All definitions of the concept of ‘indigenous’ regard self-identification as a fundamental criterion for determining the groups to which the term indigenous should be applied. Within the UN family, the ILO (ILO Convention 169) defines Indigenous and Tribal people as follows:

“Tribal people in independent countries whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community, and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations. People in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present state boundaries and who irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.”



Mon Community, Three Rivers Language Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana; photo by Megan Menschhofer

Conference: October 31 – November 2, 2019 

The conference will celebrate the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages from a variety of perspectives: policy, education, linguistic, community, and others. Experts from around the globe with be invited to present keynote talks in a variety of formats (e.g. interviews, panel discussions, formal presentations, etc.). A primary goal of the conference is to engage the broader community and bring indigenous language speakers together with heritage language speakers, academic scholars, educators, and policy makers to explore and share perspectives. To this end, we will work with our international partners and the local refugee and immigrant communities as well as the American Indian Language Development Institute, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, and other area indigenous communities. We will strive to have a balanced representation of indigenous and heritage language community members for our keynote speakers and regular conference presentations. Funds will be allocated for this purpose. We will also work with our community partners to ensure that a number of the 35,000 speakers of languages other than English in the Fort Wayne community attend the event. Specifically, we will be working with area high school programs, area complementary schools, and community leaders to ensure the event is appealing to the Fort Wayne community.

In addition, special interest groups have already been asked to organize panel discussions to be presented throughout the conference (e.g. indigenous language and international education policy; indigenous language and well-being; indigenous community member perspectives on the Year of Indigenous Languages, etc.). Further, the broader community will be engaged and invited to keynote presentations. Finally, we are working to hold the event in concert with the Linguist Association of the Southwest’s annual conference and the Mon Language and Literature conference.