Dannche’ (How Are You?) – Language
A hundred years ago, most of our people knew multiple languages. They spoke our own Dän k’e (Southern Tutchone) language, which belongs to the Athapaskan family of languages. Many also spoke Tlingit, which was the language of the trade during the 19th century, and also the home language of families based in the southern part of our territory. The English language came to our country with the guch’an (non-native) newcomers in the 1890s.
Our traditional languages have suffered greatly over the past century, leaving us with few fluent speakers. Our people were punished for speaking their language when they were sent to residential schools. Families stopped using their traditional language in the home. While our children are now being taught Dän k’e at school, at least two generations of our people were not given the opportunity to learn their language as children.
We are excited that a new generation is now accepting the challenge of reviving our languages, and raise our hands to salute those Citizens who are working hard at mastering their language as adult learners. Fluency in at least one of our traditional languages gives one insight into and knowledge of many of our cultural practises and traditions.
Our traditional languages have been expressed in written form only in recent decades. You will often see different spellings of the same word, as spelling conventions are still being standardized.