Month

https://youtu.be/Mq7vvKBoEuA Our July 2022 Native Word of the Month features a clip from our Storyteller language profile on Denaakk’e language learner, Kimberly Nicholas. In the interview, Kimberly shares the Denaakk’e word for “king salmon,” which is “ggaał.” Our...

Storyteller Language Profile: Kimberly Nicholas

In this Storyteller language profile, our language revitalization program director, Allan Hayton, speaks with Denaakk’e language learner, Kimberly Nicholas, who is also a member of our first Native language Mentor-Apprentice Program cohort. You can watch or listen to...

June 2022 Native Word of the Month

Sunset at the boat launch in Tanacross. Photo courtesy of Allan Hayton, who took this photo during a recent visit to the area. In the June Native Word of the Month, we share two audio clips from our Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross) Doyon Languages Online...

Storyteller Language Profile: Paul Williams, Jr.

In this Storyteller language profile, Paul Williams, Jr. shares about his experience as a Native language teacher at Cruikshank School in Beaver, and his own journey as a student pursuing his Bachelor of Arts. Williams, Jr. has been teaching for 31 years, spanning two...