Summer 2017 Review

The annual summer session brings together language teachers, students, and other advocates to learn different teaching methodologies, basic linguistics and immersion techniques. A variety of individuals, many of them tribal members, come to AILDI to gain inspiration, confidence and new knowledge to teach and speak their languages. A few members of the AILDI faculty are fluent speakers of their language but many of the students that attend AILDI are not fluent. One does not have to possess fluency in a heritage language to attend AILDI. There is always variety in the levels of language use among AILDI students and second language learners are encouraged to attend.

This year, AILDI offered two summer sessions. The first one was held June 5-29, 2017 at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the second session was held July 10-21, 2017 at the Gila River Indian Community in Sacaton, Arizona.


Foundations of Language Minority Education was taught by Sheilah Nicholas (Hopi) Ph.D. This class was also taught during the second session held at the Gila River Indian Community.

Introduction to Linguistics for Native American Communities was taught by Stacey Oberly (Southern Ute) Ph.D.

The classes emphasized cultural education, linguistics, and immersion methods. During the first session, students took both classes enabling them to have plenty of time to establish networks and to learn from each other. The first session also included a cohort of students from the Indigenous Teacher Education Project (ITEP) which is a four-year program funded by the U.S. Department of Education.The second session class met all day for two weeks. The more intense and shorter schedule also contributed to opportunities for students to learn from each other.

Summer Session II

Summer Session I

Guest Speakers

AILDI classes are augmented by special presentations to enrich the students' learning experience.

Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O'odham), Ph.D., AILDI Director and Regents' Professor, Linguistics, shared her experience with developing the Native American Languages Act (NALA PL102-504). NALA is the federal legislation that supports the use and teaching of Native American languages. She also made the presentation at the second summer session, Gila River Indian Community.

In Summer Session I, Mary Carol Combs, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona discussed Arizona Language Policies and how they affect Native students, their schools, and communities. Her talk was titled "Paradoxes and Absurdities in Arizona Language Policies."

The San Carlos Apache Language Program made a presentation at the first summer session. Their language program received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control. The grant was used to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. The San Carlos Apache Tribe chose to re-introduce traditional foods, plants, cultural knowledge and language related to their tribal culture to achieve the goals of the grant. Their presentation included a history of the tribe, an overview of their culture and a summary of current grant activities. Presenters included: Seth Pilsk, ethnobotanist; Twyla Cassadore and Cordella Moses, tribal language program.

Daryn McKenny and Alison Soutar from the Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Center in New South Wales, Australia made a presentation at the second summer session on a language software, also called Miromaa. The software was develped by Daryn McKenny and is used to create dictionaries and other language learning resources. Daryn is an Australian Aboriginal person with heritage ties to the Gamilaraay and Wiradjuri Nations.

Ofelia Zepeda, PhD., AILDI Director and Regents' Professor, Linguistics, speaking to Summer Session I students

Cordella Moses (left) and Twyla Cassadore (right) from The San Carlos Apache Language Program speaking to Summer Session I students

Daryn McKenny and Alison Soutar from the Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Center speaking to Summer Session II students

Bahidaj Harvest

AILDI students enrolled in the first summer session participated in the annual Bahidaj Harvest. Bahidaj is the Tohono O'odham word for saguaro fruit. The fruit ripens in the summer heat and is used for making syrup and jam. A traditional use of the bahidaj was to make wine to use in the Tohono O'odham rain ceremony.

The optional event begins by leaving the University of Arizona campus at 6:00 am to caravan to the Saguaro National Park West where Tohono O'odham tribal member, Stella Tucker maintains a camp solely for the bahidaj harvest. After receiving instructions from Stella on how to pick the fruit using a traditional harvest tool called a ku’ibaḍ, AILDI students, friends and other venture into the cool desert morning to fill their buckets with the fruit. After a couple of hours the students return to the camp where they help with the cleaning and processing of the fruit. Everyone is encouraged to bring food to share and after eating the students return to campus, approximately 11:30 am.

Summer Session I students harvesting bahidaj

Summer Session I students harvesting bahidaj

Immersion Demonstration

A highlight of both summer sessions was the immersion demonstrations. Working individually or in pairs, students teach a culturally relevant lesson in their language using immersion techniques. The use of English in teaching the lesson is not allowed. The students in the first session also had group immersion lessons. The group immersion lessons were led by one student who was either fluent, or who had a working proficiency of their language. The lead student, or mentor, then taught a lesson in his/her language to the group (4-6 students). The group then presented their lesson to the rest of the class.

Students in the second session had an opportunity to demonstrate their immersion lessons to members of the Gila River Indian Community during a dinner hosted by the tribal education department. Members of the community also participated in immersion lessons that were taught by the AILDI students.

The immersion lessons at AILDI are a core part of the summer program. Many students regard it as the pinnacle of their summer experience. Speaking one's language and hearing others speak it can be an inspiring and profound experience for many language learners; especially those who are just beginning to know their language. Read more about the immersion experience and AILDI's summer session from the perspective of a student participant here.

Summer Session I Immersion Lesson Final

Summer Session II Immersion Lesson Final

AILDI 2018

The dates for next year's session will be June 4-29, 2018. There will be only one summer session next year and it will be held at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Two classes will be offered; one on sociolinguistics and one that will focus on using literature and other resources to teach language.

Applications will be available in mid-March 2018. The cost for the classes will be approximately $3,096 for graduate students and $2,796 for undergraduates. These costs are based on last summer's rates. The new rates will be announced in March 2018. Use these figures for planning. We look forward to seeing you at AILDI next summer!

Summer Session II