About the www.Alaskool.org project and its developers

Alaska Native Language Resources
Compiled by Tim Argetsinger, January 2008

Nikaitchuat Ilisagvait Kotzebue

Started in 1998, Nikaitchuat Ilisagvait is a private language immersion preschool in Kotzebue, AK that teaches in the Inupiaq language and houses about 20 students a year. The all day program’s students are between three and five years old. Though the school would eventually like to teach in Inupiaq through the twelfth grade, it is limited by space and funding.

All Alaska State standards are implemented where appropriate. Lessons are conducted in Inupiaq and modified to be culturally appropriate, follow the seasons, and are infused with Inupiaq Ilitqusiat, traditional Inupiaq values.

Chuckchi College Kotzebue

Accessible to the Northwest Arctic region’s 11 villages and to students throughout the state, Chuckchi College enrolls around 600 students per year and offers three Inupiaq language courses:

Introduction to Inupiaq
Elementary Inupiaq
Conversational Inupiaq

Illisagvik College Barrow, AK

Illisagvik College offers elementary and conversational Inupiaq courses.

North Slope Borough School District Barrow

Iñupiaq as a Second Language setting with instruction occurring for a duration of anywhere from 20-30 minutes per day. Parents who live in Barrow also have the option of placing their children in the Iñupiaq Immersion Program where instruction is delivered in Iñupiaq from preschool through fourth grade and are transitioned into English with 90 minutes of instruction in the Iñupiaq language at fifth grade. Children who are in the middle school in Barrow receive instruction in the Iñupiaq language for an uninterrupted duration of 80 minutes per session alternating classes every other day. Secondary school students receive instruction as an elective.

The Ipalook Elementary school in Barrow was founded in 1972 and offers 50/50 Inupiaq-English instruction at the K3 and K4 levels, but there is no immersion program in the region per se, as there is a lack of teachers.

Alutiiq Museum Kodiak

The Alutiiq Museum and the Alaska Native Language Center are working together to create a new, expanded, multi-dialect dictionary, which will have over 6,000 entries. And, in an effort to grow the first new speakers in two generations, the Alutiiq Museum and twenty other organizations and tribal councils around the Kodiak Archipelago are working in partnership to create the Qik'rtarmiut Alutiit Program, which will pair fluent elders with adults wishing to learn Alutiiq, using the proven Master-Apprentice method of language acquisition.

Ya De Da Ah School Chickaloon

The Ya De Da Ah School is a semi-immersion, privately funded tribal school that teaches the Ahtna Athabaskan language. Elders come to the school every other week to supplement daily language instruction.

The school serves twelve children all together from pre-school to the 9th grade. There are two hours of language instruction per day and students are divided into two classes: preschool and first through ninth grade. There are three levels of proficiency, but instructors are only capable of teaching the first two: nouns and simple phrases, and conversation implementing simple phrases.

There are two fluent speakers from the Ahtna Region:

Jeanie Maxum 65
Markle Pete 75

Dena’ina Language Institute Kenai
(907)474.7874 x5591
Olga Lovick

A 3-week summer language program open to anyone interested in learning and sharing Dena’ina language. Students may participate for any amount of time but must attend at least one week of class in order to receive university credit.

Dena’ina Language Resource index: http://qenaga.org/kq/index.html
Dena’ina Revitalization efforts from http://qenaga.org:
One such project is being conducted by Lake Clark National Park. As part of its survey of the western Cook Inlet region, the Park is working to create a comprehensive catalog of all known Dena'ina audio recordings. The recordings are found in various locations, from the Alaska Native Language Center in Fairbanks to the Bureau of Indian Affairs ANCSA Office and personal collections. Dr. James Kari has inventoried over 350 recordings so far.
Another venture is Project Jukebox, a joint effort between the UAF Rasmussen library and Lake Clark National Park. The project has compiled interviews with elders, photos and maps into an interactive CD-ROM. The Project Jukebox website is found at http://uaf-db.uaf.edu/Jukebox/lakeclark/home.html.
Several major books on Dena'ina culture and language have been published. The best known of these are A Dena'ina Legacy: K'tl'egh'i Sukdu by Peter Kalifornsky (1991), and Shem Pete's Alaska: the Territory of the Upper Inlet Dena'ina by Kari and Fall (2003). These two books contain valuable information on Dena'ina history, culture, geography and language, and collections of traditional and new stories. Also of interest are Priscilla Russell's works on Dena'ina ethnobotany (Tanaina Plantlore, Dena'ina K'et'una: An Ethnobotany of the Dena'ina Indians of Southcentral Alaska, 1987) and ethno-ornithology (Bird Traditions of the Lime Village Area Dena'ina: Upper Stony River Ethno-Ornithology, 2003).
Recently members of the Dena'ina community have begun working more actively on language revitalization. The large size of Dena'ina territory, which covers both urban and rural areas, poses a challenge, and bringing together speakers and learners can be difficult. In an effort to draw together members of the Dena'ina community from across the region, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe hosted the first Dena'ina Festival in May 2003. More than 100 people attended. The Festival was followed by the first Dena'ina Language Institute, a three-week intensive language course held at Kenai Peninsula College and sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. That first year, only ten students attended, but interest in the Institute has grown quickly. Nearly forty students attended in 2004, and fifty students attended in 2005.
The yearly Language Institutes are structured so that elder speakers serve as mentors to language learners in conversation classes. Other classes are offered as well, including classes in Dena'ina literacy, linguistics, Native Language education, and computer skills. Different classes are offered each year so that returning students can build upon knowledge they gained in previous years. To find out more about the Dena'ina Language Institute, please visit http://qenaga.org/dli.html.
Recently, the Alaska Native Heritage Center received a grant from the Department of Education for Dena'ina Qenaga Qunuhdulzex ("The Dena'ina Language is Coming Back"), and the Kenaitze Indian Tribe has received significant funding from the Administration for Native Americans to create a Dena'ina Archive and promote language learning. Both endeavors will produce curricular materials for teaching Dena'ina language, and will archive existing Dena'ina resources.
Complementing all these efforts is the Dena'ina Archiving, Training and Access grant (DATA), which is creating the digital archive found on this website. The archive contains a catalog of all the Dena'ina materials at the Alaska Native Language Center and provides access to most of them. This project also provides training to Dena'ina community members in the use of the archive, and in using technology to further the language revitalization effort.

UAF Kuskokwim Campus Bethel

The University of Fairbanks at Bethel offers a range of Yup’ik courses for first time and native speakers of the language. Some of those courses include but are not limited to:

Elementary Central Yup’ik Eskimo: An introduction to Central Yup’ik provides literacy and grammatical analysis and a framework for learning to speak, read, and write the language.

Conversational Central Yup’ik Eskimo: An entry-level course to learn to speak and understand Yup’ik Eskimo, focusing on communication in everyday situations.

Conversational Yup’ik I: Development of proficiency in in the Central Yup’ik language, vocabulary for everyday situations, reading, and writing.

Lower Kuskokwim School District / Central Yup’ik <Insert Phone #>

The Lower Kuskokwim School District is one of the largest school districts in Alaska, serving

Ayaprun Elitnarviat Bethel, AK (907)543-1645

The Yup’ik Immersion Program is based on the same elementary school curriculum offered in all of the district’s schools, including language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, art, and music. Ayaprun Elitnarviat is located in Bethel, AK. The school serves 168 students, grades K-6.

Kindergarten and first grade are taught totally inYup’ik, after which point English is gradually phased into the curriculum. K-2 (phases 1-6) is mainly taught in Yup’ik with oral English Language Development delivered by the durations specified below. Yup’ik is taught 75% of the time in the 3rd grade (phase 5-7), and 50% of the time in grades 4-6 (phases 6-22), so that while students learn the regular subjects, they also learn Yup’ik. English Reading and Language Arts will be taught in the 3rd grade (up to phase 7), and starting in grade 4 (phase 6 on up) English Language Arts, Reading, Health, and Math will be taught in English. All other subject matter will be taught in Yup’ik. For more details, see the section on What To Expect (and Not): Common Questions About Immersion Programs.

Length of English Language Instruction
Level 1-15-20 minutes
Level 2-30 minutes
Level 3-60 minutes
Level 4-25% of the day in English
Level 5-7-50% of the day in English

History: In the early 1970s Killbuck Elementary had a half day “bilingual kindergarten” for parents who wanted their children taught all in Yup’ik. It arose because of parent interest and in response to the question: "How about making the afternoon class one taught in Yup’ik?" This continued for three years, but did not survive the changes in the school system. In the mid-1980s, concern among Bethel parents led to the establishment of a community committee appointed by the Bethel Advisory School Board. This committee formally requested that:

-Bethel schools improve their Yup’ik language programs
-Increasing the number of hours per week for instruction
-Yup’ik language instruction be made a required subject for K-6


In 1990, a Bilingual Education Task Force was created to assess how the Yup’ik was being taught and made specific recommendations to strengthen the program. The Task Force presented the ASB with a formal request that a total immersion Yup’ik language program be started in Bethel. The report was accepted by the ASB but no action was taken. In 1992, a group of Kuskokwim Campus instructors, parents, and elders began meeting regularly, sharing information about how Eskimo languages are used in the schools of Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

In 1994, members of the Bethel ASB, including some who had participated actively in the earlier work groups, introduced a formal resolution to establish a Yup’ik immersion program in Bethel in 1995. After much debate – and especially after a large amount of direct parental requests of the ASB – the resolution was passed! In 1994-95-Parents and LKSD Bilingual Department worked at getting ready for the very first Yup’ik
language immersion program ever.

In the spring of 1999-Yup’ik Immersion Steering Committee successfully applied for Charter School Status from the Alaska Board of Education. The focus of the application was to provide for comprehensive Yup’ik program autonomy, consolidate under one administration and secure associated charter grants to fund Yup’ik language material development. Parents, teachers, and administration work collaboratively on the
planning and implementation of our program.

Chevak Elementary School Chevak, AK (907) 858-7712

In Fall 2006 Chevak school began its first Cup'ik language immersion program in Kindergarten. The 26 kindergarten students were split into two groups, each group spending half a day immersed in Cup'ik language and the other half of the day in English. The students have very quickly picked up Cup'ik and move easily between the two classes.  In 2007-2008 the Cup'ik immersion program will move to include First grade. Phillip Tulim and Paniyagaq (Kathy) Tangiegak work collaboratively to team-teach this course.

Nuniwarmiut School Mekoryuk, AK (907)827-8415

Nuniwarmiut School's Cup'ig language immersion program has about 11, K-3 enrollees. With limited personnel, the school is unable to develop the curriculum needed to advance the program beyond these grades. Though an all day program, students spend 30-45 minutes per day on ESL curriculum depending on their grade.

Hooper Bay Elementary School Hooper Bay, AK (907)758-1200

The Hooper Bay Elementary School offers a K-3, all day full Yup'ik langauge immersion program to 102 students in a school of 400. Yup'ik is used to teach all subjects through the language, but is slowly phased out after the third grade, at which point English standardized testing is implemented. The program has been in place for six years. 

Lower Kuskokwim School District Bilingual Programs Bethel
Gayle Miller, Academic Programs / (907)543-4850

Sixteen of the Lower Kuskokwim School District’s 27 schools offer some variety of Yup’ik language program. The school district defines true bilingual programs as those that have been implemented by community consensus with the aim of achieving a specific outcome.

Assimilation Programs

A number of aspects of the LKSD bilingual programs have resulted in a curriculum that is perhaps unique in the nation. As are all bilingual programs in the United States, the LKSD programs were begun with the idea that students who are not proficient in English need assistance in order to succeed in English in school. However, the LKSD program has moved beyond just giving children a little extra attention in the learning of English as a Second Language. The LKSD programs now focus on ways of enabling students to become fluent in both English and the local Native language.

The Yup'ik First Language (YFL) program serves communities where the majority of students come to school as fluent speakers of Yup'ik. As of spring 2000, 13 schools utilize a YFL program. This program takes advantage of the fact that the students already have a strong language base (Yup'ik) within which to begin learning. These students begin their school learning in Yup'ik and are introduced to English as a Second Language. The language of instruction for grades K-3 is Yup'ik, with an English as a Second Language (ESL) component in each grade, and increasing amounts of English used in instruction each year.

The Yup'ik Two-Way Immersion program serves communities where at least half of the students speak Yup'ik and about half speak predominantly English. In 2000, five villages use this bilingual program. In these communities, Yup'ik is the first language of most adults, but most parents speak English to their children. In two villages using the two-way immersion programs, the language of instruction is about 90% in Yup'ik in kindergarten, with oral instruction in English increasingly used through grade three. Each of the primary grades has an English as a Second Language component. Various degrees of two-way immersion are currently used in three other village schools in the primary grades. This program is becoming prevalent in communities that are concerned that they have already lost much of the Native language.

Revitalization Programs

The third program, the Yup'ik (or Cup'ig) One-Way Immersion program operates in two communities where Yup'ik/Cup'ig is still spoken by many adults and Elders, but parents speak English to their children. Few to no children come to school fluent in Yup'ik. Currently, one-way immersion programs occur in Mekoryuk and in one primary school in Bethel. The goal of the program is language restoration, as children who speak only English are introduced to Yup'ik/Cup'ig in their primary grades by way of immersion in the language. Instruction in English is introduced gradually. The Yup'ik immersion school in Bethel is attended by children who speak no Yup'ik. The parents have expressed a desire for their children to gain fluency in Yup'ik. Attendance at the immersion school is optional.

Yukon Koyokuk School District Fairbanks
(907)374-9400 Susan Paskvan, Athabaskan Language Teacher

In 2003 the Board of Education approved ½ hour of Denaakk'e language instruction for grades K-4. While each of the District’s nine schools offers language instruction from at least grades K-4, some offer language instruction from K-12. The curriculum is seasonally based, following the cultural subsistence year. There are certified language teachers from the school’s respective villages at most sights, but many of them are actually intermediate speakers, allot of them learning from elders and teaching simultaneously.

Chugachmiut Anchorage

Chugachmiut was awarded a grant from the United States Department of Education to improve student academic achievement through parent and local participation. Chugachmiut's Language Curriculum Development Project is designing a curriculum that reflects the communities served by Chugachmiut and implementing it in local schools.  The project goal is to increase the number of Sugcestun speakers. There are an estimated 50 native speakers of the language left. Sugpiaq students receive 45 minutes of Sugcestun language instruction per day through the Chugach School District.

A Master/Apprentice project was initiated to pass on the Sugcestun language as well as skills such as drum making, beading, sewing and carving. Four communities are actively participating in the Master/Apprentice project of the seven served in the Chugach region: Tatitlek, Chenega Bay, Nanwalek, and Port Graham. The program, with twenty master speakers and sixty apprentices, is open to everyone. The Masters andApprentices meet for 10 hours per week for fifteen weeks of the year. A small stipend is extended to all of those involved and all Masters are expected to work closely with the local Education Coordinator (LEC) to meet the activity goals. The guidelines for the program are as follows:

Master Criteria

- A respected member of the Sugpiaq community;
- An active fluent speaker of Sugcestun;
- An individual who understands about teaching language methods and/or; -An individual who is willing to learn about those methods.
-An individual who is committed to meet with apprentices at least 10 hours a week; -An individual who is willing to share language and cultural knowledge with apprentice(s); and, -An individual who contributes to the preservation of the Sugpiaq language and culture.

Apprentice Criteria

-A community member who is committed to become an active Sugcestun speaker; -An individual who is committed to meet at least 10 hours weekly with master speakers; -An individual who will be respectful of oneself, with Master speakers and program staff; and,
-An individual who makes a commitment to preservation efforts of the Sugpiaq language and culture.