Long ago, before the coming of the Europeans to Alaska, the elders of Chickaloon and other Athabascan villages taught the young ones how to live and behave through Ya Ne Dah Ah stories. The elders told stories about the times when animals and people could communicate with the same language, and the things that happened when someone, either human or animal did wrong.
In May 1992, Chickaloon Village decided to bring back this old way of teaching for its young people. Chickaloon elder, Katherine Wade, who still remembered the Ya Ne Dah Ah stories her grandparents had told her, agreed to begin teaching stories, as well as the traditional language and other parts of the culture to the children. A Saturday Ya Ne Dah Ah School was begun in June 1992.
In addition to the stories and language, elders from other villages such as Arctic Village and Copper Center taught the Chickaloon children traditional songs and dances of the Athabascan people. The Ya Ne Dah Ah Dancers, with performers ranging in age from adult to under age two, soon began dancing and singing at pow-wows and gatherings.
In the fall of 1993, Chickaloon families, as well as the children themselves, decided that they didn’t want to return to public school. A decision was made to begin the Ya Ne Dah Ah School on a full-time basis beginning in October 1993.
The school operated on a full time basis from October 1993 to June 1998 and from August 1999 to present. The Ya Ne Dah Ah School taught grades kindergarten to twelfth grade and now teaches kindergarten through high school with plans to expand. The students’ schedule was prayer in the morning, Ahtna language classes, correspondence courses and then end the day by cleaning the school. On Fridays they had a full day of culture, language and special lessons on environmental protection, issues on tribal government and other traditional values.
In the fall of 1998 due to lack of funding and the relocation of the tribal offices, the Clan Grandmother came to a decision that the school could not operate until additional funding was available to support a new school building. After a year of planning and fund raising the Ya Ne Dah Ah School was reopened in the little red school house in the fall of 1999.
The Ya Ne Da Ah School is now housed in a building constructed in 2005 with funds from individual donor and Chickaloon Village Traditional Council support.