Upper Tanana is the Athapaskan language spoken in the Yukon by people in the Beaver Creek area who have traditionally lived in the Scottie Creek drainage. In addition, it is spoken in eastern Alaska on the Tanana River above the town of Tok as well as in Tetlin and Northway. Each of these communities has a different dialect. The Upper Tanana language is closely related to the Hän and Gwich’in languages.
In the Beaver Creek school, Northern Tutchone has been taught since 2000. In the 1990’s, the Upper Tanana language was taught for several years by Doris Johns. In the late 1990’s Doris helped reactivate the Upper Tanana Cultural Society, founded in 1988 as a non-profit group aimed at enhancing language and culture within the Upper Tanana region. The Society then published a glossary of the Scottie Creek dialect: Nee’aaneek. Upper Tanana Glossary. Scottie Creek Dialect. (Beaver Creek: 1997). It was complied by Bessie John, 1923-2000, Doris’s mother, who worked with the Athapaskan linguist Daniel Tlen. Another society project is a book of Upper Tanana bird names, complete with stories, songs, and pictures.
More than ten publications in and on Upper Tanana are currently available from the Yukon Native Language Centre. These include a Language Lesson Booklet and Tape set, six multimedia Computer Books for Macintosh (OS 9 only), three Print Story Books, and reports from the 1997 and 2002 Literacy Workshops. Authoring or assisting with these publications have been Bessie John, Doris Johns, Jenny Sanford, Patrick Johnny and Avis Sam.