The Alaska Native Language Center

Ray Collins, linguist in McGrath, has died

ANLC faculty are sorry to report the passing of Ray Collins of McGrath on April 30, two days before his 84th birthday. Ray was a gifted pastor and anthropological linguist.

In 1963 Ray and his wife, Sally, moved to Nikolai and began their work on Upper Kuskokwim language and history. Ray's bachelor of science thesis at UAF, "Proto-Athapaskan Flora and Fauna," was original, discussing 48 proto-Athabaskan flora and fauna terms that have cognates in 20 Dene (Athabaskan) languages.

Ray served on the first school boards of the Iditarod Area School District. He was director of the McGrath campus of the University of Alaska between 1980 and 1998. Ray promoted literacy in the Upper Kuskokwim language, his foremost protégé being Betty Petruska (1945-2016). Ray and Betty recorded and transcribed an important set of texts by Chief Mishka Deaphon (1900-1985?) that we hope can be edited and published by ANLC.

In 2014 Ray deposited at the Alaska Native Language Archive the "Raymond Collins Collection 2014," which is one of the best and largest archival ANL collections for one language by a single author.

  Ray Collins
ANLC supports the study and use of Alaska Native languages

Alaska Native Language MapThe Alaska Native Language Center was established by state legislation in 1972 as a center for research and documentation of the twenty Native languages of Alaska. It is internationally known and recognized as the major center in the United States for the study of Eskimo and Northern Athabascan languages. The mission of the Alaska Native Language Center and Program is to cultivate and promote Alaska’s twenty Native languages.

ANLC PublicationsANLC publishes its research in story collections, dictionaries, grammars, and research papers. In early 2019, ANLC was able to open an online store to make publications available for purchase worldwide. The center houses an archival collection of more than 10,000 items, virtually everything written in or about Alaska Native languages, including copies of most of the earliest linguistic documentation, along with significant collections about related languages outside Alaska.

Faculty & Staff members provide materials for bilingual teachers and other language workers throughout the state, assist social scientists and others who work with Native languages, and provide consulting and training services to teachers, school districts, and state agencies involved in bilingual education.

ANLC faculty membersThe ANLC faculty & staff also participates in teaching through the Alaska Native Language Program, which offers major and minor degrees in Central Yup'ik and Inupiaq at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. An AAS degree or a Certificate in Native Language Education is also available.

The center strives to raise public awareness of the gravity of language loss worldwide but particularly in the North. Of the state's twenty Native languages, only one (Central Yup'ik in southwestern Alaska) is spoken by children as the first language of the home.

Like every language in the world, each of those twenty is of inestimable human value and is worthy of preservation. ANLC, therefore, continues to document, cultivate, and promote those languages as much as possible and thus contribute to their future and to the heritage of all Alaskans.