Lesson 3 – Environment & Weather

Overview & Goals

This lesson will focus on understanding your environment and the weather, an important natural component of living close to the land. It is also a good subject that you can have conversation with Gwich’in speakers about.

After this lesson, you should begin to be familiar with some of the terms for plants and geography in Gwich’in as well as a cursory understanding of Gwich’in meteorological terminology.

Lecture Video

Resource Videos

Video 1 – Gwich’in Weather terms with Lillian Garnett.  Some spelling errors, reads “Jii taii doonch’yaa?’  When it should read “Chiitaii doonch’yaa?’ All pronounciations are correct.

Video 2 – Gwich’in Children’s book “Let it snow’… Affiliated weather terms used in a narrative that is narrated.

Video 3 – Jidii AÅ‚tsan, basic plants and counting narrative.  9 mins 20 sec.



Chiitąįį doÌ‚onch’yaa?

How is the weather? (literally,How is it outside?’)

The word “chiitąįį’ literally means “outside‘. When speaking about the weather begin with the “chiitąįį’ then add the word for the type of weather being described, saying “Outside it is ____________’.


An adjective is a word that describes a noun or a pronoun. For instance in the sentence “I have big eyes.‘, the adjective “big‘ describes the noun “eyes‘. In English an adjective usually comes before the word it modifies; in Gwich’in the placement of the adjective in a sentence is opposite with the adjective generally following the word it describes.

I have long hair
Pronoun verb adjective noun
Shikiighai’ ninjyaa
Noun adjectival verb


An adjective in Gwich’in can take one or more of the following forms:

  1. Simple Adjectives (SF): functions like adjectives in English, needing a noun and a verb to complete a sentence.
  2. Areal Adjectives (AA): an adjective beginning with the areal prefix used to describe an areal noun/pronoun. Areal adjectives also need a noun and a verb to complete a sentence.
  3. Adjectival Verbs (AV): an adjective that also function as the verb in the sentence. Only a noun and the adjectival verb are needed to complete a sentence.

For example, the adjective meaning “black’ in Gwich’in appears in all three forms.

zhrąįį gwazhrąįį azhrąįį
Simple Adjective Areal Adjective Adjectival Verb

The choice of which form of an adjective to use will depend on a variety of factors, including what is being described and the sentence structure. For example:

Simple Adjective:

Ninjii zhuu vikiighai’ zhrąįį gwaÌ€nlįį
Domestic cat its hair black has
The cat has black hair

Time Words

In English time is spoken of in a linear manner, like a timeline, one day progressing to the next, from month to month and from year to year always progressing forward. In Gwich’in time is spoken of more like a circle, the seasons, much like a day, goes through a cycle and then begins again. Instead of breaking the year up into specific days of the week and months of the year, like in English, Gwich’in refers to the times of the year by what activities occur or important events. EXAMPLE. In order communicate with English speakers, over time Gwich’in names for times of the year have been applied to the English system of 12 months they roughly refer to. EXAMPLE

Names for days of the week have also been incorporated Gwich’in. Below are some Gwich’in time terms.

k’ehdài’ juÌ€k drin nihkaa
yesterday today tomorrow


vàhn khaa
morning night

These words can be combined to refer to the time of a specific day like in English. For example, “k’ehdài’ vahn’ means “yesterday morning‘ and “khaa’ refers to “tomorrow night‘. “JuÌ€k’, generally meaning “this’, can be placed before these time words to refer to “this morning‘ (“juÌ€k vahn’) or “this evening/tonight‘ (“juÌ€k khaa’).                            



  • Chiitąįį  — outside
  • DoÌ‚onch’yaa — How is it
  • Chiitaii doÌ‚onch’yaa? — How is the weather?
  • Giashreiin’aii — It is sunny
  • Gwit’eh goo’aii — It is cloudy
  • Ahtsin — It is rainy
  • Aht’rąįį — It is windy
  • GwiÌ‚indhaa — It is warm in the area
  • GwiÌ‚ink’oo — It is cold in the area
  • Shrôonch’yaa – It is nice
  • Ahshii – It is snowing

How are you? (when you are outside)

  • Neenjit doÌ‚onch’yaa? – how are you?
  • Ihdluu — I am cold
  • Nihthaa – I am hot
  • Cheeshandak – I am tired
  • ShatthaÌ€i’ nizįį – I am rested

Time Terms

  • vaÌ€hn — morning
  • Drin tÅ‚’an – noon
  • khaa — night
  • k’ehdài’ — yesterday
  • juÌ€k drin — today
  • nihkaa — tomorrow
  • GwitÅ‚’ee jiÌ€ – later
  • Khaii – winter
  • Shin – summer
  • Shreenyaa – spring
  • Khaiits’a’ – fall
  • K’eegwaadhat k’iighai’ – if god is willing

Environment and Animal Terms

  • tÅ‚’oo — grass
  • zhee — sky
  • ts’iivii — spruce tree
  • k’aii — willow
  • t’aa — cottonwood
  • k’ih — Birch bark
  • ah — branch
  • ch’at’an — leaf
  • tąįį — trail
  • taih — hill
  • han — river
  • k’ǫǫ — slough
  • GwaÌ‚ak’a’ -fire
  • Shree – sun
  • Tǫǫ ozhrii – moon
  • Chųų – water
  • Dinjii – man  
  • Tr’iÌ€njaÌ€a – woman  –
  • Łąįį – dog  
  • Ninjii zhuu – Cat
  • Shoh zhraii – Black Bear
  • Shih tthoo – Brown Bear
  • Geh – Rabbit
  • Ts’it – Porcupine
  • Tsee – Beaver
  • Dlak – Squirrel
  • Bird  – Chiitsal

Tools - Vaat'eet'aara'in


Assignment – Weather

(100 points)

Create a new post on this website with the category ‘Weather’. In this written post:

  1. In Gwich’in, describe the current or typical weather in your home town.   (1 paragraph)
  2. In English, reflect on your experience with this lesson.  (Did you have any challenges with this lesson? Did you have any specific successes? etc.)

Need help? See: How to make a blog post.

Other Resources

Alaska Native Language Archive
The Alaska Native Language Archive has hundreds of thousands of recordings and documents available to aid you in your studies.  There are stories that have been transcribed that you can study to learn new words and phrases in Gwich’in, as well as learning Gwich’in language content at the same time.  Search the ANLA for all Gwich’in language resources.

Cultural Astronomy
A Newly Documented Whole-Sky Circumpolar Constellation in Alaskan Gwich’in by Chris Cannon (view PDF)

Video of what it’s like to land  in Arctic Village, Alaska in summertime