Guide to the Holikachuk Athabaskan Language Collection


All materials in the Holikachuk collection are either written in or about the Holikachuk language.  The earliest documents date from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and contain ethnographic accounts and some information on personal and place names; however most of the collection dates from the mid to late 19th century.  The bulk of the later materials consists of fieldnotes, representing research on vocabulary and placenames, with some traditional texts, although neither texts nor grammatical information are abundant.  Originals and copies of fieldnotes by James Kari, representing work from 1972 through the 1990s form an important and large part of the collection.  The collection also includes some educational materials prepared during the 1980s by Hanna Maillelle and others.  Photocopied material occasionally represents original material held by other repositories and certain reproduction and use restriction apply.

Language Information
Holikachuk is the Athabaskan language of the Innoko River, formerly spoken at the village of Holikachuk, which has moved to Grayling on the lower Yukon River. Holikachuk, which is intermediate between Ingalik (Deg Xinag) and Koyukon, was recognized as a potentially distinct language since the 1840s; but as it remained largely undocumented until the 1960s, it was definitively identified as a separate language only in the 1970s. The total population is about 200, and of those perhaps 12 speak the language.
Scope and Content Note
The scope of the Holikachuk language collection is quite broad in that it strives to include all material written or published in or about the Holikachuk Language.  Dr. Michael Krauss made an effort to collect all things Holikachuk, and has developed a nearly comprehensive collection, which has been greatly supplemented in recent years through donations by Kari.

Little documentation of Holikachuk took place before the 1960s:  there are 4 items for the period 1880-1910 and none thereafter until 1959 in the collection.  These early works primarily list personal and place names, especially collected by John W. Chapman.  There are some comparative notes on the speech of Holikachuk and Innoko villages.

By far the largest part of the collection relates to the fieldnotes of various linguists.  The first linguistic documentation was undertaken by Michael Krauss in the 1960s, at which time Holikachuk was determined to be a distinct language with major phonological differences with neighboring Athabascan languages.  This early work, consisting of 5 items, especially relates to phonology, lexicology, and dialectology, and it includes reports of various field trips.  From 1975 to the present, James Kari has been a major contributor in efforts to document Holikachuk.  His fieldnotes, in 13-14 folders, pertain to place names, wordlists by semantic category, stem lists, and traditional texts.  Most recently, Giulia Oliverio (2000-2003, 7 items) has been working on other aspects of the linguistic documentation of Holikachuk, including especially aspects of the grammar, such as prefixation, derivation, and incorporation, as well as some documentation of conversational phrases.

Another important part of the collection relates to the development of an orthography and to educational materials and the encouragement of Holikachuk literacy.  Jeff Leer worked on a practical orthography and literacy exercises in 1974-75, as did Kari to some extent.  Most of the educational materials are primary readers (14 items) prepared for children; many were adapted and translated into Holikachuk from other Athabascan languages by Hannah Maillelle, Chad Thompson, and others in the 1980s.

Extent: 3 manuscript boxes covering 1.5 linear feet.

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