Lucille J. Watahomigie

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building
Native Language and Culture Revitalization

Honored By

Honored by: Native American Women of Arizona Arch, UA
Date submitted: October 28, 2011
Gift: General Gift

Honored on the Native American Women's Arch by the Hualapai Tribe.


When it comes to language teaching and particularly in an era of language shift when maintaining and reviving the language is critical, Lucille advocates to teacher trainees and tribal community members that they do not have the luxury of waiting for someone else to do the job for them; instead she tells them 'walk the talk!' For her there is no time to stand around and simply talk about what can be done when it comes to language. She was not one for complacency or to simply talk about what should or could be done, she simply did it! She put her vision into reality both in her community of Peach Springs, Arizona and also here at the University of Arizona. When it comes to Native American language teaching, training teachers and advocating for teaching linguistically and culturally appropriate content for the Native American children across the U.S. Lucille Watahomigie is one of the most important figures in the history of this work. Lucille's work continues today through the hundreds of teachers she has trained over the past 30 years.

Her training methods and advocacy of language has imprints not only in Arizona but all across the U.S. and Canada. Her work has received recognition national and international through her publications and collaborations with other educators and linguists, her on-site training, and perhaps most significantly through the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) at the University of Arizona. AILDI is perhaps one of the most important legacies of Lucille Watahomigie's efforts in language training. She is the founder of AILDI with its initial launch in 1987 then serving the needs of Yuman language educators and family members. Presently AILDI is recognized internationally as a flagship institute for providing intensive training in all areas of Native American language teaching, linguistics, language policy, language activism and more recently training in methods of documenting endangered languages and approaches for language revitalization. Lucille has taught in AILDI from the beginning and continues to teach in it on a regular basis. Today Lucille is still seen as an innovator in teacher training, in particular of Native American teachers that serve students on reservation.

Lucille's work with Native American teachers began at the University of Arizona where she received her Master's Degree in Education; she had earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Northern Arizona University prior. While at the University of Arizona Lucille was the Associate Director of the Teacher Education Program for Indian Students in the College of Education from 1973-1975. In 1976 she returned home to Peach Springs, Arizona to begin some of the most important and influential work in the field of bilingual education for Native American students. While working at Peach Springs School District she spearhead the Title VII Hualapai Bilingual Program from 1975-1995. And from 1982-1986 she was director of the Title VII Hualapai Bilingual Demonstration Program. The Demonstration Program is a prestigious designation for a school where essentially the school is poised as a model program for bilingual education for the United States. In addition she was the Director of Project Tradition and Technology, a Hualapai Bilingual Academic Excellence Project. Throughout her long tenure of 28 years with the Peach Springs School District Lucille has served in the capacity of Federal/State Programs Director, Assistant Principal, Principal, and Acting Superintendent for 2 years. Currently Lucille is the Director of the Hualapai Education and Training Department, a position she took after retiring from the Peach Springs School District.

Besides being active as an administrator, teacher trainer and language advocate Lucille is a well published author. She has co-authored as well as co-edited important works on the Hualapai language including a reference grammar of Hualapai and an anthology of Yuman oral literature, Spirit Mountain: A Yuman Anthology. Other publications include works on bilingual education, literacy, and multi-cultural education, ethnobotany of the Colorado River, Hualapai linguistics and language revitalization. Some of her collaborators and co-editors include elders from the Hualapai and Havasupai tribes, Hualapai language teachers Malinda Powsky and Jorgine Bender and other scholars including Leanne Hinton, Akira Yamamoto, Teresa McCarty and Ofelia Zepeda.

Lucille Watahomigie's life's work and mission has been to advocate for and train teachers who serve Native American children in all areas of education but particularly language education. She has been successful in accomplishing this at her community level as well as the national and international level. Her work had made a great impact on a significant number of educators over the past 30 years these educators continue to carry on the legacy of her work alongside her. Lucille's decision not to be complacent and take things as they but to be pro-active and take a stand even when it might not have been popular has been the best thing she has done for the field of Indian education. Generations to come will be grateful that she did walk her talk.