UAF addresses Native ‘linguistic emergency’

Alaska Native languages are in peril. But the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development is stepping up to the challenge. Faculty and staff have already put together a conference, called the Alaska Native Language Revitalization Institute, that will begin Monday to tackle the problem.

A report published earlier this year brought much needed attention to the dwindling number of fluent language speakers. Some languages are at greater risk than others. For example, Upper Tanana and Haida have fewer than 10 fluent speakers remaining, while there are closer to 10,000 speakers of Central Yup’ik. The Alaska Native Language Preservation Advisory Council’s report also made a grim prediction that Alaska’s 20 indigenous languages would be extinct or dormant by the end of the century if they continue to decline at the current rate.

On April 28, Alaska legislators passed a concurrent resolution urging Gov. Bill Walker to sign a “linguistic emergency” order to bring attention to this impending disaster. As of Friday, Gov. Walker had not signed the order.

The faculty and staff at the College of Rural and Community Development deserve a round of applause for their quick response. The four-day conference will feature 140 instructors teaching these languages: Yup’ik, Inupiaq, Tlingit, Haida, Gwich’in, Dena’ina, Ahtna, Deg Xinag, Sugpiaq/Alutiiq and Denaakke’.

Instructors from the University of Hawaii Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language will also offer insight from their own work in revitalizing Hawaiian languages.

Registration is closed, but you can still livestream the Alaska Native Language Revitalization Institute and see the schedule at uaf.edu/rural/anlri.

If you have any interest in learning one of Alaska’s indigenous languages, brushing up on a language you already know or want to know more about how you can help, be sure to tune in.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, May 19, 2018

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