New dictionary describes Koyukon culture

Posted: Tuesday, October 17, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A new Koyukon dictionary combines the work of two scholars who each spent a quarter of a century compiling Koyukon words and culture, one of them toiling more than 70 years ago.

Jules Jette, a Canadian Jesuit priest, and Eliza Jones, a Koyukon Athabaskan elder and scholar, never knew each other. But their names and work are inextricably linked as co-authors of the soon-to-be-published ''Koyukon Athabaskan Dictionary.''

Jette died in 1927. Jones was born in 1938, and each devoted a quarter century to compiling Koyukon words and culture. The result is a practical writing system and a comprehensive source book for the language.

''It's more than just an ordinary dictionary,'' said Jones. ''It is more like an encyclopedia. It has a lot of ethnographic information put in there by Jette, myself and other elders.''

Publication of the 1,118-page volume is a dream come true for Jones, who began working at the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska in 1973. Although she retired to her home village of Koyukuk in 1990, Jones continued to work part-time on the dictionary until it was ready to send to the printer in July.

The clothbound dictionary, edited by UAF Professor Emeritus James Kari, is due for Alaska delivery by mid-November. Cost is $66 per copy with a $6 shipping and handling fee. For more information, access or contact ANLC at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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