The registration for this event is closed.

Organized Session: Inclusive Pathways and Broadening Participation for Native Americans in the Language Sciences

Date:  Friday, January 7, 2022

Time: 2:00 - 5:00 PM Eastern Time

Room: Jefferson East

Organizers: Colleen M. Fitzgerald (North Dakota State University)

Wesley Y. Leonard (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma/University of California, Riverside)

Co-sponsor: Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA)

Session Abstract

The National Science Foundation (NSF) frames broadening participation as the greater “representation of groups and institutions traditionally underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).”1 Greater inclusion and participation in the language sciences of members of underrepresented groups is an increasing priority for the discipline of Linguistics, as well as a highly significant broader outcome. The language sciences can contribute to a better understanding of pathways that advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) for Native Americans, as in Fitzgerald (2018), by highlighting how mechanisms such as training opportunities and partnerships funded by the NSF function as indicators of Indigenous language interest connected to the earning of graduate degrees in language sciences. This session builds on existing efforts to advance DEIB and build a scholarly literature on race in linguistics, particularly one that draws from Indigenous Studies models and methodologies (Davis 2017; Leonard 2017, 2020; Montoya 2020; Tsikewa 2021).

The talks in this session draw upon the existing knowledgebase on participation and representation of Native Americans in STEM (e.g., Brayboy et al. 2015), focusing primarily on efforts that broaden participation of Indigenous people in the Americas in the field of Linguistics, and that fit into larger efforts to identify and transform exclusionary practices in the discipline (cf. Davis 2017; Leonard 2018; Mellow 2015). The session’s goal is to communicate how efforts to include Indigenous scholars in the discipline present challenges beyond recruitment, as the research and methodologies of language sciences often replicate and support the very structures that have fostered exclusion. Transforming research models and methodologies is thus necessary to create a Linguistics that is inclusive of Indigenous needs and epistemologies. A key objective of this session is thus to lay groundwork for moving from beyond merely increasing the number of Native Americans and members of other underrepresented groups, to a more critical and dynamic engagement with the need to enact disciplinary and institutional transformative change.

Referencing the paradigm shift already occurring through efforts such as Natives4Linguistics, presenters will incorporate discussion of concrete steps for undertaking change at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as the professoriate, by advancing knowledge about inclusive pathways for greater participation of tribal citizens at various stages of academic careers. By highlighting gaps and needs in current practices and knowledge, and providing best practices, presenters will share examples and strategies for collaboratively generating disciplinary and institutional transformation, whether through a more inclusive curriculum, through a partnership with a tribal college or university, or by facilitating mentoring among Indigenous students and faculty. A range of efforts at different academic points will be discussed to enable the audience to consider how to scale or adopt such initiatives at their own institutions.



Colleen M. Fitzgerald (North Dakota State University)

Introductory remarks to “Inclusive Pathways and Broadening Participation for Native Americans in the Language Sciences”

Josh Holden (University of Alberta) Using Natives4Linguistics Ideas to Redesign a Linguistics Course on Indigenous Languages

This presentation describes redesigning a linguistics course on Denesųłiné to apply an Indigenous paradigm of interrelatedness posited by Leonard (2018, 2019) for linguistics. While group- and context-specific, its common themes include linking language to resilient peoplehood, territorial specificity, and refraining from rigidly separating categories of linguistics, cultural education, and reclamation. A Dene focus group and interviews with First Nations educators in Holden (2020) led to going beyond language structure to include basic L2 competence, land use, and historical knowledge of residential school impacts. The instructor and students being non-Indigenous, Dene perspectives were offered by a series of guest speakers given honoraria and freedom to select topics. While requiring integration of more elements than a traditional Linguistics 101 course without diluting students’ formal linguistics training, the varied skills obtained reinforced students’ training for collaborative community-based research and non-extractive practices. Concluding discussions and post-course surveys revealed that students found this approach unique and valuable.

Gabriela Pérez Báez (University of Oregon)

Melissa M. Baese-Berk (University of Oregon)

Developing Research Experiences for Native American Undergraduates Through a Transdisciplinary Approach

Native American students are underrepresented in academia and this situation has remained unchanged for decades. A growing body of research points to the need for higher education to increase its cultural competency as a critical strategy for becoming accessible to underrepresented groups, including Native Americans. Further, academia cannot achieve excellence without perspectives from a diversity of backgrounds to inform and improve it.

In this presentation, we describe a new program for Native American undergraduate students that introduces them to STEM through a linguistics perspective, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, through the University of Oregon Linguistics Department. We describe the details of our site including student recruitment and activities during the program. We also describe our partnership with campus entities to ensure graduate student involvement in the program, such that undergraduate participants will receive near-peer mentoring in addition to their work with faculty on campus.

Larry Kimura (University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo)

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa (University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo)

Andrea Berez-Kroeker (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa)

Dannii Yarbrough (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa)

Kaniʻāina, a Partnership in Language Science across Two Campuses of the University of Hawaiʻi

Kaniʻāina ( is a digital repository with a bilingual ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and English interface that currently provides interactive access to 525 hours of audio recordings, including the celebrated Ka Leo Hawaiʻi radio broadcasts that aired between 1972 and 1988. These recordings are a treasure trove of Hawaiian linguistic, scientific, and cultural knowledge shared from among Hawaiʻi’s last L1 ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi speakers, born between 1882 and 1920. The Kaniʻāina website is hosted on Ulukau, a bilingual digital library interface that, with some 2 million page-hits per month, is already arguably the single most-accessed site for ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi materials. The Kaniʻāina project represents a partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and activists from Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, and the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. We will present a brief tutorial on accessing and using Kaniʻāina.

Mizuki Miyashita (University of Montana)

Susan Penfield (University of Montana)

Richard Littlebear (Northern Cheyenne/Chief Dull Knife College)

Collaborative Language Planning Project: Findings and Implications via Networking with the Tribal Colleges in the State of Montana

The Collaborative Language Planning Project (CLPP) is a networking framework whose goal is to increase participation from Native American communities in language sciences. CLPP serves as a venue for communication among Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in Montana where they share experiences and concerns and learn about each other’s activities with respect to their language work in the communities. Since the inception of CLPP, several noteworthy actions have emerged and some issues have been identified: differences between the mainstream linguistics training and needs of the TCUs and the communities, various forms of the infrastructure among TCUs’ sponsored project offices, and challenges with respect to Indigenous language education at TCUs. Our presentation will describe the development of CLPP, the activities implemented thus far, as well as our future plans toward increasing the inclusion of Native perspectives as well as Indigenous scholars’ participation in language sciences.

Wilson de Lima Silva (University of Arizona)

The Native American Languages & Linguistics M.A. Program (NAMA): Perspectives and Prospectives

Since 1999, the Native American Languages & Linguistics Master of Arts (NAMA) program of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona has been serving Native American students interested in linguistic training, language documentation, and language revitalization. NAMA addresses the challenge of broadening the participation of Native American students in language sciences, social sciences, and STEM. In this talk, I discuss the newly revised curriculum (including the implementation of NAMA online courses), and broadening the audience to serve Indigenous students from across the Americas and beyond. Finally, I will talk about why NAMA is an important pipeline to prepare Indigenous students for doctoral programs in linguistics and other disciplines, and show some examples of what some NAMA alumni are currently doing.

Sonya Bird (University of Victoria)

Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins (University of Victoria)

Megan Lukaniec (Huron-Wendat Nation/University of Victoria)

Onowa McIvor (maskēkow-ininiw, kinoseo sipi/University of Victoria)

Jean-Paul Restoule (Anishinaabe Nation, Dokis/University of Victoria)

Edōsdi–Judy Thompson (Tahltan Nation/University of Victoria)

The Master’s and Graduate Certificates in Indigenous Language Revitalization (University of Victoria): Developing Skills and Scholars

Since 2012, the University of Victoria has offered a cohort-based Master’s and Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Language Revitalization, in partnership between Indigenous Education and Linguistics. MILR has graduated over 60 students and contributed to Indigenizing the academy through recognizing and transforming exclusionary spaces (Leonard 2018). Built alongside a B.Ed. in Indigenous Language Revitalization (Czaykowska-Higgins, Burton, Marinakis, & McIvor 2017) and developed through community consultation, MILR provides skills in language revitalization theory, practice, and leadership to support Indigenous language reclamation. Core goals are 1) to recognize, through accreditation, the existing knowledge and expertise of Indigenous Language Revitalization practitioners; and 2) to develop scholars (5 graduates currently pursuing doctorates) in post-secondary research and instruction in Indigenous Language Revitalization and Reclamation as a field of study. Factors contributing to student support include that the program is constructed around Indigenous epistemologies, pedagogies, and research methodologies, and protocols and practices honoring language, land, and community.


Ray Huaute (Chumash, Cahuilla/University of California, San Diego)

Adrienne Tsikewa (Zuni Pueblo/University of California, Santa Barbara)

Building Capacity of Indigenous Language Warriors and Scholars through Peer Mentoring

Through an Indigenous peer-to-peer network, sometimes exclusively so, the Natives4Linguistics (N4L) peer mentoring initiative seeks to address two major needs that pertain to capacity building: 1) Increase the participation and representation of Native Americans and other Indigenous peoples within the discipline of Linguistics, as well as at the LSA Annual Meeting, and 2) Create a space for Indigenous community scholars and linguists to network and share knowledge on relevant issues concerning Indigenous communities and their respective languages. In our presentation, we share how our virtual peer meetings address critical gaps Indigenous language scholars may feel in higher education: navigating academia as an Indigenous scholar; the challenges of working with your own community and/or language; bridging the gap between academia and communities; and the lack of Indigenous role models in the language sciences. The presentation shares major takeaways to support efforts to recruit and retain Indigenous students in the language sciences.


Colleen M. Fitzgerald (North Dakota State University)

A Roadmap to Funding Indigenous-Driven Research Agendas at Every Career Stage: First Steps in the DLI Fellows and Partners Program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the main funder of U.S. research in the social and behavioral sciences. This project, “Strengthening Capacity in Dynamic Language Infrastructure for Tribal Nations,” is funded by NSF’s Dynamic Language Infrastructure (DLI) Program. DLI functions as part of a larger NSF ecosystem that seeks to broaden participation of Native Americans (Fitzgerald 2018), especially as key leaders of scientific inquiry. The project pairs Native American principal investigators (DLI Fellows) with Indigenous and non-Indigenous linguist partners (DLI Partners) for grant proposal development. With research driven by Indigenous epistemologies, methodologies, and frameworks, the resulting work will advance knowledge in U.S. Indigenous languages and the language sciences. The talk provides a roadmap to enhance capacity in grant proposal development for Indigenous scholars and communities. Capacity building, both for the DLI Fellows and the Partners, serves as a mechanism to better understand barriers and inclusive practices in the language sciences.


Megan Lukaniec (Huron-Wendat Nation/University of Victoria)

Martin Kohlberger (University of Saskatchewan)

Putting N4L Ideas into Practice: Internal Capacity Building in Natives4Linguistics

Emerging from a 2018 LSA satellite workshop and symposium, Natives4Linguistics (N4L) was founded with the goal of incorporating Indigenous intellectual traditions into the discipline of linguistics (Leonard 2018). One of the commitments of N4L is to create a space for Indigenous community scholars and linguists and non-Indigenous linguist allies to network and mentor one another concerning Indigenous language work. In spring 2021, we hosted three workshops to build internal capacity among N4L members with regards to how the needs and values of Indigenous communities can be incorporated into teaching and research practices. These professional development opportunities, targeted towards all N4L members, are critical for disrupting the status quo in linguistics and language work and for providing a safe space to brainstorm ways in which to do so. In this paper, we will present some of our own practices that move towards more decolonial interventions in linguistics and language work.


Kari A. B. Chew (Chickasaw/University of Oklahoma)

Sheilah E. Nicholas (Hopi/University of Arizona)

Genealogies of Mentorship: Enduring Relationships to Reshape the Indigenous Professoriate and Sustain Language Work

As Indigenous professors of language revitalization, we use storywork—storytelling to educate the heart, mind, body, and spirit (Archibald 2008)—to explore genealogies of mentorship. We reflect on our own mentorship relationship as the embodiment of a carved-out space for Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing work from within the academy propelled by aspirations to benefit our communities and languages. We view mentoring as a long term and holistic pathway based in Indigenous concepts of relationality and relational accountability (Wilson 2008). Mentorship is more than simply getting students through their programs; it privileges an Indigenous gift paradigm (Kuokkanen 2007) and notions of kinship. We work to nurture potential—unique gifts that we bring to the academy as individuals—as the resurgent, critical, and dynamic Indigenous synergy to realize Indigenous communities of scholarship within the professoriate and other professional spaces which mobilize Indigenous epistemologies and knowledges (Moreton-Robinson 2016).

Symposium Discussants:

Keren Rice (University of Toronto)

Implications and Gaps

Wesley Y. Leonard (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma/University of California, Riverside)

Indigenous Inclusion

The registration for this event is closed.