It has been more than five years since the last Native born speaker of Alaska’s Eyak Indian language passed away. Now, Eyak descendants have found a high-tech way to bring their so-called “extinct” language back to life. The dAXunhyuuga’ eLearning Place is now open at EyakPeople.com with language lessons, stories and games.
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“For the first time, we have hope that we can bring our beautiful language back into our lives and make it have real meaning,” said Project Director Jenna May. “This is a huge turning point for dAXunhyuu—the Eyak People. These are the first learning materials that have ever been made for dAXunhyuuga’—the Eyak language.
The dAXunhyuuga eLearning Place will offer new “Journeys” each week for the next two years. There is no cost to use the program and it is available to all learners anywhere with an Internet connection. Learners can choose their own goals and set their own pace whether they want to use a few meaningful phrases in their daily lives or they want to really dig in to become fluent speakers. The materials are designed primarily for adult learners, with the goal of giving parents the tools to become teachers who can help get their kids get hooked on Eyak.
“It has now been nearly a century since Eyak children were raised hearing the Eyak language at home,” says the project’s community coordinator, Barbara Sappah. “This is k’udzuudah—good—that we finally have the chance to change that. It just gives me incredible joy to hear my kids speak dAXunhyuuga.”
The cutting edge program grew out of a community-driven, grassroots effort to get learning materials into the hands of Eyak Indian descendants. The decision to go with online eLearning was simple, according to May. “Eyaks have spread out quite a bit from our ancestral homelands in the Prince William Sound area. At last count, we have Eyaks living in more than 15 communities in Alaska and the Lower 49, so using the web is the best way to reach everyone who wants to learn the language. We’re fortunate we have the technology to make this happen, and even more importantly, we have an exceptionally dedicated team of linguistic, media and computer experts who poured their talent and passion into the project.”
The project was made possible with major funding from the Administration for Native Americans with additional organizational, cash and in-kind support from: the Eyak Preservation Council, The Eyak Corporation and the Alaska Native Language Archive.