Eyak language dies with its last speaker

Chief Marie Smith Jones in 2004

The last traditional speaker of the Eyak language died yesterday, making the language extinct. Eyak Chief Marie Smith Jones was 89 years old. She was the last person to have learned the language the traditional way, taught as a child from her parents.

Her long-time language documentarian, linguist Dr. Michael Krauss began working with her in 1962. He says Chief Marie kept the language going for many years after her older sister died in the early 1990s.

Chief Marie had 9 children; 7 are still living. Her funeral will be held in Anchorage on Friday at the St. Innocent Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Viewing is at 11:00 a.m. and services are at 1:00 p.m.

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

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