“There is a lack of children’s books in the Ahtna language,” Grant Rebne says with his adorable 6-month-old daughter in his lap. You can watch him read to her in Ahtna on his kickstarter page, which he started to raise funds to write a book called Ndoxe tiziyaas? or Where are you going?
Rebne hopes the book will be the first of many children’s books meant to introduce the Ahtna vocabulary and grammar to kids. Ndoxe tiziyaas? will be a story of a conversation between a child and an adult that starts with the question, where are you going?
“Through the introduction of simple vocabulary in the Ahtna Language this book will help children to become more familiar with the Ahtna native language. This book will encourage the readers to speak in the Ahtna language with common vocabulary that they can use frequently,” the kickstarter page explains. “The story is told in the Ahtna Athabascan language with vocabulary that is meant to be used after the book has been read.”
The goal is to get children speaking and using the language as early as possible.
“Our language shows our culture,” Rebne told KTVA. “It’s who we are. It teaches so much more than just how to speak in Ahtna. It tells about our people and where we’ve been and how our people think.”
He hopes to raise $9,000 to fund the publishing of the first book, which will also come with an audio CD. He worked with three elders to ensure the pronunciations were spot on.
“We wrote out how it would sound in Ahtna. They let me record it,” he told KTVA. “I spent time trying to translate it going back and forth, and this is the result of it.”
As he told KTVA, the Ahtna language is difficult for English language speakers. “C’edahwde?diixen,” he told KTVA is his Ahtna name. “It’s got a couple of guttural stops, the barred ?, the x in there, the hw.”
He explained that many of the letter combinations—dz, dl, tl—aren’t found in most romance languages.
“We have 39 different sounds in Ahtna and 19 of them are not found in English. It’s very different,” Rebne told KTVA.
To complete his first book he will also need to find an artist to illustrate it. So far, he has raised $1,125. To help fund this project, visit kickstarter.com.