Deg Hit'an

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Deg Hit'an
Innoko River.jpg
Innoko River of Deg Hit'an homeland in summer
Total population
(250 (speakers of language only)[1])
Regions with significant populations
 USA ( Alaska)
English, Deg Xinag
Related ethnic groups
Yup'ik, Koyukon, Dena'ina

Deg Hit'an[pronunciation?] (also Deg Xit'an, Deg Hitan, Degexit'an, Kaiyuhkhotana[pronunciation?]) is a group of Yupikized Athabaskan peoples in Alaska. Their native language is called Deg Xinag. They reside in Alaska along the Anvik River in Anvik, along the Innoko River in Shageluk, and at Holy Cross along the lower Yukon River.

The Deg Hit'an are members of the federally recognized Alaska Native tribes of Anvik Village, Shageluk Native Village, and Holy Cross Village. The Iditarod Trail's antecedents were the native trails of the Dena'ina and Deg Hit'an Athabaskan Indians and the Inupiaq Eskimos.[2]

Their neighbors are other Athabaskan-speaking and Yupik Eskimo peoples: Yup'ik (west and south), Holikachuk (north), Upper Kuskokwim (north and east), and Dena'ina (south).[3]


The autonym for this group of Athabaskan is for people Deg Xit'an (local people) and for language Deg Xinag (local language).[4] Sometimes the Deg Xit'an or Deg Hit'an use for the language in English. Deg Hit'an rather than Deg Xit'an is a somewhat unfortunate spelling choice. Xit'an is the orthographic representation of /χət’an/ "people of (area)", a nominalized verb form. There is no contrast between /χ/ and /h/ in the verb prefixes of Deg Xinag, and acoustic evidence indicates that the normative pronunciation in that context is [χ] rather than [h].[5]

The most common older name is Ingalik (from Yup'ik Ingqiliq «traditionally Athabaskan; now also any other Indian», literally «having louse's eggs» < ingqiq «nit, louse nit, egg of louse» + a postbase -liq «one who is V; one who Vs; one having V; one similar to N»[6]) and its derivatives are offensive to the Deg Hit’an. In the old literature, the name Anvik-Shageluk Ingalik (also Kuskokwim Ingalik and Yukon Ingalik) is used for Deg Hit'an, and the name McGrath Ingalik is used for Upper Kuskokwim people.


  1. ^ Alaska Native Language Center : Alaska Native Languages / Population and Speaker Statistics
  2. ^ The Iditarod National Historic Trail Seward to Nome Route: A Comprehensive Management Plan, March 1986. Prepared by Bureau of Land Management, Anchorage District Office, Anchorage, Alaska.
  3. ^ The Map of Indigenous Peoples and Languages of Alaska
  4. ^ Beth R. Leonard 2007. Deg Xinag oral traditions: reconnecting indigenous language and. education through traditional narratives
  5. ^ Sharon Hargus 2009. Vowel quality and duration in Yukon Deg Xinag
  6. ^ Jacobson, Steven A. (compiler) 2012. Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary, 2nd edition