Indigenous languages get a voice through NAU


Indigenous languages are gaining momentum through NAU’s College of Education.

The college recently released Indigenous Language Revitalization, its current book compilation of 15 papers highlighting indigenous languages, from Navajo and Hawaiian to the Maori language in New Zealand.

“There’s a real interest in Native American language revitalization,” said Jon Reyhner, professor of bilingual multicultural education. “One of our goals is to become a leading university serving Native American nations.”

One featured paper by Margaret Speas, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, is about her experiences working with NAU professor Evangeline Parsons-Yazzie on preparing a new Navajo language textbook, Diné Bizaad Bínáhoo aah (Rediscovering the Navajo Language), which has been adopted as a state textbook for New Mexico.

NAU has published five other volumes for its indigenous series. More than 10,000 copies of the books have been printed. They also are available online.

“Our books are widely used,” Reyhner said. “We get orders from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States, and people from 90 different countries each month are using the online versions.”

NAU’s College of Education is accepting papers submissions for The Indian Education Conference that will be held at NAU June 12 through 13.

The college is seeking papers that discuss approaches to teaching indigenous languages. Submissions for papers to be considered to be included in the conference is Feb. 28. For more information, go to

The book was complied from the 15th Native Languages Symposium at NAU’s High Country Conference Center last May, where more than 300 people, including international visitors from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, came to share their expertise and learn about indigenous languages.

Attendees gathered to honor languages that are still being spoken and to remember and honor the languages that are falling silent.

Started in 1994, the symposiums focus on the linguistic, educational, social and political issues related to the survival of the endangered indigenous languages, and take place at a different university each year. Arizona State University will host the 2009 symposium from April 30 to May 2.