Farewell, Udach' Kuqax*a'a'ch, the last native speaker of Eyak (Alaska)

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A chain-smoker, activist, and mother of nine children, Marie Smith-Jones was one of a kind. The last surviving full-blooded Alaskan Eyak, and sole native speaker of the Eyak language, she was renowned for her commitment to preserving her heritage. When she died in her sleep this week at her home in Anchorage, aged 89, she left behind a comprehensive record of the now-extinct language – a dictionary of Eyak.

Eyak is one of 20 languages spoken in Alaska, many of which are thought to be fading out of existence. Mrs Smith-Jones was determined that the Eyak language would not die with her, and devoted much of her later life to this cause.

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