"Deg Xinag," literally 'local language' is the westernmost of the Athabascan 1 languages. The language area is also referred to as "Deg Hit'an," literally, 'local people'. The Deg Hit'an are often referred to inappropriately in anthropological and linguistic literature as "Ingalik," a Yup'ik word meaning 'lice-infested'. There are currently three villages in western, interior Alaska where this language is spoken and about 20 fluent speakers of this language remaining. As I proceeded through my graduate research I came to understand the significance of indigenous language revitalization in relation to its potential contributions to indigenous and cross-cultural education. These contributions include establishing and enhancing self-identity and self-esteem for indigenous students, as well as contributing in-depth knowledge about local environments thereby enhancing place-based and funds of knowledge educational models (Bamhardt and Kawagley 2005: 15; Moll 1990). This dissertation presents an interdisciplinary analysis of a complex, cosmological Deg Hit'an narrative entitled "Nil oqay Ni'idaxin" or "The Man and Wife" told in the Deg Xinag language by the late Belle Deacon of Grayling Alaska (1987b). Deacon also told her own English version and titled this "The Old Man Who Came Down From Above the Second Layer of the World" (1987c). Underlying structures and meanings used in the contexts of Deg Xinag oral traditions are currently lacking in most published materials for this language, making it difficult to learn and consequently, develop culturally-appropriate language learning programs and curriculum. This analysis encompasses the fields of Alaska Native/indigenous studies, anthropology, and folklore/oral traditions using philosophical and pedagogical frameworks established by indigenous scholars including Gregory Cajete, Oscar Kawagley, and Greg Sarris. 1The term "Athabascan" has varied spellings within the literature, including "Athapaskan" and "Athabaskan." In 1997, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), the interior Alaska tribal consortium adopted a resolution stating their tribes' preference of the spelling using "b" and "c."
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2007
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