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Thematic Working Groups

Established during the 2011 – 2012 academic school year, the following working groups function as an extension of the Americas steering committee. The working groups are inclusive of UO faculty, staff, and graduate students. The groups are charged with the development and implementation of innovative programming that moves the Americas Initiative closer to achieving its mission.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and the flow of people, information, and commodities seems unstoppable, old and new forms of exclusion, oppression, and inequality affect the livelihood of large segments of the human population. In the American hemisphere, various forms of colonial, imperial, gender, racial, and class domination continue to inform state policies and shape ordinary people’s everyday life. They not only reveal the limitations of existing socio-economic structures to guarantee equal opportunities and satisfy the individual and collective needs of large sectors of the population, but they also pose serious questions to the sustainability of peace and democracy in the region.

At the University of Oregon there is a solid tradition of scholarship and debate on many of these issues. Analyses of different forms of inequality and human rights violations, as well as of efforts towards social justice, however, tend to focus on one single nation-state. There is a notorious lack of dialogue and exchange between scholars working on different areas of the Americas.

Framed by The Americas in a Globalized World’s effort to rethink hemispheric relations and to vigorously promote innovative research, teaching, and debate on various issues across geographical, linguistic, and national boundaries, this Working Group will bring together specialists in Canada, the US, Latin America and the Caribbean from various disciplines –Sociology, Political Science, Law, History, Ethnic Studies, and others- to foster research, lectures, symposia, and new pedagogical approaches on the issues listed above. More ambitious initiatives, such as the creation of an Institute of Human Rights in the Americas, could also be embraced and promoted by this Working Group. Collaboration with various departments, professional schools, and research centers will also be sought as a way of moving forward our agenda.

The Americas Consortium is committed to promoting hemispheric thinking, interdisciplinarity, and community engagement throughout the Americas. This working group will leverage the University of Oregon’s strengths in humanistic study, including literature, history, art and architecture, cinema studies, philosophy, and other humanistic endeavors. The Americas Consortium considers humanistic study a central aspect of promoting and meeting the goals of creating new curricula and building connections for faculty and students throughout the Americas.  Moreover, while the study of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality are areas of emphasis that intersect with various working groups, we recognize that our humanist colleagues demonstrate particular strengths in these areas of study. Consequently, the study of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality are a central concern of this working group.

The Cultural, Literary, and Artistic Exchanges working group will engage in research activities centered around the study of national, international, and hemispheric cultures. While the potential research activities are flexible and broad, some potential topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Developing and presenting working papers
  • Giving presentations or talks outlining our research
  • Developing reading groups oriented around particular topics
  • Applying for grants and/or seed money for collaborative humanistic research projects
  • Developing conferences, colloquia, or speaker series
  • Developing a journal or publication series

Conflicts over language in the U.S. (and in the Americas) have long represented deeper societal tensions often rooted in European cultural hegemony. Indeed, the history of the Americas is filled with examples of systemic operations of cultural and linguistic dominance and language eradication—particularly against the indigenous peoples of the Americas.  In contemporary society, many of these systems of subordination are still in operation, however, often backed by longstanding neo-colonial ideologies and carried out through long legitimized institutional forces (such as public schools) and political pressures (language legislation, for example).

Language is often the means by which individuals and social groups situate themselves in their social order. It is a reflection of their internal and external realities and a symbol of the contested truths between the dominant group in a given society and its marginalized communities. Indeed, “language mirrors the power structures in society at the same time as it contributes to the reproducing and perpetuating of these structures” (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1981, p. 3).

The language working group seeks to orient research and discussion around language as a complex personal, community, and broader social relationship.

The University of Oregon is committed to Native education and scholarship and to revitalizing Indigenous languages, and collaborates with tribes, Indigenous communities and institutions across the Americas. Through the Americas in a Globalized World’s Big Idea, the language and education working group is committed to promoting hemispheric thinking, interdisciplinarity, and community engagement throughout the Americas around the issues of language and education. We will bring together specialists, including community leaders in these areas, in Canada, the U.S., and Latin America to foster dialog and inquiry centered around the study of national and hemispheric educational and language issues.

We envision the working group as a collaborative endeavor between UO faculty and students, research centers, other institutions across the Americas, and Indigenous community leaders and members, in which  research is oriented around specific topics that would also address community’s needs. 

University of Oregon – Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional

A collaboration between the University of Oregon and the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional de Guatemala for the preservation of memory and the pursuit of human rights.  This collaboration between the University of Oregon and the Archivo Histórico de la Policia Nacional, Guatemala, emerged as a result of encouragement and sponsorship from the Network Startup Resource Center and its director Dr. Steve Huter in the fall of 2011.  The AHPN invited Dr. Stephanie Wood of Wired Humanities Projects to visit the archive in late August, when she was participating in a workshop sponsored by NSRC at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, under the leadership of Luis Furlán, President of the Red Nacional de Investigación y Educación de Guatemala (RAGIE).  Dr. Wood returned to Oregon determined to widen the circle of collaboration in this special archive.  Additional Oregon faculty came on board, including Dr. Carlos Aguirre (History), who has a research interest in human rights in Latin America, Dra. Gabriela Martínez (Journalism and Communications), who wanted to make a documentary about the archive, and Dr. Michelle McKinley (Law), who has been serving as an international observer of human rights trials in Guatemala.  Professor McKinley and Martínez made a visit to the AHPN in December, filming and interviewing key players in the pursuit of the protection of human rights and the operation of the archive.

Collaboration with  the Northwest Indian Language Institute

The staff at NILI are privileged to work with tribes and organizations on various short and long term projects and we appreciate being invited to be a part of this kind of work because we learn and grow through these collaborative efforts.  NILI has also created sample documents and curriculum to aid in language revitalization efforts.  Please visit the NILI site for more specific information on current projects:

Latino Roots in Oregon:
Brief Project Description

The Latino Roots Project includes an exhibit composed of fifteen portable wooden panels containing photographs and stories about seven immigrant families; a booklet that captures these same stories and photographs; classes at the University of Oregon; two video documentaries; and a proposed website and digital archive.  All materials are bilingual in Spanish and English.  The Latino Roots Project is administered through the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) and is a part of the “Americas in a Globalized World: Linking Diversity and Internationalization” initiative.

Exhibit Panels: On display from January 2009 through March 2010 at the Lane County Historical Museum , these seventeen bilingual panels in Spanish and English, were part of the exhibit “Changing Demographics: The People of Lane County.”  The Latino Roots panels, approximately three feet wide and five feet tall, feature a timeline of Latino presence in what is now the state of Oregon beginning in the 1700s.  Maps, demographic information, information about Latino youth, and the stories of nine families who came at different times to Lane County from California, Texas, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Chile are represented.  A research team led by the University of Oregon’s Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) director Lynn Stephen, also a professor of Anthropology and Ethnic Studies, created the panels. The team included Gabriel Martínez, Patricia Cortez, Guadalupe Quinn, Mauricio Magaña, Sonia de la Cruz, Kate Williams, Lukacs Nguyen, and Magali Morales.

Booklet: The 33-page bilingual “Latino Roots: In Lane County, Oregon/ Raíces Latinas del Condado de Lane, Oregon” booklet is available for download on the CLLAS website and for purchase at the University of Oregon Bookstore. It reflects the content of the seventeen panels and can be used with classes who view the panels.

Documentary: “Latino Roots in Lane County: Contemporary Stories of Settlement in Lane County, Oregon” is a 33-minute bilingual documentary in Spanish and English that uses in-depth interviewing in the tradition of Latin American testimonio and oral history.   It includes video interviews with six of the families featured in the Latino Roots exhibit panels.  The following people were involved in the documentary’s creation:  Producer and Director: Gabriela Martínez; Assistant Producer: Sonia De La Cruz; Research Team: Lynn Stephen, Gabriela Martínez, Mauricio Magaña, Lukacs Nguyen, Sonia De La Cruz, Guadalupe Quinn.

The film “Latino Roots in Lane County” is also available through the UO Libraries’ streaming site, and an .mp4 has been made and integrated into the libraries’ archiving processes.

Latino Roots in Lane County projects were co-sponsored by the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies and the Center for the Study of Women in Society.

Latino Roots in Oregon: A Documentary Film Project

Gabriela Martinez

“Latino Roots in Oregon” is the working title of a 52-minute documentary by assistant professor Gabriela Martínez, doctoral student Sonia de la Cruz, and local community activist Guadalupe Quinn. The film will be suitable for public television viewing and DVD and Web-streaming distribution. Currently in production phase, this 2009-2010 CLLAS grant-winning project addresses the important but often neglected history of Latin American and Latino settlement in Oregon.

Some came driving cattle with early ranch pioneers along the Siskiyou Trail, some came as mule packers for the U.S. Army, some were Basque sheepherders from the Spanish Pyrenees, and some joined the Bracero Program during WWII and worked the fields and orchards providing manual labor. The ways and times Latinos made their way to Oregon are many and varied and provide for rich story telling as well as a databank for historical purposes.

“Latino Roots in Oregon” is based on extensive research and uses archival materials and in-depth journalistic and ethnographic interviews. An open-access digital archive is part of the overall research project and an important derivative of the fieldwork for the documentary. The archive encompasses moving images, still photographs, documents and text that work together to tell the stories of Latin American and Latino historic and contemporary settlers who call Oregon home. It will be housed in UO Libraries Digital Collections.

Latino Roots Course Sequence

Gabriela Martínez and Lynn Stephen are offering a new course sequence at the University of Oregon—“Latino Roots I, Latino Roots II”—to be taught during Winter and Spring 2011 through Anthropology and Journalism and cross-listed with Ethnic Studies and Latin American Studies.  Latino Roots I will focus on giving a theoretical, documentary, and ethnographic understanding of the processes of Latino immigration and settlement in Oregon during the past 150 years.  Latino Roots II will teach students how to produce a short video documentary from oral history interviews.

By learning how to conduct A/V digital oral history interviews, edit, and annotate them, students will learn Latino history in a hands-on way while they help build this Latino historical record.  The assignments will cultivate dialogue among the Latino community and wider public with faculty and students connecting Latino community members and the public to their stories.

How to Book Latino Roots Materials

Latino Roots materials (exhibit panels, booklets, films) are available for use in middle schools, high schools, and higher education institutions in the state of Oregon.  Curriculum development workshops for training students in how to produce their own Latino Roots stories can also be scheduled with the project research team.  To find out more about how to book the Latino Roots in Oregon exhibit, films, and workshops for your school or institution please e-mail:

Indigenous People in the Americas Project:
2011 – 2012

Indigenous peoples are a major presence in the Americas. Today, 116,602,734 indigenous people live in the Americas—a number roughly equivalent to 27 percent of the U.S. population. The Canadian territory of Nunavit, controlled by Inuit First Peoples, is the largest Native-governed region of the Americas, but indigenous peoples make up a majority of the population in Bolivia and Guatemala, close to half the population in Ecuador and Peru, and large minorities in many other countries, such as Mexico. Native Americans even constitute the largest racial or ethnic minority group in several U.S. states: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. There are 565 federally recognized tribes and many more seeking recognition in the United States. Several hundred indigenous languages are spoken throughout the Americas, including 154 in the United States and 60 in Mexico.

All too often, however, indigenous peoples are relegated to a glorious past and remain invisible in the present. The Americas Big Idea seeks to train students in interdisciplinary hemispheric thinking. Part of that project is the “decolonization of knowledge”—understood as both a broadening of epistemological approaches and a reframing of what we know about indigenous social and political practices, histories, cultural experiences, and models for seeing the world.  The Americas Initiative is sponsoring a series of five events during the 2011-2012 school year to link indigenous peoples across the Americas by focusing on issues of key importance to indigenous intellectuals, political actors, teachers, filmmakers, artists, and writers: climate change and environmental knowledge, contemporary poetics, language revitalization and change, and self-determination and cultural revitalization.  This series of integrated events  includes undergraduate involvement throughout, although they are particularly involved as participants in a conference.  Each event is linked to one or more undergraduate class.  The events double as planning spaces for advancing Native studies and will result in a set of videos to be used as resources in classes and research.  The events are coordinated by staff from the Americas Initiative and the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies.

To learn more about the five planned events please click to expand the following links:

Indigenous Language Revitalization: The Hawaiian Experience
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
118 Lillis, University of Oregon
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Coordinated by Janne Underriner, Northwest Indian Language Institute, Linguistics

The Hawaiian (and Māori) model for language revitalization (community-family immersion language nests) is the most successful model for building speakers of endangered languages. Hawaiian language programs have expanded from these nests into immersion Pre-K–12 schools and the Hawaiian Language College at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Like other indigenous languages, Hawaiian is critically endangered. Fluent first-language speakers are elderly and often scattered across the islands. There is now, however, a coordinated community and government effort to save the Hawaiian language and culture.

Pila Wilson and Kauanoe Kamana were the first of a number of couples in Hawai‘i who revived Hawaiian as the first language of their home, and Dr. Wilson is founding chairperson of the program that developed into the Hawaiian Language College. Our proposal will invite Wilson and Kamana to speak about the immersion program’s development. The many challenges in navigating school systems and sometimes conflicting community interests will be discussed with suggestions for addressing them.

This visit includes three events:  (1) A presentation on Hawaiian pre-K–12 language revitalization and language immersion.  This event also includes an introduction to the history of language loss in the Northwest by Tony Johnson, NILI’s advisory board chair; (2) A linguistics colloquium and student question-and-answer session; (3) An all-day workshop on building language nests hosted for the Tribes of the Northwest and interested community members.

Overall, the presentations will enrich members of the UO communities as well as members of tribal communities, including language teacher educators, teachers, students, and linguists involved with Native American languages as well as others with an interest in the Hawai’ian and Maori model.

Dr. William H. Wilson (Pila) is Professor and Chair of the Hawaiian Studies Division at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.  Kauanoe Kamana is a founding member of ‘Aha Punana Leo immersion school and has been very active in developing legislation both on the state and national levels in support of the use of Native American languages in education. Tony Johnson is a Chinook Tribal member, a linguist and an artist. He is NILI’s advisory board chair, Chinuk Wawa instructor, and immersion language consultant.

Models of Indigenous Education: Creating Sacred Spaces of Learning
Coordinated by Brian Klopotek, Ethnic Studies, CAS and CHiXapkaid, Education Studies, COE

This event will complement ES 399 Native American/African American Relations and ES 407/507 Native American Ethnohistory taught by Brian Klopotek in winter of 2012 and the doctoral seminar EDST 610 Critical Reflection on Models of Indigenous Education taught by CHiXapkaid (COE). The event and classes involved will address the question, “What are models of Indigenous education and why are such models still important to Indigenous peoples and society in general today?”  It is designed to engage our campus-wide community in a dialogue around concepts of Indigenous education and together critically reflect about how to conceptualize curriculum, determine appropriate teaching strategies, identify core values that resonate with Indigenous peoples throughout our campus community, and develop lesson plans to honor the cultures of Indigenous peoples (particularly in regards to language, history and cultural traditions still having value in today’s society).  Invited speakers from the Northwest will include Dr. Cornel Pewewardy (noted Native scholar in Portland), Smutcoom (highly regarded Skokomish Indigenous spiritual leader), and Chairman Leonard Forsman (Suquamish tribal leader).

Spring 2012

Coordinated by Mark Carey, Robert D. Clark Honors College

This conference will feature the research of UO undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty, as well as two featured keynote lectures by indigenous leaders from the Pacific Northwest and South America. The link between indigenous people and climate change is critical for several reasons: (1) indigenous lands will be and already have been heavily affected by global climate change; (2) indigenous people are likely to suffer disproportionately from climate change because marginalized populations are hit hardest but have the fewest resources to respond to disasters or rapid environmental change; and (3) indigenous understanding of climate change, perceptions of risk, and decision making regarding environmental management are often distinct from nonindigenous peoples or government policies. Discussion of indigenous people and climate change thus opens up much broader discussion about environmental epistemologies across diverse cultures, as well as environmental management, race and class dynamics, and the intersection of local, national, and global issues. These themes not only center on the “Americas in a Globalized World” big idea, but also grapple with similar issues in the “Sustainable Cities” and “Global Oregon” initiatives.

The conference will include two keynote lectures, one from a local indigenous leader to present a regional perspective and one from the Andes region of South America to present a broader framework on contrasting environmental epistemologies and the international dimension of climate change and indigenous peoples. Three panels will be mixed with undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty on a common theme. This format will (1) give students professional experience and allow them to present their research to a broad audience; (2) underscore the importance of student research and promote student-faculty interaction and collaboration among distinct disciplines; (3) involve the broadest UO community possible to discuss a single topic; (4) continue progress made in 2009 with the UO Tribal Climate Change Forum held in the Many Nations Longhouse; and (4) raise awareness about climate change and indigenous issues.

All students in the course HC 441 “Climate and Society in the Americas” will present at the conference. Additionally, the Climate Change Research Group and other programs will facilitate integration of faculty and additional students.  The structure of the conference emphasizes collaboration and interaction among a variety of units and levels of the university community—from the Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences to the Law School and College of Education.

Potential keynote speakers include: (1) Dennis Martinez, Chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network (IPRN), Codirector of the Southwest Oregon Takelma Intertribal Project (TIP), and Member of the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA) Steering Committee; and (2) Marlon Santi, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador.

Spring 2012

Coordinated by Shari Huhndorf , Women’s and Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies (CAS)

Over the past three decades, media has played a key role in global indigenous political endeavors related to land rights, self-determination, and cultural revitalization. Indigenous media makers have produced works that take up these issues and indigenous media outlets and collectives have formed with the express aim of complementing such endeavors. This one-day event will explore the connections between indigenous media and politics through presentations and screenings by two renowned Native filmmakers: Zacharias Kunuk, co-founder of Igloolik Isuma Productions, the Canadian Inuit media company that produced the globally distributed award-winning feature film Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner, and Sandra Sunrising Osawa, whose Seattle-based Upstream Productions has created documentaries on Native issues through the Pacific Northwest and nationally. This film event will broaden the scope of 2011-12 Americas project by focusing attention on the Arctic, a region of immense cultural vitality and recent political activity. It will also reinforce the importance of considering Native issues in our local region.

As this event reflects broader developments in global indigenous politics and culture, so too does it complement changes on the UO campus. Widespread faculty and student interest in media has resulted in the creation of a Cinema Studies major and growing numbers of courses on related topics in many departments. At the same time, the administration has recently expressed a deepened commitment to building Native studies throughout the university. This event will draw on those emerging strengths by having faculty and graduate student discussants respond to the screenings and presentations and by incorporating the event into an undergraduate course on Indigenous Media, which will be taught in the Ethnic Studies Department.

Spring 2012

Coordinated by Cecilia Enjuto-Rangel, Romance Languages, CAS

Two Mayan poets, Briceida Cuevas Cob and Rosa Chávez will be invited as part of a new course, SPAN 407 “Contemporary Poetics: Spain and Latin America Through its Poets.” This course will teach advanced students how to read poetic texts and contemporary poetry in dialogue with the authors themselves. Meeting living writers, talking to them, and establishing a real dialogue about their work can be a vibrant undergraduate learning experience. Metaphors often embrace more than one meaning, and sometimes in talking to poets we find that the poets themselves had not thought of our interpretation of their works; this, among other things, is what students will experience in personal encounters. Briceida Cuevas Cob and Rosa Chávez will address the community at a public event consisting of a poetry reading in Mayan and Spanish (with English translations in the written copies we provide). They will also give an open lecture/conversation about the indigenous movement in Mexico and Guatemala, and how they see the role of women poets in their communities as transformative and empowering.