Wesley Leonard. Ph.D.
Published September 1, 2017
RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA As a citizen of the
5,000-member Miami Tribe of Oklahoma with a Ph.D. in linguistics,
Wesley Leonard straddles two worlds.
Leonard, an assistant professor of ethnic studies at the
eUniversity of California, Riversid, is one of just eight American
Indian or Alaska Native academics to have earned a linguistics
Ph.D. in the United States between 2004 and 2014. His pursuit of
the degree was a decision inspired by witnessing the revival of his
own tribal nations language, myaamia, which had fallen out of
popular usage decades earlier.
Driven by the community rather than externally motivated,
myaamias revitalization was the subject of Leonards dissertation.
Since then he has been involved in several projects that have
awakened sleeping languages once mistakenly believed to be obsolete
because they lacked fluent speakers.
Across North America, such efforts are part of a larger movement
to reclaim tribal languages that were actively suppressed
throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Leonards latest challenge: bridging the gap between
community-based language reclamation efforts and the academic
discipline of linguistics, an arena in which Native Americans are
Funded by a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation,
Leonard will host a workshop, Expanding Linguistic Science by
Broadening Native American Participation, in Salt Lake City in
The competitive, application-only workshopopen to participants
who have demonstrated significant leadership or activity in
community language programswill precede the 92nd annual meeting of
the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), also held in Salt Lake
City the weekend of Jan. 4-7.
As part of the experience, participants will attend the LSA
conference, where Leonard will lead an unprecedented, three-hour
symposium titled Sharing Our Views: Native Americans Speak About
Language and Linguistics.
Leonard said the sessions eight presenters are the first group
of all American Indian or Alaska Native presenters to be featured
in a symposium at the conference. They will offer community
perspectives on Native American ideas about language and how the
linguistics field can better incorporate Native American attitudes
toward language as a source of culture,...