Doris Roberts was presented with the Council of the Federation Literacy Award on September 7 2012. This award is normally presented to 1 individual every year, in recognition of outstanding achievement and contributions made by individuals in literacy. Roberts re-learned the Han language and worked hard to teach it and pass it on to others. She worked hard to recover various aspects of the language, which made it possible for her to offer comprehensive studies on the Han language, including the cultural heritage of the people.
The Han language is a member of the Athabaskan family of languages. It is a native American language that is now endangered. Currently, it is mainly spoken in 2 places. In Dawson City, Yukon and in Eagle and Fairbanks in Alaska. There are currently less than 10 people who can fluently speak the language. These individuals are elderly. The name of the language is based on the name of the people group, which is Hän Hwëch’in. This basically translates to “People who live along the river,” that is, River Yukon. The name Han is a short form of Hankutchin, which is in Gwich’in. Han is closely related to Upper Tanana and Gwich’in languages. The Han language has 2 main dialects, spoken in the communities where its speakers reside. The people who live in Dawson City, Yukon speak the Moooside dialect. The Eagle dialect is poken by the community who live in Eagle, Alaska. There are 2 writing systems of the language; Alaskan and Yukon. There can be up to 3 different diacritical marks per vowel.
Traditionally, fish plays an important role in the diet of Han language speakers, given thatthey live along River Yukon. This mostly includes the Chum salmon and the King salmon. They used nets, harpooons, traps and pears to catch the fish. Once caught, some fish would be preserved by drying, for the winter season. Both men and women would fish. The men would fish for salmon, wile the women looked for other types of fish. Men would also hunt game duringthe non-fishing period. They hunted for birds, bears and other kinds of small game.