Notable Figures

Bernard Spolsky

Integral to both the founding of the Navajo Department at UNM, and the Linguistics department that the Navajo Department would later become a part of, Bernard Spolsky came to UNM in 1968 as a Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Elementary Education. Once at UNM, he conducted the Navajo Reading Study, with the aim of developing of materials for Navajo literacy programs, and hired UNM’s first Navajo language teacher.

Roseann Willink

Roseann Willink came to UNM in 1980, as a visiting instructor of Navajo, and helped lead the Navajo Language Program for many years, guiding it from being within the Department of Modern Languages to the Department of Linguistics, where it is today. Roseann retired with honors in Spring 2009, after 30 years with the NLP.

Robert W. Young

Robert W. Young, first coming to study Navajo as a graduate student at UNM, met William Morgan, Sr., at the Southwest Range and Sheep Breeding Laboratory, near Ft. Wingate, and together began to work, at the behest of J. P. Harrington, on an orthography and dictionary for the Navajo Language. The two worked together many years with the BIA, and later, UNM, publishing a newspaper in the Navajo language, Ádahooníłígíí, and the definitive dictionaries of Navajo, The Navajo Language (1980, 1987) and Analytical Lexicon of Navajo (1992). Robert Young also wrote The Navajo Verb System (2000), and was both honored by the Navajo Nation Council, in 1995 and UNM, in 2005, with a honorary Ph.D, for his work to support and study the Navajo language.

William Morgan, Sr.

William Morgan, Sr., after meeting Robert Young, worked for many years with him, documenting the Navajo language and developing materials in the language, culminating in The Navajo Language (1980, 1987) and Analytical Lexicon of Navajo (1992). He is hired by Bernard Spolsky in the 1970s to be a visiting professor at UNM, and eventually, is honored, along with Robert Young, by the Navajo Nation Council in “for their lifelong work with the Navajo language”.

Photo Credit: Dinwoodie, David W. & Morgan, William. 2003. William Morgan (1917-2001): Navajo Linguist. Anthropological Linguistics. [Anthropological Linguistics, Trustees of Indiana University] 45(4). 426–449.

Sally Midgette Anderson

Sally Midgette Anderson, as a Ph.D student in Anthropology at UNM, works with Robert Young and William Morgan, eventually co-authoring Analytical Lexicon of Navajo (1992). Midgette’s Ph.D. dissertation is published as a book in 1995: The Navajo Progressive in Discourse: A Study in Temporal Semantics.

Alyse Neundorf

Alyse Neundorf both taught Navajo at UNM and wrote two books published by UNM Press, A Navajo/English Bilingual Dictionary: Áłchíní Bi Naaltsoos (2005) and Navajo/English Dictionary of Verbs (2006).

Photo Credit: Navajo Language Academy 

Irene Silentman

Irene Silentman was the first Navajo language teacher at UNM, hired by Bernard Spolsky as part of the Navajo Reading Study.