Meet the Staff at the YNLC

John Ritter

John Ritter

Founding Director and Linguist email

John Ritter is the founding Director of the Yukon Native Language Centre. A native of West Virginia, he attended Michigan State University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Languages and Literature. He then completed four years of graduate work in Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Coming to Canada in the early 1970's to study the Gwich'in language, he spent three years in Ft. McPherson, Northwest Territories, where he worked closely with the late William Nersyoo, Sr.

He moved to the Yukon in the mid 1970's and with support from the Council of Yukon Indians and the Department of Education began documenting Northern Tutchone, Hän and Kaska. In Whitehorse he collaborated with Daniel Tlen, a native of Burwash who was studying linguistics and working on his own Southern Tutchone language; with Gertie Tom, a Northern Tutchone speaker from the Big Salmon River area; and with Julie Cruikshank, an anthropologist studying oral traditions. Their joint work led to the establishment of the Yukon Native Languages Project in 1977.

John documents and describes Yukon aboriginal languages, and participates in the training of Native Language Instructors and Specialists. He is particularly interested in place names and currently serves on the Yukon Geographical Place Names Board.