Tribal Run School Faces Language Study Cuts

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by Reporter: Natalie Travis
by Photographer: Eric Stratton

CHICKALOON--- A tribal run K-12 school near Palmer, faces cuts to its Ahtna language studies, as officials claim funding is drying up Monday. (11/5)

The Ya Ne Dah Ah School gives around 20 kids hands on lessons, including Alaska Native culture---everything from songs, drum beating and berry picking.

Ya Ne Dah Ah means ancient stories. Long ago, elders of Chickaloon and other Athabascan villages taught youth how to live and behave through these tales.

"It's really important to know who you are and where you come from, " said Penny Westing, Secretary for the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council. "Our ancient stories  can be likened to Aesop's Fables, they have a moral."

Alaska Native language and culture is the corner stone of Ya Ne Dah Ah, focusing on Ahtna.

"It's a dying language our elders are passing away and losing the language," Westing said. "Having these children learn keeps our culture and people alive."

The possibility of losing the capability to provide a comprehensive Ahtna Language study is a very real one according to tribal officials.

"We applied for two grants that we didn't get this year, that would complement the language portion," Westing said. "We only have one language teacher this year, normally we have three."

Depending on private donations, grants and fundraising, the school says money has always been a challenge, adding to the obstacle of a dwindling  fluent elder population.

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