The goal of this Program is to expand the Ahtna Athabascan language capacity within the Tribe by teaching language classes within the Ya Ne Dah Ah School; document our language and culture with the help of elders; develop curriculum that focuses on what we have learned.
The Ahtna Athabascan language is a unique language of the Cantwell, Chickaloon, Chistochina, Chitna, Copper Center, Gakona, Gulkana, Mentasta, and Tazlina villages in Alaska. According to the University Of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Native Language Center, the main Ahtna Athabascan dialects are identified as Lower, Upper, Central and Western. But according to Ahtna Elders each village has their own distinctive dialect. All the Ahtna Athabascan dialects are similar in sentence structure, but have some differences in pronunciation and word selection.
Chickaloon Village Traditional Council decided to restore and rejuvenate our traditional world view by instituting a cultural preservation movement. One of the initial steps of this movement was to enlist the support of our Elders that still remembered our traditional culture and were able to teach the Ahtna Athabascan language, Yenida’a stories (ancient stories), traditional songs and dances to Tribal children and adults. The council decided to initiate the Ya Ne Dah Ah (Ancient Teachings) School on a full-time basis in October 1993.
The next step was to develop and implement social studies curricula, teaching materials, and multimedia teaching materials for 4th grade, 8th grade, and High school that accurately portrayed the Athabascan people of the area. The “It Is Time to Share Our History” project was started in November of 1999 with funding from the U.S. Department of Education and CIRI Foundation and created (5) Fourth grade curriculum units, (3) Eighth grade curriculum units, and (3) High School curriculum units. These units are now available at our online store.
Between 2003 and 2005 with funding from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) and CIRI Foundation the Education Department began the “Koht’ean Kenaege’ (Ahtna Language) Project” to develop (8) Ahtna Athabascan language lessons on computer interactive CD’s and written curriculum units. The Ahtna Language curriculum for Alphabet, Nature, People, Objects, Place Names, and Conversation are now available at our online store. The (2) Ya Ne Dah Ah storybooks Basin and Thaana, illustrated by Tribal Citizen Dime Mach eras, which were published during this project received the 2005 Contribution to Literacy in Alaska (CLIA) award:
The Koht’ean Kenaege’ Project will help revive and teach Ahtna Athabascan in your community. Your two year project, which culminated in a package of eight CDs with language lessons and stories is an outstanding project that reaches out to contemporary youngsters in a way they can understand. Dimi Macheras’ use of a modern storytelling techniques, the graphic novel, to teach traditional language and values is exciting and innovative”.
The ANA funded Kenaege’ Mentorship Program began in 2006 and brought Elder/Mentors in to expand the language capacity of (2) Tribal Citizens to enable them to teach the students of Ya Ne Dah Ah, Tribal Citizens, and community members and digitized the language lessons so anyone may now access the language lessons on-line which will ensure that our language lives on in future generations.
Currently the Nay’dini’aa Na’ Kenaege’ Be’endze’ Project funded by ANA is providing Total Physical Response (TPR) language lessons to all YNDA students, parents, Tribal Citizens, and community members interested in keeping our language alive. Classes are held Monday through Thursday from 1:00 pm through 2:30 pm and Tuesdays through Wednesday from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm and the Ya Ne Dah Ah School.
The true success of the rejuvenation of our Ahtna Athabascan language and culture that had been silent for many years is to witness youth speaking to Elders in their Indigenous language. Watching youth converse among each other in their Indigenous language is also a sign of success of the YNDA School. The final successful result is having former YNDA students return to work for the Chickaloon Village. The second-most fluent speaker of our entire village is the first graduate of Ya Ne Dah Ah School. He is the dance group leader, composer of Athabascan songs, and the Ahtna Athabascan language teacher. We are proud to witness these achievements and are excited about the future of our tribe, community, and other nations that may choose to model our program.