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Language Spotlight: Isaac Juneby, Hän

Isaac Juneby and his wife.

This summer we teamed up with the Doyon Foundation to release five new language learning courses.

Over the next few weeks, we will spotlight each course to share the culture and stories behind these languages, emphasizing the importance of keeping not only these select languages alive but the many thousands of others that are at risk of extinction. Our first language spotlight comes from a special collaboration with the Doyon Foundation as a memorial to the late Isaac Juneby.

Isaac Juneby was a respected Alaska Native leader, wise Elder and fluent speaker of the Hän language. In 1994 Isaac and John Ritter of the Yukon Native Language Center sat down and recorded Juneby’s native Hän dialect. The original tape and booklet from their project was made available but only in limited quantities and has been out of circulation for quite some time.  Hän is a Northern Athabaskan language with a relatively small amount of documentation, largely made up of fieldnotes. It was last calculated back in 2007 that there were only 20 known fluent speakers of the language.

Now in 2019, with the support of the Doyon Foundation, Yukon Native Language Center, Transparent Language, and Juneby’s family and community of Eagle Village, we have made his original lessons available for the first time on a digital platform.

These lessons are a permanent reminder of Juneby’s own foresight and determination in keeping his language alive. We hope that they show the importance of documenting language and the very critical role non-profits like ours play in making resources available to a new generation of learners.

If you are interested in learning more about Isaac Juneby and the Hän language, sign up for free and support future projects like this by donating.

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