Eyak became the first of Alaska’s endangered languages to be declared “extinct” when its last Native speaker, Chief Marie Smith Jones, died in January 2008, The Bristol Bay Times reports. But the language might be resurrected, thanks to the Eyak Language Project, a newly launched website whose goal is to “create the foundation for the reviving Eyak as a living, spoken language”.
The website will feature a word of the week selected from the archival recordings of the language with Marie Smith Jones, along with new recordings of words and phrases modeled by Dr. Michael Krauss, a 76-year-old linguist who has spent nearly 50 years documenting the Eyak language. Dr. Krauss is the last living person who has conversed with native-born speakers of Eyak.
The website will also include lessons designed by Guillaume Leduey, a 21-year-old French linguistic enthusiast who has taught himself how to speak Eyak from online materials. Leduey became interested in learning Eyak when he was only twelve, and he is passionate about reviving the language.
Other members of the team behind this ambitious effort are Project Director Laura Bliss Spaan, an EMMY-nominated director, producer and writer who has spent the past 18 years documenting the Eyak culture as both a personal and professional passion, and Sherry Smith, Mary Smith Jones’ granddaughter, who will serve as Cultural Coordinator.
For more information, please visit the Eyak Language Project’s website.