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U’s Shoshoni Language Project Wins National Award

Marianna DiPaolo, director of the U’s Shoshoni Language Project -- which received the William Demmert Cultural Freedom Award from the National Indian Education Association.

Nov. 1, 2013 – The University of Utah’s Shoshoni Language Project will be awarded the 2013 William Demmert Cultural Freedom Award by the National Indian Education Association at its annual meeting Nov. 1 in Rapid City, S.D.

The Shoshoni Language Project works in collaboration with tribes to document and preserve the language through a wide variety of research and outreach activities. It began in 2004 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and continues today with support from the Barrick Gold Corporation of North America.

“William Demmert was an outstanding educational leader and researcher, promoting the inclusion of indigenous culture and language in the school curriculum, both in the U.S. and abroad,” says Marianna Di Paolo, director of the Shoshoni Language Project and associate professor of anthropology at the U. “The Shoshoni Language Project staff and I are deeply honored to receive this prestigious award from the NIEA and to be associated with Dr. Demmert’s name. This collaborative project would not be possible without the many dedicated elders and young people who have worked with us over the years, and without funding from the National Science Foundation and the Barrick Corporation.”

Among its activities, the project disseminates language materials to tribal members, creates curricula and teaching materials for various age levels, including bilingual children’s picture books, and provides Shoshoni language teacher training.

Since 2009, the Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program, which is part of the Shoshoni Language Project, has focused on Shoshone high school students – introducing them to a university setting to increase their future success in higher education, and also to involve them in Shoshoni language revitalization. The 2013 SYLAP students created a Shoshoni language video game aimed at promoting the Shoshoni language among young people.

The award from NIEA “recognizes the organization and all who are involved in its success for its positive impact on Native student academic achievement.”

More about the Shoshoni Language Project and the SYLAP summer program is available online.


Since its incorporation in 1970, NIEA has served as the convening organization for Native and non-Native stakeholders who work with Native youth. From crafting and advocating legislation that expands Native control and choice over education to providing research and support for Native communities to build capacity, NIEA plays a vital role in advancing the most important mission of all — building brighter futures for Native students, their families and their cultures.