DENALI VOICES

Branding / Packaging / Identity
Naming / Strategy

An educational program supporting indigenous language learning in Alaska Native communities.

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The Denali Voices Indigenous Language Program was developed in response to the rapid decline of fluent speakers of the languages native to the geographic area of Alaska. In 2018, Governor Bill Walker signed Administrative Order 300 which formally declared a “linguistic” emergency for Alaska Native languages. Denali Voices now provides language learning materials free of charge to Alaskan schoolchildren and at a reduced cost to students around the world. 

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NAMING

Denali Voices includes program offerings that cover the entirety of the Alaskan region, with 20 distinct languages, that fall into two main language groups. This means that Denali Voices represents many diverse communities and the design process meant careful research to ensure that these populations were not generalized or misrepresented. 

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The name Denali Voices refers to Denali Mountain, the tallest mountain peak in North America and a central part of many Alaska Native histories. According to the National Park Service, “No fewer than nine Native groups, from time immemorial, have used unique names for the mountain.” The name “Denali” stems from “deenaalee,” which is from the Koyukon language traditionally spoken on the north side” and represents today’s commonly used name.

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Despite their uniqueness, all Alaskan Native communities have a close relationship both with the earth’s landscape and with oral tradition. These relationships are conveyed as one in the audio bar mountain range motif pervasive throughout the Denali Voices materials.

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Learning a language may seem like climbing a mountain. Denali Voices ensures that the trail to fluency isn't too steep.

In addition to a partnership with Duolingo, Denali Voices offers physical language learning materials in the form of an initial Welcome box and a monthly kit of lesson materials. This was done in an effort to ensure that every child has access to language learning materials as many Alaskan Native students live in remote areas where there is no guarantee of reliable internet access.

"There is no such thing as dead
languages, only dormant minds."

-- Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author