The Ket people, numbering fewer than 2,000 according to official figures, reside in settlements in the middle Yenisei river basin. Approximately 200 Kets still speak their ancient language. AAC’s delegation spent a day and a half with Ket representatives Zoya Maksunova, Olya Peshkina and Galina Nikolayeva. AAC’s delegation included Doug Hitch, a linguist in the Yukon Native Language Centre, Cindy Dickson, AAC Executive Director, Colleen Henry, AAC Projects Coordinator and Terry Fenge, AAC Advisor.
Ms. Dickson, a member of the Gwich’in Nation in northern Yukon, said “The Kets told us this was the first time they had met representatives of North American Athabaskan peoples. They are very ex cited about the possibilities of work ing with us and want to organize cultural exchanges. They also want to promote research on the linguistic and other connections between us.” She added, “They are very concerned for their survival as a people and asked us to help improve the diet and health of the 54 Ket children resident in their villages. They want us to send multivitamins. Of course we will respond”.
Doug Hitch recommended as a matter of urgency further linguistic work to firmly establish the Athabaskan-Ket connection. He made a promising start in recording Ket language material with Zoya Maksunova, a fluent speaker and teacher, who showed great enthusiasm in developing teaching and learning materials for her language similar to those already available for Yukon languages. Mr. Hitch noted that the sound files would eventually be posted on the web site of the Yukon Native Language Centre. He concluded, “It would be wonderful to continue collaboration on this beautiful language”.
Edward Vajda of Western Washington University in the United States has undertaken extensive research into these linguistic connections. Insightfully he has written:
Who would have imagined the ancient words Native American and Siberian boarding-school children were punished for speaking a few decades ago could wield a power vast enough to reunite entire continents?
Noting the growing interest worldwide in the circumpolar Arctic, Mr. Cresswell said “the connection between th e Ket and Athabaskan peoples is hugely important. Upon this base we can build cultural, economic and perhaps political links.”
For Further Information Contact
Danny Cresswell: 867-335-4974
Cindy Dickson: 867-393-9214; and
Doug Hitch: 867-668-8824.