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University of Oregon

NILI Family: Where Are They Now?

One of NILI’s core missions is the training of teachers to pass on Native languages to future generations. Many members of our NILI family are continuing this mission in their communities. We asked former NILI student workers, student-instructors, and GTFs to tell us where they are now, and what they’ve been doing. The short answer is, amazing things!

Jesse Blackburn, a UO graduate, has recently worked with NILI on the development of UO’s distance education for Native language revitalization project. Since moving to Portland, Jesse has designed tests of foreign language proficiency and taught English language learners at Portland State University and within the community. Last year she also enjoyed working with her favorite age of learners when she volunteered for her daughter’s Head Start Program. In addition to helping in the classroom, she served as the local and state Head Start representative, where she advocated for Head Start families and brought back training for parents to support their children’s home learning.

Cassy George (Suquamish), a graduate of the UO Linguistics program and a Lushootseed student, completed the Sapsik‘ʷałá (Teacher) Education Project through the UO College of Education and is now teaching middle school at Chief Kitsap Academy in Suquamish, WA. She teaches Lushootseed for two hours a day, and the class does 20 minutes or more of full immersion daily. Cassy is focusing on language use (i.e., not about language and how it works, ONLY on using language), and has her class talk about their own language use weekly. She is using several techniques she learned from NILI such as Tony Johnson’s tips on full immersion. She uses gestures, pictures, games and props to facilitate communication. Making use of linguistic knowledge gained at NILI, Cassy also uses a diagram of the vocal tract to explain where and how sounds are made.

Roger Jacob (Yakama), a graduate of the Language Teaching Specialization Master’s program at UO, is now teaching Ichishkíin classes in his community. He leads Ichishkíin I and II at Wapato High School and Intro to Ichishkíin at Wapato Middle School. He says, “I teach the way esteemed NILI officials Virginia Beavert and Joana Jansen taught me.”

Lindsay Marean (Potawatomi), a graduate of the UO Linguistics Master’s program and a NILI GTF and Summer Institute instructor who also took part in curriculum development for Grand Ronde, is currently an editor of InterCom (a free customizable weekly email digest for language teachers – http://caslsintercom.uoregon.edu) at the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at UO. She also works as the practical linguist for the Pakanapul Language Team (Tübatulabal) in California through the Owens Valley Career Development Center, and is a fieldworker for a Documenting Endangered Languages grant through the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Forest County Potawatomi Community, recording and transcribing conversations among fluent speakers.

Greg Sutterlict (Yakama), a PhD student in the UO Linguistics department and an instructor at NILI’s Summer Institute, is now the Director of the Heritage University (HU) Language Center as well as the Mellon Endowed Chair of the Sahaptin Language Department at HU. He has many projects in the works: the two year old Ichishkíin immersion programs with the HU early learning center, an after-school Ichishkíin language and culture program for Zillah Elementary, and an Ichishkíin-only children’s book that is ready for publication

Carson Viles (Siletz), a graduate of UO, a former NILI work study student and an instructor at NILI’s Summer Institute, is currently continuing to learn Dee-ni’ Wee-ya’ in the home. His language learning centers on targeted immersion time and reclaiming domains, a practice of choosing particular activities to dedicate to his target language. Carson has also tried to expand the “language world” of Dee-ni’ in Eugene. In doing so, he hopes that dedicated Dee-ni’ speaking places and relationships built on speaking the language can be fostered.

Jerome Viles (Siletz), who worked on Takelma language revitalization at NILI, taught Chinuk Wawa at Lane Community College, and was a youth instructor at Summer Institute 2014, started the Master’s program at the UO in Nonprofit Management. He sees this education as a tool for expressing ideas about the connection between language and place that was a focus of his teachers and elders at NILI. He sees Native nonprofits as an important aspect of strengthening tribal peoples’ self-determination and wants  to bridge the gap between language programming and Native land trusts in the Pacific Northwest, possibly including bringing language teachers to traditional use areas to hold immersion camps and language workshops.

Megan Walker (Grand Ronde), a former NILI GTF and Summer Institute student, graduated from the Master’s Language Teaching Specialization (LTS) Program through the Department of Linguistics. She is presently a graduate student in the UOTeach / Sapsik‘ʷałá (Teacher) Education Project. Aspiring to work in early elementary education, she is a student teacher in a Eugene third grade class.

Racquel Yamada, a graduate of the UO Linguistics department and Summer Institute instructor, has been settling into her role as a new Assistant Professor of Anthropology and liaison to the Native American Languages Program at the University of Oklahoma. She gets to use the skills and knowledge she acquires every year at NILI while working to develop curriculum with teachers of Kiowa, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek. In addition, she has used many examples and materials from NILI in the two upper division/graduate-level courses she is teaching this year: Language Contact, Loss, and Revitalization, and Curriculum Development for Endangered Languages. These courses support the University of Oklahoma’s Master’s program in Applied Linguistic Anthropology.