University professor teaches students about Alaskan Native languages

Students at Truman State University had the opportunity to learn about a severely endangered Alaskan Native languageon Monday.

John Smelcer, a visiting professor at the university, is one of the last speakers of the Ahtna Athabaskan language. Only a dozen or so elders, all 35 years older than Smelcer, still speak the language. If the language is not preserved, it will be extinct when Smelcer passes away.

The students had the chance to learn how to properly pronounce and spell different words in the Ahtna language, as well as learn about what Smelcer is doing to preserve the language and see pictures of his village in Alaska.

"Every time a language goes extinct, so does a whole life way. A life way of seeing the world, universe, cosmos, understanding humanity's role, understanding botany, plants that might save us someday, everything. Myths, legends, everything it just disappears forever," said Smelcer.

Smelcer hopes that he broadened the students horizons on different native languages around the world and the importance of preserving them.