Guide to the Han Athabaskan Language Collection


All materials in the Han collection are either written in or about the Han language. The earliest documents come from expedition accounts and the later material comes largely from contributions by the Alaska Native Language Center and the Yukon Native Language Centre staff. Much of the collection dates from the mid- to late-1970s during an era of more intensive fieldwork and educational outreach with the Han language. The bulk of the collection consists of manuscripts related to Han educational materials and to linguistic field research, including both field notes and products of research, especially word lists, placenames, and dictionaries. Religious texts and traditional stories form a smaller part of the collection, as do language class notes research papers, and conference materials. Photocopied material occasionally represents original material held by other repositories and certain reproduction and use restriction apply.

Language Information

Han is the Athabascan language spoken in Alaska in the village of Eagle and in the Yukon Territory at Dawson; it is closely related to Gwich’in and Upper Tanana. Of the total Alaskan Han population of about 50 people, perhaps 12 speak the language. A writing system was established in the 1970s, and considerable documentation has been carried out at the Alaska Native Language Center as well as at the Yukon Native Language Centre in Whitehorse. 

Scope and Content Note

The Alaska Native Language Center Han holdings represent a relatively small collection containing 85 items that date between 1865 and 1998. Fieldnotes are well represented in the Han language, especially from the 1960s and 1970s. Other material types include academic research, wordlists, translations and transcriptions of traditional stories, and educational materials, such as literacy exercises. Only two items date on or prior to 1900; both are wordlists, one anonymous and the other by James Wickersham; they are photocopied from larger publications, the originals of which are held by another repository. There are no items created between 1900 and the late 1950s. Materials from the 1950s include the Han fieldnotes of Gordon Marsh (1956) and vocabulary lists compiled by David Shinen (1958 and 1963). More material is present from the 1960s, largely due to the fieldnotes and academic research of Michael Krauss, beginning in 1962 and covering Han tone, dialectology, grammar, and phonology (11 items). From the late 1960s and early 1970s, there are fieldnotes of Catherine McClellan, Nancy McRoy, R. W. Jarvenpaa, and John Ritter. The collection further includes approximately 15 traditional story transcriptions from narrations by Louise Paul (1978). The largest portion of the collection are John Ritter’s fieldnotes, class materials, and literacy workshop materials collected and published between 1976 and 1984 (25 items), including his preliminary noun dictionary and literacy workshop session documents published by the Yukon Native Language Centre, Whitehorse, Canada. There is a dearth of materials from the 1980s, though the 1990s are more represented by the continued work in literacy workshop publications, such as reading and listening exercises written by Jane Montgomery, Percy Henry, Isaac Juneby, and Edward Roberts in affiliation with the Yukon Native Language Centre. The most recent publication is a subsistence study conducted by Craig Mischler for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; a document that includes some Han placenames and lexical items. 

Extent: Six manuscript boxes totaling 2 linear feet.

Languages: All materials in the Han Collection are in Han or English.