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Eyak [archive]

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The Eyak Village is currently located on the Copper River highway on the Malaspina Coastal Plain. Old stories say they moved from the interior of Alaska down the Copper River to the mouth of the Copper River Delta. Some of the Eyak people are working to protect their traditional lands along the Copper River Delta that sustained their ancestors. A coalition of national, regional and local groups including the National Wildlife Federation are working together to protect the Delta.


The Eyak language is a branch of the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family.


European settlers opened canneries and competed with the Eyak for Copper River salmon, slowly taking over their jobs and their food. The Americans also brought alcohol, disease, and opium, the last from Chinese cannery workers. Much of this the Eyaks had never been exposed to. These took their toll, and by 1900 there were only about 60 Eyak remaining. They lived in a settlement on Eyak Lake that, in 1906, became a part of the town of Cordova, Alaska. (Which is where they currently reside).

Today the Eyak culture is represented only by about 172 individuals and only one of those can speak the Eyak language fluently. They are the smallest native group in Alaska and are fighting to revive their culture. In 1995 the Eyak held their first potlatch (a traditional gathering and gift exchange), the first time they had done so in 80 years.

Additional Reading

 Eyak Language
 Eyak Words
 Eyak Legends
 Alaska Native Languages

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