Fairbanks church plans service in Gwich’in dialect

FAIRBANKS, Alaska— A Fairbanks church is planning a Holy Communion service spoken entirely in the Gwich’in dialect of Tukudh.

The Thursday service at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church will be officiated by a deacon and reverends from Alaska and Canada. Programs will be available so people can follow in English, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Gwich’in is an Athabascan language spoken in 15 communities in Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The Tukudh dialect predates the translation of Gwich’in to English.

Allan Hayton, who helped organize the event, expects about 40 participants from Alaska and Canada.

“It’s a long, proud legacy that our ancestors and forebears have left for us, and I love our language, and to hear a service in our language is amazing,” he said.

A similar service performed entirely in Gwich’in was held in 2003. Last year, a 10-year anniversary service was postponed because members from Canada weren’t able to attend.

The Rev. Trimble Gilbert, from Arctic Village, opened an introductory meeting this week with The Lord’s Prayer and blessings in Tukudh. At his home church, Gilbert alternates between English and Tukudh in his sermons. He speaks only Tukudh with his sons.

“Language is a gift giver to us, and when we talk to each other (the) meaning is real strong,” he said.

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