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Conference History

Brief History of Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposiums

Goals of the Symposiums

  • To bring together American Indian and other indigenous language educators and activists to share ideas and experiences on how to teach effectively American Indian and other indigenous languages in and out of the classroom.

  • To provide a forum for exchange of scholarly research on teaching American Indian and other indigenous languages.
  • To disseminate through the Internet and monographs recent research and thinking on best practices to promote, preserve, and protect American Indian and other indigenous languages.


The First Symposium focused on creating an agenda for reversing language shift and was held on
November 16-18, 1994 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, and featured some the
leading figures in the field of minority language preservation. The symposium had four roundtables.
They were on needs and rationale, community issues, education, and policy. It was hosted by Northern
Arizona University (NAU) with assistance from the Bilingual Unit of the Arizona Department of
Education, The Hopi Tribe, Navajo Community College, The Navajo Nation, Tuba City Unified School
District #15, and EAC – West, Las Vegas, New Mexico. The conference was planned by Gina Cantoni,
Benjamin Barney, Robert Luis Carrasco, Deborah House, Richard Littlebear, and Gary McLean and
facilitated by Robert Arnold, Benjamin Barney, William Demmert, Joshua Fishman, Richard Littlebear,
Dan McLaughlin, John Oller, and Jon Reyhner. Dick Heiser played a major role in organizing the
symposium, and it was funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Bilingual
Education and Minority Languages Affairs.

The Second Symposium was held on May 4-6, 1995 at NAU and also included many tribal educators
from throughout Arizona. The second symposium was also funded with the grant from the U.S.
Department of Education’s Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs. Speeches,
session summaries, and submitted papers from the first and second symposia were published in
Stabilizing Indigenous Languages.

The Third Symposium was hosted by Dr. Richard Littlebear and held in Anchorage, Alaska, in February
1996 and brought together mostly Alaskan Native educators. No proceedings were published from this
conference.

The Fourth Symposium on “Sharing Effective Language Renewal Practices” was sponsored by NAU’s
Center for Excellence in Education and Department of Modern Languages and held on May 1-3, 1997. It
was co-chaired by Dr. Evangeline Parsons Yazzie and Dr. Jon Reyhner. A selection of papers was
compiled from this conference and published under the title Teaching Indigenous Languages. A short
description of the Fourth Symposium can be found in the NABE News.

The Fifth Symposium on “Strategies for Language Renewal and Revitalization” was co-chaired by Dr.
Robert N. St. Clair and Dr. Evangeline Parsons Yazzie and held at Louisville, Kentucky on May 14-16,
1998. Dr. Gina Cantoni, Dr. Jon Reyhner, and Dr. Barbara Burnaby served on the symposium advisory
board. Papers from the conference were published in Revitalizing Indigenous Languages.

The Sixth Symposium was held on June 3-5, 1999 at the University of Arizona in Tucson and was
sponsored by the Twentieth Annual American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI), which
was co-directed by Dr. Teresa L. McCarty and Dr. Ofelia Zepeda. Twenty-three papers from this
conference were published by the Center for Indian Education, Arizona State University in 2006 as One
Voice, Many Voices: Recreating Indigenous Language Communities. This book as well as many other
valuable journals and books can be found on the ASU Center for Indian Education website at:
http://coe.asu.edu/cie/bookads.htm.

The Seventh Symposium on “Language Across the Community” was held on May 11-14, 2000 at The
Toronto Colony Hotel in Toronto, Canada. The conference chair was Dr. Barbara Burnaby of the
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. More than 500 people attended
this very successful conference, including indigenous language activists from across Canada and the
United States, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawai’i, and South America. Go to the conference
proceedings.

The Eighth Symposium on “Merging Tradition & Technology to Revitalize Indigenous Languages” was
co-chaired by Gary Owens and Jon Reyhner and held on June 14-16, 2001 at Northern Arizona
University in Flagstaff, Arizona. Go to Conference Program (pdf file).

The Ninth Symposium was held at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, June 9-11, 2002.

The Tenth Symposium was hosted by the Ho Chunk Nation on June 25-28, 2003 in Wisconsin Dells,
WI. Selected papers from the 8th, 9th, and 10th conferences are included in Nurturing Native
Languages.

The Eleventh Symposium was held in Berkeley, California on June 11-13, 2004. It was chaired by
Leanne Hinton and hosted by the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival and the
University of California at Berkeley. Selected papers from the conference are published in Report 14 of
the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages titled Language is Life.

The 2005 Symposium was held on June 2-5, 2005 in Victoria, British Columbia, at the University of
Victoria.

The 2006 Symposium was chaired by Lori Quigley and held on May 18-21, 2006, in Buffalo, New York
and was co-hosted by Buffalo State College’s School of Education and the Seneca Nation of Indians. An
article by Christine Graef in News From Indian Country on this conference is on-line at
http://www.indiancountrynews.info/fullstory.cfm-ID=449.htm.

The 2007 Symposium was held in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, on June 1-3 and was hosted by Eastern
Michigan University and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation and chaired by Margaret Noori.

The 15th Annual Symposium was held May 2 & 3, 2008 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff,
Arizona. Selected papers and speeches from the 14th and 15th symposiums can be downloaded at
http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~jar/ILR/.

The 16th Annual Symposium was held from April 30 to May 2, 2009 at Arizona State University.

For many years the Native American Languages Issues (NALI) group held annual conferences. Go to
Information on NALI.

To receive conference updates, join the Indigenous-L list at:
http://list1.ucc.nau.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=indigenous-l&A=1

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