The Hän language is spoken in two communities: Dawson City, Yukon and Eagle, Alaska. The speakers of the language are called Hän Hwëch'in which means, "people who live along the (Yukon) River." Hän is closely related to the Gwich'in and Upper Tanana languages. Some older Hän speakers can read the Gwich'in orthography of Robert McDonald and use his Tukudh Bible and prayer book. During the Klondike Gold Rush a reserve was established for the Hän people at Moosehide, a few miles downriver from Dawson City.
In Dawson City there is only a handful of fluent speakers remaining. The rapid decline of the language in this region is due in large part to the dramatic changes brought by the flood of outsiders with the Gold Rush of 1898. There are more speakers in Eagle and Fairbanks, Alaska, but probably fewer than fifteen. Recently, the Hän people in Dawson have been working actively to bring back the language and traditional songs. In these efforts they rely on their own elders as well as residents of Eagle, Fairbanks and other Alaskan communities.
The Hän Language program has been in operation since 1991 at Robert Service School in Dawson City. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in (formerly the Dawson First Nation) is supportive of preserving the Hän language. It sponsors an adult language class and organizes cultural gatherings, including a bi-annual summer celebration at Moosehide.
Click the lilac sentence below to hear Edward Roberts saying, "My grandmother is sewing beads and making moccasins."Audio Lessons and Audio Storybooks areas.
More than a dozen publications in and on Hän are currently available from the Yukon Native Language Centre. These include Language Lesson Booklets and Tapes, multimedia Computer Books and corresponding Print Story Booklets, and reports on Literacy Workshops.