Ofelia Zepeda

Ofelia Zepeda (born in Stanfield, Arizona, 1952) is a Tohono O'odham poet and intellectual. She is Regents' Professor of Tohono O'odham language and linguistics and Director of the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) [2] at The University of Arizona.[3] Zepeda is the editor for Sun Tracks, a series of books that focuses on the work of Native American artists and writers, published by the University of Arizona Press.[4]

Ofelia Zepeda
NationalityUnited States of America
AwardsMacarthur Fellow[1]
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisTopics in Papago Morphology (1984)
Doctoral advisorSusan Steele
Academic work
Sub-disciplineLanguage documentation, language activism, Tohono O'odham, indigenous languages of America
InstitutionsThe University of Arizona
WebsiteUniversity of Arizona Faculty Page


Zepeda is a professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona and is well known for her efforts in the preservation of and the promotion of literacy in Tohono O'odham. She served as director of the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Arizona from 1986 to 1991.[5] She is a consultant and advocate on behalf of a number of American indigenous languages. She is the author of A Papago Grammar and co-author of the article "Derived Words in Tohono O'odham", published in the International Journal of American Linguistics.[6] She was a student of MIT linguistics professor Ken Hale.[7]

Zepeda has worked with her tribe to improve literacy in both English and Tohono O'odham.[8] In 1983, she developed A Papago Grammar from tapes of Native speakers because no textbook existed for the classes she taught.[8] Her work with the reservation committee for Tohono O'odham language policy yielded an official policy that encourages the speaking of the Native language at all grade levels.[8]

In 1995 she published a book of poetry, Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert, and she titled the introduction, "Things That Help Me Begin to Remember".

In 1999, Zepeda received a MacArthur Fellowship.[9] She was a member of the literary advisory committee for Sun Tracks, a publishing program featuring Native American works, and is the series editor.[6] In 2012, her book of poetry was banned by Tucson schools.[10]


  • Where Clouds Are Formed. University of Arizona Press. 2008.
  • Jewed 'i-hoi : O'odham c milga:n s-ke:g ha'icu cegĭtodag = Earth movements : a collection of poems in O'odham & English. Kore Press. 2005.
  • Home Places: Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks. University of Arizona Press. 1995.
  • Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert. University of Arizona Press. 1995.
  • A Papago Grammar. The University of Arizona Press. 1983.
  • When It Rains, Papago and Pima Poetry = Mat hekid o ju, 'O'odham Na-cegitodag. University of Arizona Press. 1982.


  1. ^ Pila Martínez (1999-06-23). "O'odham poet strives to preserve languages". The Arizona Daily Star.
  2. ^ "Ofelia Zepeda | AILDI". aildi.arizona.edu. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  3. ^ "Dr. Ofelia Zepeda Archived 2017-11-24 at the Wayback Machine". Department of Linguistics, University of Arizona. Retrieved 2016-12-26.
  4. ^ Foundation, Poetry (2019-03-04). "Ofelia Zepeda". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  5. ^ "Ofelia Zepeda." Contemporary Authors Online. Gale: 2011. Retrieved via Biography in Context database, 2016-12-26.
  6. ^ a b "Ofelia Zepeda | The Department of Linguistics". linguistics.arizona.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  7. ^ "The Ken Hale Prize". SSILA. 2018-08-03. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  8. ^ a b c Native American Women. New York: Routledge. 2001. p. 343.
  9. ^ "MacArthur Fellow Ofelia Zepeda". dingo.sbs.arizona.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  10. ^ Brenda Norrell (January 14, 2012). "Tucson schools bans books by Chicano and Native American authors". narcosphere. Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2012.

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