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Last of the Eyak people dies in her sleep at 89
Toronto Sun
January 24, 2008

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Marie Smith Jones, the last full-blooded Eyak and fluent speaker of her native language, died peacefully in her sleep at her home Monday, her daughter Bernice said yesterday. She was 89.

Jones was the last full-blooded Eyak and was the last person fluent in Eyak, a branch of the Athabaskan Indian family of languages, said Michael Krauss, a linguist and professor emeritus at the University of Alaska who collaborated with Jones in an effort to preserve the Eyak language.

"With her death, the Eyak language becomes extinct," he said.

Jones was honorary chief of the Eyak Nation. The Eyak ancestral homeland runs along 480 km of the Gulf of Alaska from Prince William Sound, near the fishing village of Cordova. By the 21st century, only about 50 Eyaks remained, according to the university's Alaska Native Language Centre, which Krauss directs.

Jones was a survivor from the start, her daughter said. Many of her siblings died young when smallpox and influenza tore through the Eyak Nation, "wiping out just about everyone but her family," Galloway said.
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