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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 

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.



Ross Anderson

Grants and Outreach  (GTF)

Ross AndersonRoss earned is BA in Architecture from Yale University and spent the past seven years designing, directing, and funding K-8 educational, cultural, and enrichment programs for a diverse school district in Southeastern Connecticut. Recently, he took the leap with his family and decided to go back to school for his doctorate in Education. He is currently enrolled as a first-year student in the D.Ed in Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership at the University of Oregon. He is interested in educational equity issues and new approaches to teaching and learning using relevant problems, challenges, and projects to guide the teaching, learning, and assessment processes.  At NILI, Ross will be working on new avenues for funding and partnerships as well as outreach efforts to communities of Native language teachers and speakers whom NILI serves.


Pyuwa Bommelyn

Administrative Assistant (GTF)

Pyuwa has been working at NILI since 2009.  He started as a researcher in Taa-laa-wa Dee-ni’ (Tolowa), working on documenting the last speakers of Taa-laa-wa Dee-ni’ through a Documenting Endangered Languages grant. In the Fall of 2012 he started working as the Administrative Assistant for NILI.

Pyuwa recieved his master’s degree in the Language Teaching and Specialization Program in the Linguistics Department at the UO in the summer of 2011.  Now he is working towards his doctorate in the Linguistic program with a goal of writing a grammar on Taa-laa-wa Dee-ni’.

Pyuwa is a descendent of Nii~-lii~-chvn-dvn Dee-ni’ and speaks Taa-laa-wa Dee-ni’ with his family at home, which include his wife Ruby and their two children.  He also uses the language with communities members around the Eugene area and community members in Smith River and Crescent City when he can.



Holly Lakey

ELRS Certificate Coordinator (GTF)

Holly LakeyHolly Lakey has a BA in Linguistics and Latin from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is currently pursuing a PhD in Linguistics at the UO. Holly is interested in morphosyntax, semantics, and language change over time, and enjoys raising awareness about the wonders of linguistics and the importance of language preservation. She heartily supports the mission of NILI and related organizations in their language documentation and revitalization efforts. Currently Holly is working with NILI towards the creation of an Endangered Language Revitalization Specialization Certificate program at the UO.



Megan Walker

Material and Resource Specialist (GTF)

megan photoMegan Walker recently joined NILI as the Material and Resources Specialist, in order to organize and catalog current materials, making them more accessible and available to language teachers and learners. Currently a graduate student in the Native Language Teaching Specialization at the University of Oregon, she has had opportunities to work with international and local language teachers, learners, and curriculum developers and bring new ideas to our local language revitalization efforts. An enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and a student of Chinuk Wawa, she is working to incorporate new technologies into language teaching, while preserving tradition knowledge.



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



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.Scott DeLancey

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

pix_drewDrew 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.