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Doyon Foundation provides grants for Alaskan Native language revitalization

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 5:50 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Doyon Foundation, as part of an effort to revitalize several Alaskan Native languages, has funded $65,000 in grants to tribes and organizations across the state.

13 organizations in the Doyon region of Alaska have been awarded grants by the Doyon Foundation to help in their efforts at language revitalization.

Allan Hayton, Language Revitalization Program Director with the Doyon Foundation, explained, “Language revitalization work is dedication to the languages being passed on to future generations.”

Organizations receiving the grant include several tribes in the region in which the Doyon, Limited Native Corporation operates.

“There are 10 languages in the Doyon region, and each of them are highly endangered. Endangered language means children aren’t speaking the language, so whether there are 600 thousand speakers or just a handful of speakers, they can be endangered because of that,” Hayton said.

He said these languages are endangered “from a long history of discriminatory policies, and English First, and boarding schools have been a part of that... Those schools, they were forbidden to speak their native languages and even beaten in some cases.”

The effort at language revitalization involves finding different ways to teach younger Alaska Natives the language of their elders. “Not everyone has access to and elder who speaks or a classroom or other resources,” he said.

One grant recipient, the Athabascan Fiddlers Association, uses the grant money to give radio air time to conversations in a variety of endangered languages.

Delores Ann Fears, General Manager with the Athabascan Fiddlers Association and KRFF Radio 89.1 FM, said, “Every day we have a three hour show from nine to noon where we share language.”

“This is Alaska Native languages from the speakers that are talking to us, especially in rural Alaska, where they speak the language every day,” she added.

Doyon, Limited has supported language revitalization efforts through this grant program since 2012.

And recently, the Doyon Foundation has focused on creating online resources for nine Athabascan languages, which can be found at the Doyon Foundation’s website.

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