MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 1999

Ofelia Zepeda

Linguist and Cultural Preservationist

Tuscon, Arizona

Age: 45 at time of award

Published July 1, 1999

Ofelia Zepeda is a linguist, a poet, and a community leader devoted to preserving Native American languages and to revitalizing tribal cultures.

Zepeda’s A Papago Grammar is a seminal text for the study of her native language (Tohono O'odham). She is dedicated to melding the scholarly role of linguist with a concern for the community outside the university. She has helped to bring about an important transformation in the relationship between the professional linguistic study of local languages and the communities where they are spoken. Zepeda is also committed to the development of a literary tradition in Native American languages and has been instrumental in fostering the careers of Native American writers and language teachers.

Zepeda is a professor in the Departments of Linguistics and American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. She has taught at the American Indian Language Development Institute since 1980, and has been co-director there since 1989. She is the editor of Mat Hekid o Ju: When It Rains: Papago and Pima Poetry (1982), co-editor of South Corner of Time (1980), and author of A Papago Grammar (1983), Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (1995) and Jewed ‘I-Hoi: Earth Movement (1997), a book of bilingual poetry.

Zepeda received a B.A. (1980), M.A. (1981), and Ph.D. (1984) from the University of Arizona.

Last updated January 1, 2005