Guide to the (Lower) Tanana Language Collection


All materials in the Tanana collection are either written in or about the Tanana language.  The earliest documents date from the early 1900s, however most of the collection dates from 1960s to the present, with a focus on wordlists, fieldnotes, and phonology.  Fieldnotes by Krauss form an important part of the collection and include work on  dialects,  phonology, verb forms, place names, and collections of texts.  Educational materials and religious texts are less well represented.  The collection also includes some early research papers.  Photocopied material occasionally represents original material held by other repositories and certain reproduction and use restriction apply.

Language Information

Tanana was formerly spoken along the Tanana River from Minto to the Goodpaster River.  Dialects include Goodpaster, Salcha, Chena (extinct since 1976) and Minto-Nenana.  Fewer than 100 speakers remained as of 1980 (Krauss).   A practical orthography was developed in 1974; to date, few texts have been published in Tanana.  Much of the linguistic documentation has been the work of Michael Krauss, James Kari, and Siri Tuttle from the 1990s to the present.

Scope and Content Note

The scope of the Tanana language collection is quite broad in that it strives to include all material written or published in or about the Tanana Language.  Dr. Michael Krauss made an effort to collect all things Tanana, and has developed a nearly comprehensive collection.  Recent contributions by other staff at the Alaska Native Language Center, notably James Kari and Siri Tuttle, have greatly contributed to the completeness of the collection.

Generally, the collection contains materials relating to linguistic fieldwork, academic research, and educational materials for schoolchildren. By far the largest part of the collection relates to the fieldnotes of various researchers. Though there are originals, many of the fieldnotes are photocopies provided by the author or field researcher. The earliest materials date from the first half of the 20th century; there is comparatively little linguistic documentation from this period, mostly relating to place names, some notes on dialectology, and some wordlists. 

The first detailed linguistic documentation was undertaken by Michael Krauss in the 1960s and 1970s and includes especially studies of the lexicon, phonology, dialects, and notes on comparative Athabascan, as well as beginning work on a noun dictionary (in 15 folders) and some text transcriptions and translations.  Also very significant during this period are Mertie Baggen’s fieldnotes  on the lexicon (16 folders). 

During the 1980s, Michael Krauss and James Kari were the primary documenters of Tanana, with fieldnotes predominantly relating to place names, the lexicon, and texts (ca 25 folders).  Both Kari and Krauss have continued to contribute to the collection to the present.  The fieldnotes and publications of a number of other researchers during this period are also represented in the collection.  In addition, there are a number of items from the 1980s relating to the ethnography of the Tanana people, with many of them produced by the Tanana Chiefs Conference. 

From the 1990s to the present, Siri Tuttle (ca 16 items) has produced studies of phonetics, phonology, morphology, and other aspects of the grammar of Tanana; the materials include fieldnotes, published papers, and her dissertation.

Comparatively little material concerns religious texts in the Tanana Language, and only a handful of educational materials can be found in the collection.  Michael Krauss, Jeff Leer, Chad Thompson, James Kari, among others, have all contributed to the development of literacy and literacy materials, including especially primers for children, most of which were developed in the late 1970s and 1980s.


Extent: 9  manuscript boxes and one 3-by-5 card file box covering 2.5 linear feet.

Languages: Collection languages are both Tanana and English.  Some documents offers Tanana words in comparison to other Athabaskan languages in Alaska.