The Eyak word for rain means “something is happening.”
–Eva Saulitis, Into Great Silence, p. 230
This sentence appears near the end of the book, where Saulitis talks about the Eyak people of the coastal rainforest of Alaska.
The Eyak are a distinct cultural group, separate from the Tlingit, who migrated thousands of years ago from the interior to the coast. Saulitis writes that their language is unrelated to the Tlingit – instead, it is related to Interior Athabascan, and to the Navajo-Apache languages of the desert Southwest. It is a bit of a mysterious arrival to the Alaskan coast, in other words.
The last native speaker of Eyak, Chief Marie Smith Jones, died in the 2000s, so the language is not spoken any more.
“Chief Marie [said] that when she died she didn’t really believe the language would go extinct, because the language comes from the land, and as long as the land, water, and animals survive, as long as the place survives, the language exists in its elemental form. Like a bulb, like a spore, like a rootstock, it lies dormant, waiting. Perhaps it will take a new kind of listening, of living close to the place, to bring Eyak back, ‘to start all over again.’”