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Earth Day: Land and Language

For Earth Day this year, we interviewed our friend Lindsay Elisabeth Marzulla, a PhD student in the American Indian Studies department at the University of Arizona.

Lindsay Marzulla is a PhD student in the American Indian Studies department at the University of Arizona, studying human–environment relationality and Indigenous languages.


Q: Would you please introduce yourself?


A: I am a PhD student in the American Indian Studies department at the University of Arizona, located on Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui land. I moved from salt marshes and deciduous forests to the desert last year, and while I do miss the ocean, I’m also enjoying exploring this unique, cactus-filled landscape.


Q: What sparked your interest in Indigenous languages?


A: I have worn many hats in life—I have a background in fine art, design, natural sciences, and language studies. I became interested in Indigenous languages specifically during my master’s program in Anthrozoology when we studied biocultural diversity and I was introduced to the work of Terralingua. I became enamored with the intrinsic connections between land and language.


Q: How did you come to find the connection between language and land? Did it change the way you viewed the world?


A: Learning about Terralingua’s work and the connections between biological diversity, cultural diversity, and linguistic diversity is really what began turning the wheels in my mind, but I have also learned so much more since beginning the program at UA and taking classes like Traditional (Indigenous) Ecological Knowledge. It has remarkably and permanently changed the way I view the world! I now see these connections all around me, every day. I think about the meanings behind the language we use and where it comes from. It helps me understand more about the place I live, the people who have lived here since time immemorial, and most importantly about the relationships between place and people—and how these relationships might help all of us develop more sustainable living practices.


Q: What are you currently studying?


A: My work is still focused on the intersection of ecology, language, and visual art. Specifically, I am interested in helping communities create tools for language revitalization to educate, inspire, and engage learners about connections between land and culture. Currently, I am attempting to teach myself ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i (the Hawaiian language) and I hope to incorporate some of what I learn into one of these educational tools.


Q: What kind of language learning resources have you created in the past? Any current projects?


A: The language learning resources I created in the past were pretty basic—flash cards and memory games that I used with students at the school in Japan where I worked. I love drawing animals and working with design software, and I’m always trying to find excuses to do so. Previously I created an ecology-themed card game that satisfied this desire, and during my remaining time at UA I also want to design an app incorporating some sort of immersive technology that would help people learn about relationships between humans, flora, and fauna.


Q: Any advice for folks who want to create their own learning resources, games etc.?


A: Flash cards are fun to make! Even if you don’t enjoy drawing like me, you can just use photos, sprinkle on some glitter, and call it a day. I find that I learn things more effectively and retain more knowledge when I make the resources myself and utilize some type of visual reference. If you are asking members of the community for help in creating these resources (translation work, research, etc.), make sure you compensate them for their time! I would also say that it’s much better to learn with someone else rather than attempting the journey alone. Find a friend to work with so that you can support each other.


To learn more about Lindsay's work, visit her website: https://lindsaymarzulla.com/.


Keep an eye out on our social media and in your inbox for details regarding our upcoming event with Terralingua, "Exploring the Connection between Land and Language"

In this event, we aim to explore the deep connection land and place have with Indigenous languages and language revitalization efforts. We will showcase multiple approaches to connecting, or re-connecting, the two through conversation with people engaged in language revitalization efforts that incorporate land and place.


Approaches may include:

  • Land-based approaches to teaching and learning Indigenous languages

  • Reclamation of Indigenous place names

  • Documenting and sharing language describing land and land practices

Tentatively planned for: May 22nd, 2022, “International Day for Biocultural Diversity."


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