Mentor Apprentice Program (MAP)

The Mentor-Apprentice Program (MAP) model was first suggested in 1993 by Karuk speaker Julian Lang and brought to life by linguist Dr. Leanne Hinton. Since 2021, Doyon Foundation has adapted this model to reflect the Doyon region languages’ unique features, cultural significance, and levels of endangerment. The goal of this immersion-style program is for apprentices to build confidence and connection with their native language while inspiring a new generation of speakers. The MAP model echoes traditional methods of teaching and learning that bind communities together and strengthen indigenous identity.

Doyon Foundation’s Mentor apprentice program

All 10 of the Doyon region’s languages are in extreme danger of extinction. The 2020 Interior Alaska Language Revitalization Survey showed the majority of respondents want to improve their speaking ability, with the goal of passing languages on to the next generation. However, there are few opportunities for learners to connect with fluent speakers in an immersive environment, which is a critical component to becoming proficient in a language.

In 2021, Doyon Foundation received a three-year, $812,142 federal grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) to fund a Mentor-Apprentice Program (MAP) as part of its efforts to revitalize the endangered languages of the Doyon region in Interior Alaska. The grant falls under ANA’s Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance program, and will provide funding from 2021 to 2024.

Doyon Foundation’s Mentor-Apprentice Program will provide training and compensation for participating mentor (fluent or proficient speakers) and apprentice (learners) teams. Mentors will guide apprentices to become proficient speakers of Doyon region languages through hours of one-on-one language learning for one year. In turn, language learners who complete an apprenticeship can give back to their language community as a mentor, instructor or lesson developer.

The Foundation will be recruiting mentor-apprentice teams, with a focus on Doyon, Limited shareholders who want to learn one of their region’s Native languages:

  • Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana)
  • Deg Xinag
  • Denaakk’e (Koyukon)
  • Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross)
  • Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim)
  • Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in)
  • Hän
  • Holikachuk
  • Iñupiaq
  • Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana)

Program Materials

Important information for mentors and apprentices

Mentors should be fluent speakers dedicated to passing on their language knowledge. To this end, mentors must also be patient and understanding throughout their apprentice’s learning journey. This program requires many hours of speaking and instruction using only the target language. 

Apprentices are learners ready to engage in immersion and leave English at the door during work sessions. Ideally, apprentices have some speaking knowledge of the target language, and if not, are dedicated to preparing themselves for the program using existing language resources such as Doyon Languages Online. 

Mentors and apprentices will make a commitment to be part of the program for one year and have a goal to complete 260 hours of practice in the target language. Mentors and apprentices must apply together as one team. Apprentices will be responsible for filling out the application and ensuring the mentor consents to everything in the application. 


Thank you to First Peoples’ Cultural Council for providing a template for these FAQs.

COVID-19 note: The health and safety of everyone involved in Doyon Foundation programs – apprentices, mentors, communities and especially our Elders – is of the utmost importance to us. We want to be very careful that our programs do not put anyone at risk and ensure that they follow the current orders of the Center for Disease Control. Any gathering of MAP teams should be in accordance with the health and safety protocols of your Tribal Nation as well as those of the CDC.

Who can participate in the Mentor-Apprentice Program?

Participation in the Mentor-Apprentice Program is open to all who are involved in language reclamation work and are passionate about creating new speakers. We highly encourage Doyon shareholders and descendants to apply, and will preference applicants who live in the Doyon region.

How many Mentor-Apprentice Program (MAP) teams will this grant support?

This year, the grant will support up to 10 mentor-apprentice teams (20 participants in total). The following year, it will support up to 10 more mentor-apprentice teams.

Who can be a mentor or an apprentice?

A mentor is:

  • A highly proficient speaker of the language. Usually a mentor spoke the language as a child. The mentor does NOT need to have language teaching experience; knowing how to speak the language is all the expertise needed.
  • Patient and have an understanding of the language-learning process. Language learning is not a quick process and it takes a lot of time and repetition for the apprentice to “pick up” language.
  • Willing to spend a significant amount of time with the apprentice speaking only the language.
  • Willing to overcome any fears, inhibitions or negative feelings about speaking and sharing the language. These feelings are understandable and very common due to the effects of the residential school experience, but it is important to create a positive space for the language to grow.
  • Open to learning and using different techniques to pass on the language to the apprentice.

An apprentice is:

  • Either a semi-speaker (knows some of the language) or a total beginner. Either way is OK!
  • Patient and has an understanding of the language-learning process.
  • Willing to spend a significant amount of time with the mentor, speaking only the language. In addition to the time spent together, many apprentices spend extra time on their own listening to recordings and reviewing.
  • Deeply committed to learning the language.
  • Committed to making the most out of the time spent with the mentor.
  • Responsible for guiding the language-learning process by choosing what she/he wants to learn.
  • Willing to take risks and overcome fears of making mistakes in the language.
  • Interested in and committed to passing on what she/he learns to others.

(Definitions from FPCC’s ‘B.C’s Master-Apprentice Language Program Handbook’, 2012, p.9) 

Can I apply as an individual?

Currently, we are only accepting applications from pre-arranged teams of mentors and apprentices. Due to the intense, and sometimes emotional, nature of immersion learning, it is important that the mentor and apprentice have an established relationship before beginning the program. If you are interested in applying but are unable to find a partner, please contact us to be placed on our standby list. Priority will be given to teams, but in the case that the program does not fill up, we will try to find partners for interested individuals.

Can our teams do their MAP hours together as a group?

Learning together as a group of mentors and apprentices can be a great way to create an immersive social environment that sparks natural conversation, laughter and new ideas. However, we encourage each team to spend most of their time in a one-on-one format so that each apprentice can be learning according to their individual needs and goals. If you would like, MAP teams can gather as a group once a month to benefit from shared learning and peer support. This can be done in person, or online, since most teams will not be in the same communities.

Can we have multiple apprentices working with one mentor?

Teams must consist of only one mentor and apprentice each, as the model works best using a one-on-one approach to language learning. This provides each language learner focused time with a fluent speaker, doing hands-on activities together. Having more than one apprentice with a single mentor can overwhelm the mentor and lead to a classroom style of language learning, which may not be as effective.

Is this a single-year or multi-year program?

This program is offered one year at a time. While a full mentor-apprentice program traditionally lasts at least three years (the equivalent of 900+ hours of focused language learning), Doyon Foundation is not able to guarantee more than one year at a time for this group program. We encourage teams to continue on with one another beyond this program, seeking alternative funding to continue.

We don’t have enough fluent speakers in our community to be mentors. What can we do?

Due to the nature of the Mentor-Apprentice Program, it is essential to have a fluent speaker guiding the learner. If you are interested in participating as an apprentice, but do not have a fluent mentor available, please consider partnering with a local organization and applying for a Doyon Foundation Our Language grant. We highly encourage groups of experienced language learners to get together on their own to collaborate on their learning journey.

If you are still unable to find a suitable partner, please contact us so that we can work with you to find a solution.

Are MAP teams paid?

Each team in the Mentor-Apprentice Program is paid monthly by Doyon Foundation. The stipend for mentors will be $645 and $585 for apprentices. If you have not gotten paid after two weeks, please contact us.

Can apprentices apply with mentors living in a different community?

In-person teams are preferred. However, if you are on the road system and have reasonable driving distance to allow for in-person meetings (when safe) or can boat to another community, you can apply with a mentor from a different community. If driving or boating to your mentor is not possible, virtual meeting may be an option if the mentor and apprentice are comfortable with video conferencing technology. Applicants living in the Doyon region will also be prioritized.

What happens if one of the participants is not able to complete the program after we have started?

If either a mentor or apprentice is unable to complete the program, we will work with the remaining participant to find a new partner (time permitting) or prepare to re-enter the program at the next cycle.

What kind of support will the Doyon Foundation give to teams?

Mentors and apprentices will receive training and resources before and throughout the program to support language learning. Quarterly community meetings, monthly check-ins and progress evaluations will all be provided to help apprentices reach their proficiency goals.

Will there be any travel involved?

Mentors and apprentices are required to attend four community meetings a year: three virtual and one in Fairbanks, Anchorage or another participating community (COVID permitting). Expenses related to the community meeting travel will be reimbursable.

What are the expectations for apprentices once they finish the program?

As teams near the end of the program, apprentices should make plans for how they will use their language and cultural knowledge to give back to their community. This can take form in many ways, such as teaching, lesson planning or mentoring.

What is the time commitment?

Teams must complete a total of 260 hours over the course of the program; the weekly commitment will be approximately 5-10 hours. The first cohort is set to begin in late summer 2022 and end early summer 2023.

Which languages can I learn through this program?

This Mentor-Apprentice Program is open to all 10 Doyon region languages:

  • Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana)
  • Deg Xinag
  • Denaakk’e (Koyukon)
  • Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross)
  • Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim)
  • Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in)
  • Hän
  • Holikachuk (Doogh Qinag)
  • Iñupiaq
  • Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana)