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How Teaching a Language and Vine Go Hand in Hand

Here in Alaska there are numerous discussions around preserving Alaska Native cultures. Many elders are working hard to teach their children the traditions important to their ancestors. It’s something those of on the outside often watch with great interest. In many ways it’s no different than passing down our family traditions but seems more desperate. It’s because languages are dying along with the belief systems as Alaska Native people try to straddle old traditions and modern lifestyles.

Gonzalez Family at Horseshoe Hill just a few miles from Huslia, AK. L-R:  Sarbelio, Ermelina, Angela and Janessa.

Gonzalez Family at Horseshoe Hill just a few miles from Huslia, AK. L-R: Sarbelio, Ermelina, Angela and Janessa.

For some time now, I’ve been watching with great admiration as a fellow public relations professional and friend passes on the importance of family and her traditions to her daughters. By week Angela is on the public relations team for RurAL CAP, a nonprofit helping improve the quality of life for low income Alaskans. Social media is among her responsibilities there so she’s become proficient in many of today’s tools.

Angela regularly returns “home” to Huslia, her family’s Koyukuk Athabascan village, although her place of residence is Anchorage and her daughters are in public school here. They go home at various times throughout the year so her girls gain an understanding of their ancestors and really know their family.

Angela has had a blog for some time now called Athabascan Woman. There she provides us a glimpse into the lives of her family and her culture, her visits home and things meaningful to the family. Be sure to look at her “about” page where she introduces herself in the Alaska Native tradition. Check it out and learn more about the culture of the Athabascan people.

Recently, Angela began teaching her two girls their native language, Koyukon. She’s been using Vine to do this and it’s one of the most wonderful uses of the app I have seen. Not only are her girls learning their language but the lessons can be shared with others, and saved for the future. This weeks’ introduction of Instagram videos may cause Angela to change platforms but time will tell.

NPR recently had a segment about what happens to a culture when a language dies. This piece really addresses a lot of the problem people like Angela are trying to address. For those in our generation it was not “cool” to speak the Native language so many of them died. There is an entire generation who can’t speak the language of their grandparents so when they travel home, they are in one culture and the grandparents/elders another. They were cut off because they wanted a better life and felt the only way to do that was to embrace the cultures outside their own. That generation has worked hard for acceptance in the community but now understands the importance of teaching their children the traditions they were ostracized for celebrating.

I admire my Alaska Native friends who are trying so hard to show their families the importance of culture, and saving their family traditions for future generations. When they are public relations professionals using today’s tools to save yesterday’s treasures it’s even better.

Photo: (c) Angela Gonzalez

 

By | 2017-03-07T00:43:12+00:00 June 25th, 2013|Leadership & Networking|5 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


5 Comments

  1. […] Mary Deming Barber, recently wrote about how I’ve been using Vine to teach Athabascan on her blog. See the videos I created on Vine here, and on Instagram here. I also have an Instagram widget […]

  2. ayatlin July 16, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Thank you for featuring the Athabascan language. I have enjoyed learning more words along with the correct spellings. Ermelina and I are going to attend a Athabascan language week by the Alaska Native Heritage Center in August. I’m looking forward to learning more words, correct pronunciation and maybe some songs. It is important for me to preserve my Koyukon Athabascan heritage and culture. Ana basee’! (Thank you!)

    • mdbarber July 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      ayatlin I love that you and Ermalina are attending that session and hope you’ll write about it on your blog.

    • mdbarber July 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      ayatlin I love that you and Ermalina are attending that session and hope you’ll write about it on your blog.

  3. […] I’ve been working with my daughters to learn the Koyukon Athabascan. I started out by creating Vine videos to record words and sharing them on Twitter (@ayatlin). I recently migrated to Instagram because of flexibility and editing function. I’ve also uploaded the videos to Facebook. My friend, Mary Deming Barber, recently wrote about how I’ve been using Vine to teach Athabascan on her blog.  […]

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