“How would you feel if your baby died?”
Chief Marie, the last Indian fluent in the Eyak tongue, explained how she would have felt if she had allowed her ancestral language to become extinct.
According to linguists, 19 of the 20 indigenous languages in Alaska may die out as English replaces everyday Native words. Linguists blame modern media that saturates the youngest minds with pop culture. The educational system contributes too, by immersing children in the English language alone.
In the 40s and 50s Chief Marie’s family felt the sting of disapproval in their community if they uttered a single Eyak expression. When her sister passed away, Chief Marie was the last full blood who spoke and understood the Eyak language.
For 47 years Marie worked with an Alaskan linguist to painstakingly reconstruct and document her culture: creating a dictionary of Eyak words and phrases; a book of grammar; recordings of her pronunciations, tone, vowels, and sounds; videos of storytelling and explanations of religious beliefs. Chief Marie Smith Jones passed away at 89 years old.
Someday Alaskans with Eyak blood will seek out their heritage, remembering their chief and pronouncing her Eyak name: “Udachkuqax a’a’ch.”
It means “a sound that calls people from afar.”
Chief Marie believed that every nuance of language, and each character in her stories had to be archived to keep Eyak from being forgotten.
What language will we speak in heaven? All the languages on earth (some 6,500 of them) are destined to fade to extinction. Only one language will endure through eternity—and all Christians know our Father’s native tongue from our spiritual birth!
I Cor. 2:12-13
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.
Jesus, thank you for preserving this eternal language of the Holy Spirit for me and my family. May I introduce everyone I meet to you by actions that speak louder than human words.