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University of Oregon


The staff at NILI are privileged to work with tribes and organizations on various short and long term projects and we appreciate being invited to be a part of this kind of work because we learn and grow through these collaborative efforts.  NILI has also created sample documents and curriculum to aid in language revitalization efforts.  Here are some of the projects, documents, and curriculum we have collaborated on or created over the years:

Projects 2015

chaku- kǝmtǝks pi hayu-kǝmtǝks
(to learn and be in the process of learning): Southern Willamette Valley Project

This project is an initiative of Lane ESD with funding via an American Indian/Alaskan Native Culturally Relevant Teaching, Learning, and Pedagogy Grant through the Oregon Department of Education (2014–15). NILI, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and public schools of Lane County also participated. The project, which ended this summer, designed an intensive five-week teacher training course for teachers and school leaders focused on Native American pedagogy and teaching practices. It addressed how Native American people and topics are positioned in the larger education system with the goal of increasing educational outcomes for all students, and especially American Indian, Alaska Native, and indigenous students.

Another result of this project is that Oregon’s Springfield School District has traveling trunks to enrich classrooms. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde created the trunks, which contain historical information, photos, maps, tribal language, song and story CDs, cultural items, background information, and some lesson plans for teachers to use.

This project is designed as a concrete means of influencing Native pedagogy in public schools by increasing teacher awareness of the unique needs and issues related to Native students. One of the benefits of the trunks is that they contain materials that relate to the specific culture of local Native Americans rather than generalized Native American culture. In the process of building them and choosing what materials to include, it became apparent that all schools near tribal communities would benefits from having such trunks available to classroom teachers.

The Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa Kindergarten–Third Grade Immersion Project

NILI is working on a newly awarded Administration for Native Americans (ANA) Esther Martinez Language Immersion Grant with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The key foci of this three-year grant are curriculum development, language instruction through third grade, and master apprentice language development. To develop more adult speakers and teachers, the tribe will hire two apprentice workers. The K–3 school is a half-day blended Chinuk Wawa immersion school that works with the Willamina School District.

Chahta Anno̱pa Isht A̱ya
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

In this, the last year of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ ANA project, Chahta Anno̱pa Isht A̱ya, NILI faculty members participated by teaching in the tribe’s Choctaw Language Instructor Certification Program, reviewing curriculum and serving as project evaluators. NILI staff members made two visits to Mississippi to work with teachers on immersion and other language-teaching strategies, and also offered class segments online. The successful products of the project are the teacher certification program, Choctaw language curriculum, and having certified Choctaw language teachers in Choctaw Tribal Schools.

Creating Ichishkíin Speakers
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

This project is now in its second year. The language interns are building their language proficiency and their teaching skills, and will become tribally certified as language teachers. NILI is pleased to collaborate with the language program and their skilled elders and teachers on teacher training. NILI staff members travel to Warm Springs quarterly for trainings, and Warm Springs staff participate in Summer Institute.

Numlh-ts’vt Tr’vn’ Naa-tr’aa-’a
(Turning the Tide toward Fluency)
Smith River Rancheria Culture and Language Department

NILI has a long history of collaboration with the Tolowa Dee-ni’ language program, and we will begin work on their new ANA project soon. The project will expand and enhance access to language resources by developing and launching a Wee-ya’-dvn (Language Place)—an operational interactive website, which will house a variety of digital language resources. It will also provide increased opportunities to use language and practice culture including producing a Dee-ni’-dvn (People’s Place), a physical location to house resources.

The Role of Native Language and Culture in Decreasing Discipline Problems and Increasing Academic Achievement for American Indian and Alaska Native Students

NILI is working with colleagues from the UO College of Education and the Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior on a project that explores the role of Native American language and culture in increasing academic achievement and decreasing behavioral problems for students from American Indian–Alaska Native backgrounds. The project is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education (Grant # R305A140162). We hope to learn more about the overall benefits of including Native language and culture in school settings, and about the effectiveness of specific strategies.

Ichishkíin-Sahaptin: Language Documentation of Yakama Natural and Cultural Resources

This project, a collaboration between the Yakama Nation and NILI, documents the knowledge of the elders speaking about places, and cultural and natural resource management and preservation within the Yakama Nation as well as transcribing and translating these recordings. This work will support and strengthen natural and cultural resource management and add to efforts to teach and preserve Ichishkíin. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Documenting Endangered Languages Program (Award # 1064459).

Distance Education

Now in its fourth year of development, the NILI Distance Education program continues strong. We are in our second year of online teacher training courses and are incorporating some improvements, such as a streamlined course management system and an easier course enrollment process. This past year, through the work with the Mississippi Choctaw language program, NILI developed an online protocol for delivering workshops remotely with the help of Jason Lewis, who served as the local collaborator and instructor on the ground. And we continue to add to the library of language materials that can be used with mobile devices such as iPads or smart phones within communities.

Páwyak’ukt Ichishkíin Sapsikw’ałáma
Teachers’ Gathering

The third annual Páwyak’ukt Ichishkíin Sapsikw’ałáma (Gathering of Ichishkíin Teachers), sponsored by NILI and Heritage University’s Center for Native Health and Culture, took place at Heritage University in August. This event highlights language teachers sharing materials and learning from one another. This year Rosemary Miller (Yakama) was awarded the Center for Native Health and Culture’s Community Leader Award.

Language Classes

The Chinuk Wawa language program, supported by Lane Community College in Eugene, is a collaboration among LCC, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and NILI. In its ninth year, the program serves the UO, LCC, and Portland State University undergraduate and graduate students, and also community members on the Grand Ronde Reservation and in the Portland and Eugene areas with 100- and 200-level courses.

At the UO, Ichishkíin 100-level courses are being offered this academic year, with the 200-level course to repeat beginning in fall 2016. Last spring, students traveled to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to volunteer at the Language Knowledge Bowl. This year, students will travel to the Yakama Nation.

Puyallup Tribal Language Project

This project supported graduate research fellow Zalmai Zahir in the 2014–15 academic year to work on txʷəlšucid language revitalization. Funded by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, the project involves videoconferencing and language support between Zalmai and project staff members in Washington, in between Zalmai’s travels to the language program in Washington. As a result of the project, teachers in Chief Leschi schools and tribal employees are incorporating language into their classrooms and workplaces.

Gates Yakama E-book Project

Since the fall of 2014, NILI has been partnering with schools on the Yakama reservation in a project designed to build new language leaders. NILI has worked with high school youth in the Toppenish and Eagle High Schools’ Ichishkíin language classes to build a small library of e-books in the Ichishkíin language that can be used in the preschool immersion classes. The high schoolers have learned new technology skills, expanded their language use, and contributed to filing the great need for materials in their language.

Two Yakama students, Ethan Miller and Kyle Davis, received scholarships to attend NILI Summer Institute this past summer, where they joined youth from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Tolowa Deeni’ Nation. While at Summer Institute, the youth worked closely with Visiting Assistant Professor Torsten Kjellstrand and several of his UO undergraduate students in the School of Journalism and Communication to learn more about film and video editing. They also interacted daily with leaders in language revitalization from around the nation. In October, Kyle and Ethan, along with Teata Oatman and Desiree Maddern, two high school students from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, had the chance to present some of their work on the project at the National Indian Education Association conference in October. They did a fantastic job talking to a packed audience.

Project Archives