Shareholder Spotlight: Allan Hayton Shares Story of Language Revitalization
Doyon, Limited shareholder Allan Hayton was a featured speaker at the recent invitation-only TEDxFairbanks 2016. The event, which was the first TEDx event to be held in Fairbanks, took place February 21 at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center Theater, and was also web-streamed live around the world.
“It is an honor, and a great opportunity (to speak at the event),” said Hayton, the director of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program. “I think we all have important stories to share, and so I feel privileged to share some small part of my journey.”
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading,” and supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.
In his talk, titled Intimate Space: Athabascan Language, Land, Culture, Hayton discussed how the Athabascan languages of Alaska have developed over centuries in intimate conversation with the natural world.
“Each Athabascan language is a linguistic landscape: the sounds tł’, ts’, shr, a rustle of leaves; ghw, k’, t’, the feel of the earth beneath the feet; aii, oo, uu, branches growing towards the sun,” Hayton said.
“Athabascan language, stories, beliefs and knowledge passed down for generations are intertwined with the land, representing a living, breathing life force. We must reconnect the broken ties with the land and our languages for healing and revitalization to begin,” he added.
As the director of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program, Hayton believes it helps to speak publicly and share the story of language revitalization.
“A general audience doesn’t spend much time thinking about language revitalization, and why it is important,” he said. “I speak about language revitalization from my experiences within my own life. It helps to put a personal spin on such a large topic; people are better able to understand and relate from a human perspective.”
Hayton’s passion for language revitalization stems from time spent with elders during his youth in Arctic Village. “‘Diiginjik k’yaa riheeł’ee … We hold our language in high regard.’ I heard this expression many times from elders as I was growing up. They impressed it upon us younger people, and held us responsible for speaking and passing on the language. I still hear their voices in my memory, and I have to honor their wishes as best I can,” said Hayton, who is the son of Lena Pauline Hayton from Fort Yukon and James T. Hayton from Natick, Massachusetts, and the grandson of Robert and Lena Albert from Tanana and Fort Yukon, Alaska.
Hayton, a former Doyon Foundation scholarship recipient, studied theatre and film at Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas, finishing his bachelor’s of arts degree in 1992. He continued at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, graduating in spring 2013 with a master’s of arts in applied linguistics.
“I am so happy to be working for an organization that has supported me through two degrees, and that my education is central to what I am doing at Doyon Foundation,” Hayton said.
Prior to joining Doyon Foundation in summer 2015, Hayton worked for the University of Alaska Fairbanks on several major language curriculum and documentation projects, as well as at Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre, and Perseverance Theatre in Juneau. He has also been featured in numerous film and television roles.
Hayton previously served on the Doyon Foundation board as vice president, and was chair of the language revitalization committee. In his personal time, he enjoys dancing to fiddle music and singing with Di’haii Dancers and the Takudh Singers.