Athabaskan/Dene Languages Conference held at Western

WWU hosted the Athabaskan/Dene Languages Conference August 15-17, 2012 (conference website:

Edward Vajda of WWU (Dept. of Modern and Classical Languages) and Sharon Hargus of the University of Washington were the conference organizers and secured a $21,481 Arctic Social Sciences grant to help fund the event, which is held annually in locations between Alaska, Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and the American Southwest - areas where languages belonging to the Na-Dene family are spoken.

The conference was attended by native speakers and educators from several of the language communities, as well as linguists who have studied the family intensively. A full day was dedicated to presentations on language revitalization, planning and teaching, while other presentations focused on comparative, historical, and structural aspects of the various languages.

At the business meeting on Aug. 16, participants took the historic step of unanimously voting to change the name of future meetings to the Dene Languages Conference, in honor of the ancient word used across the family to mean "people." The term “Athabaskan” or “Athapascan”, which has generally been applied to the Dene branch of the Na-Dene family of languages since the 19th century, is not of native Dene origin.

Results of the conference will be published by the Alaska Native Language Center in 2013.