A Gwich'in communion

all photos by JR Ancheta, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

William Firth of Fort McPherson Canada prays before the communion service spoken in Gwich'in where up to eight villages from Alaska and Canada are in attendance.

A communion service spoken entirely in the Gwich'in dialect of Tukudh saw a packed congregation Thursday at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 1029 First Ave., in downtown Fairbanks. Reverends from Alaska and Canada, as well as a deacon, joined to officiate the service. Programs were made available to the public so non-Tukudh speakers could follow along in English.

Allan Hayton, of Arctic Village, and Clifford Gowan, of Fairbanks, stand patiently outside St. Matthews

Allan Hayton, 45, a Vestry member at St. Matthew's who is originally from Arctic Village, helped organize the event. "It's a long, proud legacy that our ancestors and forebears have left for us, and I love our language, and to hear a service in our language is amazing," Hayton told the News-Miner last week.

Paul Williams, Jr. holds a program in English and Gwich'in as he sings

Gwich'in is one of 47 separate Athabascan languages and is spoken in 15 communities throughout Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The Tukudh dialect predates the Gwich'in translation to English.

Ruth Ridley of Eagle recites the "Our Father" in the Hän Gwich'in dialect after the opening hymn

A similar service entirely in Gwich'in was held in 2003, a 10-year anniversary service was postponed last year because members from Canada weren't able to cross the border.

Ethel Beck helps Ruth Ridley, both from Eagle, with her choir vestment before Holy Communion Service spoken in Gwich'in

Alaskan attendees came from Gwichyaa Zhee (Fort Yukon), Viihtaii (Venetie), Vashraii K'oo (Arctic Village), Jalgitsik (Chalkyitsik), Tsee Duu (Beaver), Deenduu (Birch Creek), Danzhit Haiinlaii (Circle), Tanan (Fairbanks) and Eagle. Canadian contributors traveled from Vun Tut (Old Crow), Teetł'it Zheh (Fort McPherson), Dawson and Whitehorse.

Visitors fill the pews of St. Matthews Episcopal Church for a communion service spoken entirely in the Gwich'in dialect of Tukudh in downtown Fairbanks