The need to keep languages alive

Marie Smith Jones possessed more than the wisdom of her 89 years. She held the knowledge of an entire culture.

Life in the small village of Cordova, Alaska hadn’t exactly been easy. Jones married a fisherman and with him raised nine children. She survived influenza and smallpox. She even beat alcoholism.

In her eighties, it was clear through Jones’ white hair and wrinkled face that her wisdom was more valuable than any estate. When she died in her sleep in January 2008 at the age of 89, her greatest possession – her culture and her language – nearly died with her.

Marie Smith Jones was the last speaker of the Eyak language. Having never taught it to her children, her native tongue now faced extinction….

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