Talking up Native languages

Indigenous people who want their language heard in future generations will have their say at an upcoming conference at Northern Arizona University.

The university is hosting the Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium on May 2 and 3 at the High Country Conference Center at Flagstaff.

“We gather to share our work, dreams of language and culture, and challenge the limits affecting the survival of Native linguistics around the world,” said Evangeline Parsons-Yazzie, a professor of Navajo at NAU and co-chair of the conference.

This year’s theme for the annual symposium, which began at NAU in 1994 and meets around the country, is “Language is Life: Strategies for Language Revitalization.”

More than 40 language teachers, researchers, students of indigenous languages and community language activists will share information about successful ways to teach and learn Native languages.

“The symposium brings us together to share and disseminate ways to revitalize our precious indigenous linguistic heritage,” Parsons-Yazzie said.

The two days will include workshops, speakers, presentations on language curriculum materials and technology, trips to Hopi and Navajo classrooms and three keynote speakers:

  • Christine Sims, an Acoma from the University of New Mexico, will kick off the conference with her talk, “Maintaining Tribal Languages in a Changing World: Current Issues and Challenges.”
  • Darrell Robes Kipp, a Blackfoot and co-founder and director of the Piegan Institute on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, will discuss his efforts to support Native language issues through advocacy and education.
  • Peggy Speas, a linguist from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a founding member of the Navajo Language Academy, will discuss her documentation of indigenous languages.

Speas also co-wrote a book with Parsons-Yazzie. Their book, Diné Bizaad Binahoo’aah: Rediscovering the Navajo language, about teaching the Navajo Language also will be featured.

Conference registration is $150 and includes parking and buffet lunches. Information is online or contact symposium co-chair Louise Lockard at (928) 523-8218 or