In 2008, when Marie Smith Jones passed away, Eyak lost its last Native born speaker. This loss was devastating, yet it would not be the end of the Eyak language. There are still two speakers of Eyak - a linguist and a young man from France. The short film, Parlez-Vous Eyak? tells this surprising and inspirational story. Now, with the desire and dedication of many in the community and the talent and commitment of many supporters, the Eyak People – dAXunhyuu – are breaking new ground to recover their language, their culture and their connections to each other.
This project is guided by a community committee devoted to fulfilling the long-range vision that the Eyak language and culture will thrive in the lives of those here today and those yet to come. AwA’ahdah to those past and present who have shared their time and passion to make this dream a reality.
Project Director Jenna May is the granddaughter of the late Sophie Borodkin who was one of the last native-born speakers of Eyak. As an infant, Jenna was adopted by missionaries and taken to the Lower 48. For the past two decades, Jenna has actively worked to restore the Eyak culture. She is now honored to help guide this new effort to create the first learning materials and to strengthen the Eyak community.
Community Coordinator Barbara Sappah is a granddaughter of the late Eyak Chief Marie Smith Jones. She is one of the new and dedicated community leaders working passionately to make revitalization inspired by her two children. Barbara is currently working toward a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership and is bringing that expertise to this project to help plan and promote project events, develop and implement community outreach and communication strategies and organize Language Circles.
Event and Volunteer Coordinator JoAnna Westmoreland is the daughter of Marie Smith Jones and proud mother, of Barbara. Joanna brings her contagious enthusiasm and her own considerable organizational and people skills to the project. She is actively working to get in touch with as many community members as possible to help encourage more invovlement.
Speakers and Teachers...
Speaker/Advisor Dr. Michael Krauss has devoted more than 50 years of his life to documenting the Eyak Language. While he is officially retired from the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he founded the Alaska Native Language Center, Dr. Krauss is diligently working to finish a comprehensive scholarly study of the Eyak Grammar. He continues to be a generous mentor to the Eyaks by taking part in the annual Culture Camp, modeling words for the Talking Dictionary and providing open access to the Eyak Dictionary which is now being updated and digitized.
Speaker/Language Liaison Guilluame Leduey is an Eyak language enthusiast from Le Havre, France. Guillaume began teaching himself Eyak when he was just a teenager – an even more remarkable feat when you consider, he had to learn English first to even understand the limited, but complex technical teaching materials that were available at the time. Guillaume has now become an accomplished speaker of the Eyak and language and is grateful he is able to pass on what he has learned to others.
The Technical Talent...
MultiMedia Director Laura Bliss Spaan began documenting the Eyak language more than 20 years ago. She directed the Emmy-nominated film, More Than Words…(1996, 60 minutes) that helped bring worldwide attention to the struggle of the Eyak people to save their language and provided the first audio-visual documentation of spoken Eyak. Laura is now using her technical expertise to design and produce the materials for the dAXunhyuuga’ eLearning Place.
Programmer Garret Spargo is the brains behind making everything work the way it’s supposed to deep inside the CODE world that makes the internet run. Garret came to the project as an enthusiastic volunteer and his impressive technical abilities and commitment to making enduring and accessible learning materials has been a source of great inspiration to all on the Project Team.