Koht’aen ke’ dozolts’ii – Living our Native Traditions
9255 N Glenn Hwy, Palmer, Alaska 99645
Phone: (907) 745-0722 Fax: (907) 745-0709
Language & Culture Director
Ahtna Dene communities thriving with Ahtna language and culture.
Revitalize and promote the Ahtna language and culture in our everyday lives.
State of Language from Ahtna perspective, Elder's acknowledgment, use of this information disclaimer.
Occupational Endorsement Certificate in Ahtna Language OECs
The Occupational Endorsement Certificate (OEC) in Ahtna Language prepares students for learning knowledge, resources, and skills appropriate for a variety of entry-level jobs that use Ahtna Dene language. Students who earn this OEC will be able to certify a level of low intermediate speech ability according to the guidelines of the Ahtna Dene Proficiency Guidelines scale through completion of an oral proficiency assessment. The style of Ahtna taught in this program is in Western and Central dialects.
Katherine “Katie” (Wickersham) Wade
Nay’dini’aa Na’ Kayax (Chickaloon Village)
Clan Grandmother, Katie (Wickersham) Wade, was born in 1922 in Nay’dini’aa Na’ Kayax. She dedicated her life to the preservation of Ahtna Athabascan (Dene’) language, values, and cultural lifeways. She was an eloquent storyteller, historian, teacher and respected Ahtna Elder. She was also a businesswoman who owned and operated the Moose Creek Drive Inn, then later donated the building to Chickaloon Village Traditional Council (CVTC). The building became the heart of the village as a cultural center, Tribal administration office, school, meeting and gathering place.
In 1992, Katie founded the Ya Ne Dah Ah School, the first Tribally owned and operated school in Alaska. She had previously worked closely with the Palmer Correctional Center Native Program teaching Alaska Native inmates about Ahtna culture, stories, and her language. Teaching the culture, stories and language to the adults was not making a significant difference in their recidivism. Katie decided to begin working closely with the children of Nay’dini’aa Na’ Kayax. She understood that teaching them about the culture and language was also teaching them about self-esteem, values, cultural life ways, and language; the things that could be instilled and impact them lifelong.
As the founder of the Ya Ne Dah Ah School, Katie demonstrated the true meaning of self-determination and sovereignty by taking control of Tribal education and redefining learning by making Ahtna cultural life ways, language, and values a priority in education.
In 1999, Katie and Daniel Harrison, a former Ya Ne Dah Ah School graduate, recorded the first written Chickaloon Ahtna Athabascan (Dene’) language lessons. They recorded and documented 480 Ahtna phrases previously documented by Dr. James Kari based on the seasons. These lessons were taught at the Ya Ne Dah Ah School and are still utilized by Ahtna language learners today. The Total Physical Response (TPR) curriculum is one of a collection of Ahtna Athabascan (Dene’) language curriculum tools developed by CVTC for future generations and still utilized in the Ya Ne Dah Ah School today.
Katie will always be remembered as an honored Elder of the community and official Clan Grandmother of Nay’dini’aa Na’ Kayax. Her legacy lives on in her children, grandchildren, and all her relations. She was a visionary and continues to be recognized by many for her strong-minded determination, a source of strength for Chickaloon Tribal citizens today.
Tezdlen Kayax (Tazlina Village)
Markle Pete was born in 1928 in Kluti-Kah Kayax (Copper Center Village, Alaska). He lived a traditional lifestyle, often traveling with his dad on the traplines and going hunting and fishing in the traditional ways.
From 2003-2014, Markle traveled from Tezdlen Kayax to the Ya Ne Dah Ah School and would stay a week at a time teaching the students and teachers Ahtna Athabascan (Dene’) language, culture, traditions, and ancient stories.
“Markle had such a good sense of humor and he taught us to have fun with learning.” ~ Kari Shaginoff
Markle’s approach to learning and use of humor helped us want to engage in learning the language. Markle passed away in 2018 and he is missed by all. Many people in the community respected his knowledge. He would talk with the Ya Ne Dah Ah School students and teachers telling stories and valuable life lessons that will not be forgotten. Markle had the knowledge of several different Ahtna dialects and would teach us about their differences.
We wish we had more time with Markle because of the vast knowledge, skills, and life experiences he possessed. Many blessings to Markle’s family for the loss of a great man. The appreciation and gratitude for his presence at the Ya Ne Dah Ah School will live on through our TPR curriculum.
“It will take you 100 years to catch up with me, but you can do it.” ~Markle Pete
C’ulc’e Na’ Kayax (Gulkana Village)
Jeanie Maxim was born in 1941 in C’ulc’e Na’ Kayax (Gulkana Village, Alaska). Her first language was the central dialect of Ahtna Athabascan (Dene’). She grew up living a traditional lifestyle, learning and living the ways of our ancestors.
Jeanie worked as a language teacher for Copper River Valley School teaching the Ahtna Athabascan (Dene’) language, culture, traditions, and ancient stories. In 2006, Jeanie began working with the Ya Ne Dah Ah School, and inspired our school to continue learning and teaching the Ahtna language. She was proficient and fluent in Ahtna with the ability to teach younger, first English speakers the language with patience and wisdom.
In her younger years, Jeanie used to translate Bible verses and hymns into Ahtna for KCAM Radio in Glennallen. She taught the Ahtna language and helped develop lessons for many years. We were honored to have Jeanie teach us the Ahtna language so this curriculum can be part of the Ya Ne Dah Ah School for years to come.
“I am glad to help with the school and enjoy teaching the language because it helps me remember things again. I really enjoy working with the people and the children at Ya Ne Dah Ah School.” ~ Jeanie Maxim