Guide to the Tanacross Athabaskan Language Collection


All materials in the Tanacross collection are either written in or about the Tanacross language.  The earliest documents come from expedition accounts and the later material comes from contributions by the Alaska Native Language Center staff.  Much of the collection dates from the mid- to late-1970s during an era of more intensive fieldwork with the Tanacross language; although there has been an influx of recent work in the late 1990s.  The bulk of the collection consists of manuscripts related to Tanacross lexicon, including various Tanacross dictionaries and wordlists derived from fieldwork.  A slightly smaller number of folders contain education publications, in particular elementary readers and language workshop proceedings and workbooks.  Phonology, grammar, and dialectal materials are less well-represented.  A few items pertain to Tanacross placenames, language class notes, and traditional stories and the collection also includes research papers and conference materials.  Photocopied material occasionally represents original material held by other repositories and certain reproduction and use restriction apply.

Language Information
The word Tanacross has been used to refer both to a village in eastern Alaska and to the language spoken there. A more appropriate term may be Dihthaad Xt'een Aandeg' The Mansfield People's Language, referring to the traditional village of Mansfield, north of Tanacross.  Tanacross is the ancestral language of the Mansfield-Ketchumstock and Healy Lake-Joseph Village bands. It is spoken today at Healy Lake, Dot Lake, and Tanacross on the middle Tanana River. The total population is about 220, of whom about 65 speak the language.
Originally included in "Transitional Tanana" (transitional between Minto and Upper Tanana) by Dr. Michael Krauss, University of Alaska Fairbanks, as late a 1973, linguists defined Tanacross as a separate Athabaskan language in 1974.  A practical alphabet was established in 1973 and a few booklets have been published by the Alaska Native Language Center.  Very little language material was published between the late 1970s and early 1990s.  More recent linguistic scholarship (since the 1990s) includes research on Tanacross phonology and the preparation of handouts and language exercises developed for classes and workshops.
Scope and Content Note:  The scope of the Tanacross language collection is quite broad in that it strives to include all material written or published in or about the Tanacross Language.  Dr. Michael Krauss made an effort to collect all things Tanacross, and has developed a nearly comprehensive collection. that includes material from a wide time range and variety of sources.  For example, the holdings vary from an 1839 expedition report written by Ferdinand Von Wrangell in which he provided a comparative language table with Tanacross as one of the columns, to academic linguistic papers handling pitch, tone, and intonation in Tanacross.

Generally, the collection contains materials relating to linguistic fieldwork, academic research, and educational materials; the latter of which includes classroom materials such as texts, handouts, student worksheets, and lecture notes.  Fieldnotes are a dominant category, with material from roughly 1960 through 2003, and, though there are some originals, many of the fieldnotes are photocopies provided by the author or field researcher.  Fieldnotes provide material such as lexical lists, notes on grammar and phonology, placenames, and in some cases translations or transcriptions of traditional stories and religious texts.  However, comparatively little material concerns religious texts in the Tanacross Language, and only a handful of traditional stories can be found in the collection.

Another dominant category is educational material that runs the gamut from elementary readers and children's literacy exercises to dictionaries to college-level class materials and handouts. This material is disbursed  between the 1970s through 2003, and includes publications from entities such as the Alaska Native Language Center, Gateway School District, Eskimo Language Workshop, and the Yukon Native Language Center.  Materials derived from academic research tend to date from the 1990s through 2003, though some earlier research papers may be found.  All aspects of dialects, grammar and phonology are covered in the academic papers and may be handled in general terms, such as Dr. Gary Holton's "Introduction to the Tanacross Writing System," or very specific terms such as "Fortis and Lenis Fricatives in Tanacross Athabaskan" by the same author.

Extent: 5 manuscript boxes and one 3-by-5 card file box covering 3.1 linear feet.
Languages: Collection languages are both Tanacross and English, with one early document in German.  On rare occasion, a document offers Tanacross words in comparison to other Athabaskan languages in Alaska.