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University of Oregon

Faculty, Staff & Advisory Board Members

Those involved with NILI come from a variety of backgrounds and specialize in a variety of areas including:

  • Native American languages
  • language restoration
  • bilingual and immersion program methodologies
  • language assessment and curriculum development
  • applied linguistics
  • language teaching
  • language program design
  • computer assisted language learning (CALL)
  • language and educational policy
  • resource development


NILI Staff

Dr. Janne Underriner

Director, Northwest Indian Language Institute

Janne UnderinnerJanne Underriner is the director of the Northwest Indian Language Institute. She has been active with language preservation issues in the Northwest since 1996 when she began working with Elders in the Klamath Tribes’ language project developing curriculum and teaching materials for their community and schools. She co-founded the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) in 1997.  Underriner assists the tribes in developing language programs, writing curriculum, assessment and teaching materials and developing language policy. She worked with the Tribes to develop the NW Indian Language Benchmarks (2000), the American Indian Language Teaching License (2001) and Native language policy in the Oregon University System (2011). She is a grant writer of language and educational projects for the Tribes and for NILI. Underriner is a consultant to Oregon’s Department of Education. Her research focuses on the relationship between language, culture and health; second language acquisition of indigenous languages; and the pragmatics of word order flexibility. She teaches Chinuk Wawa.



Judith Fernandes

Language Teaching Consultant

Judith Fernandes has taught language for most of her adult life. She has an interdisciplinary masters degree in immersion education from the University of Oregon. When she retired from teaching in the public school system, she joined the NILI team and began working with tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Her specialties are immersion language teaching, writing curriculum, oral assessment and teacher training.



Joana Jansen

Associate Director of Project Development and Coordination 

Joana Jansen has worked with NILI as a linguist, teacher trainer and project manager, and is the coordinator of NILI’s Summer Institute. She works with speakers and learners of Ichishkíin at the UO and beyond to support language documentation, description, and teaching goals. She holds a doctorate in linguistics from UO.



Dr. Virginia Beavert

Yakama Nation Elder, Sahaptin Language Teacher, University of Oregon

Since the 1970’s, Ms. Beavert has been a key figure in teaching and preserving her Native  language. She has taught introductory through advanced classes to students of all ages.
She served as Scholar in Residence of Sahaptin Language and Culture at Heritage University in Toppenish Washington. She has taught Yakima Ichishkiin at the Northwest Indian Language Institute at the University of Oregon (UO) since 2000 and as an instructor of Ichishkiin at UO’s World Language Academy at UO since 2008. She holds a doctorate in Linguistics from the University of Oregon.

Francesca Blythe

Office Specialist

Francesca Blythe began work at NILI in Fall 2011 as an Office Coordinator. She assists in general office duties, as well as providing accounting and grant administration support. Francesca graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California with a B.S. in accounting, and has worked in the accounting field for 15 years. She moved to Oregon in 2002, and is committed to supporting NILI’s mission of language revitalization in the Pacific Northwest.



Robert Elliott

Associate Director of Educational Technology, Senior Instructor 

Robert Elliott has worked as a classroom based instructor, online instructor and teacher trainer at the University of Oregon’s, American English Institute. He has contributed at NILI since 2009 as a technology specialist and instructional designer. He currently coordinates the NILI online education classes, and leads several youth outreach projects, training tribal High School students to develop digital language materials for younger learners.




Regan Anderson

Ichishkiin Researcher and Curriculum Assistant (GTF)

Regan Anderson has worked with NILI since 2009. She studies linguistics at the University of Oregon and has completed several years of Ichishkiin language classes. She is collaborating with members of the Yakama Nation on Ichishkiin curriculum development and language documentation, and assists Elder Virginia Beavert in organizing, archiving, and transcribing previous and current work.  After graduating, Regan hopes to continue her work with the Ichishkiin language community.



Marnie Atkins

Curriculum Development (GTF)

marnieMarnie Atkins is from Northern California and is a citizen of the Wiyot Tribe.  She has worked in language revitalization for many years with her tribe as the Cultural Director and Language Program Coordinator. She continues to work with her ancestral language Sulótalak (commonly known as “Wiyot”) as a student and community language worker/advocate.  Marnie has a Master’s in Native Language Teaching Specialization from the University of Oregon and is currently working towards her doctorate in Cultural Anthropology at UO.

Marnie is excited to be working with NILI staff and tribal communities again.  In the past, she has worked on notable projects such as the 17th Annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium, InField 2010, and other Indigenous language conferences at UO.  Marnie has been the NILI Summer Institute GTF for the past three years.  She says that this is one of her favorite positions at NILI because she gets to work with and learn from Native language teachers, learners, and advocates and they never cease to amaze her with their hard work and dedication to Indigenous languages survival.

This year, Marnie will be working with NILI staff to build curriculum for an online Native language teacher training course and assist with creating culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy and practices for school and community educators that aim to improve Native student academic achievement.



Holly Lakey

Administrative GTF and ELRS Certificate Coordinator

Holly LakeyHolly has a B.A. in Linguistics and Latin from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is presently a Ph.D. candidate in the UO Linguistics department. Her research looks at the intersection of morphosyntax, semantics, and pragmatics, especially in the context of language change. She also enjoys raising awareness about the wonders of linguistics and the importance of language preservation. Holly enjoys hiking, camping, reading noir fiction and watching bad horror movies. Currently Holly is the NILI administrative GTF and loves the struggle of keeping things in organized chaos. She is also working with NILI and the Department of Linguistics towards the creation of an endangered language revitalization certificate program at the UO.



Zalmai (Zeke) Zahir

Zalmai (Zeke) ZahirZalmai (Zeke) Zahir has been working with the Lushootseed language and culture for over 35 years. He lives in Washington, where he teaches, studies and researches Lushootseed. He has authored many publications, including beginning and advanced Lushootseed text books, songs, and a series of interactive CD-ROMs. He does consulting work with several of the local tribes through his own company, Zahir Consulting Services. His main goal is to see Lushootseed language revitalized through full immersion language programs. For more information Lushootseed and available materials, go to



Jaeci Hall

Jaeci HallJaeci Hall is a first year Ph.D. student in the UO Linguistics department.  She is currently working with a team to build an archive of language materials produced through NILI that can be easily accessible through a web-portal to language learners and community members.  She has a B.A. in Anthropology from Linfield College and a M.A. in Native American Linguistics from University of Arizona.  She focuses her studies on the revitalization of her own heritage language, Tututni, an Athabaskan language from Southwest Oregon.  She spends her spare time with her beautiful daughter and being musical in any form that she can from playing bassoon to singing native songs.




Affiliated NILI Staff

NILI Advisory Board

Dr. Virginia Beavert

Yakama Nation Elder, Sahaptin Language Teacher, University of Oregon

Virginia Beavert, a member of the Yakama Nation, is a highly respected teacher and fluent speaker of her language, Yakima Sahaptin. Virginia has worked throughout her life to teach and preserve her native language. She has been the Washington State Indian Educator of the Year, and in 2004 was honored by the Indigenous Language Institute for her lifetime of work on language revitalization. She was a key planner of the Yakama exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and has served on numerous committees and planning councils related to the documentation and preservation of Native languages.
In 2004, Virginia was the recipient of an NEH Faculty Research Award for work on a Yakima Sahaptin Lexicography. She has received numerous fellowships, including awards from the Smithsonian Institute, Dartmouth College, and the Washington State Arts Commission. She has written and published several articles about Yakima language and culture. Virginia is the co-author of the Yakima Sahaptin Dictionary with Dr. Sharon Hargus of the University of Washington, and on a grammar of Sahaptin with Joana Jansen of the University of Oregon. She is a 2007 recipient of the Ken Hale Prize, awarded by the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas, and in 2008, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Oregon for her significant contribution to the cultural development of Oregon and society as a whole. Virginia was awarded the University of Oregon Doctoral Research Fellowship, the highest honor for graduate study at UO. She earned her Ph.D. in Linguistics in 2012.


Scott DeLancy

Professor of Linguistics, University of Oregon

Scott DeLancey is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Oregon. He has worked with Native American languages for over 25 years, including fieldwork in a Dene community in Canada, and documentation and consulting with Oregon tribes. He has written extensively about the structure and history of the Klamath language, and the historical relationships of the Native languages of Oregon and California. He is one of the founders of NILI, and has regularly taught in the summer institute. He also works with indigenous languages and communities in Asia, especially in Nepal and Northeast India.

Tony A. Johnson

Community Education Director
Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe

Tony Johnson is a Chinook Tribal member, a linguist and an artist who was born in his family’s traditional territory on Willapa Bay in Washington. His education includes attending the University of Washington and Central Washington University, where he earned a degree in Silversmithing and a minor in Anthropology.

Today, Tony directs the Community Education Program for the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe. Tony, who is a speaker of Chinuk Wawa, learned it as a second language from his own elders as well as the elders of the Grand Ronde community.

Jeff Magoto

Director, Yamada Language Center

Jeff MagatoJeff Magoto is director of the Yamada Language Center. He’s been involved in foreign language teaching and training for more than 30 years, specializing in the uses of computer-based technologies for course authoring and materials development. He has been involved with NILI since 2000 and has taught methodology and computer-assisted language learning at previous summer institutes. He is also the director of the UO’s World Languages Academy, where the Sahaptin language program is currently housed. This allows him to be intimately involved with the challenges and rewards of native language program development and revitalization.

Dr. Drew Viles

Instructor, Language, Literature and Communication Division, Lane Community College


Photo by Jacob Wainwright Love

Drew Viles works as a full-time faculty member at Lane Community College where he is a member of the American Indian Language project. In cooperation with the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde Community and NILI, Drew has helped AIL initiate and oversee the Chinuk Wawa sequence of classes at LCC. He holds degrees from Blue Mountain Community College, Oregon State University, The University of Michigan and the University of Oregon. Drew has also successfully completed the Essential Skills for Tribal Court Judges course at The National Judicial College.

Drew’s work in the field of indigenous language revitalization started in the 1980s as a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon’s Culture Committee. As recently as July, 2013, Drew traveled to Washington, D.C. as part of the Siletz delegation presenting at the Smithsonian Institution’s “One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage” program. Drew currently participates in a multilingual indigenous language nesting project based in Eugene, where he and his former high-school sweetheart, Carla Chadwick Viles, have raised five children: Nicholas, Tyler, Jerome, Carson, and Rayna.

Sheila Bong

Program Director Global Studies Institute, Office of International Affairs, University of Oregon 

Sheila_Bong2Sheila is a Blackfeet Tribal member who gained her deep appreciation for native language preservation when she worked as a teenager transcribing oral traditions from the lips of Tribal Elders in her hometown of Browning, Montana. While written historical records serve practical purposes, Sheila was struck by the desperate need to save the Blackfeet language from extinction. She supports NILI’s mission and is honored to be a member of its Advisory Board.

Sheila was a high school exchange student in Japan for one year. She received her B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University followed by a career in international business. Her ability to speak Japanese was critical to her business success giving her a deeper appreciation for the power of language and culture. In 2001, she co-founded Avant Assessment in partnership with the University of Oregon and the Center for Applied Second Language Studies. Sheila currently serves as program director of the Global Studies Institute where she focuses on promoting and developing internationally-oriented programs, projects and initiatives to enhance faculty research, enrich the student experience, and showcase the University of Oregon’s academic excellence.