New sign in O'odham unveiled outside the Main Library

New sign in O'odham unveiled outside the Main Library

May 10, 2024

University initiative to add Native languages to campus building signs continues to expand

blue main library sign with O'odham translation at the top

A dedication and celebration event on May 8 unveiled a new sign for the Main Library that is part of a University of Arizona campus initiative to create a sense of belonging for Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and community members.

The library sign now includes, O'ohana Ñeokculiđ C Vemđadag Ki, which is O’odham for main library. O’odham is the language of the Ak-Chin Indian Community, one of the 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona. 

Speakers at the event included University Libraries Dean Shan Sutton, the ​​Katheryne B. Willock Head of Special Collections Verónica Reyes-Escudero, Senior Vice President for Native American Advancement Levi Esquerra, University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, and Ak-Chin Indian Community Vice Chairman Lemuel Vincent.

Ak-Chin Tribal Council Member Gabriel Lopez opened the event with a blessing. The audience included esteemed tribal elders, Ak-Chin Language Program staff, university employees and students, and community members.   

“University Libraries is honored to have our Main Library sign selected by the Ak-Chin Indian Community for translation in O’odham,” said Sutton. 

“The sign is an important illustration of the Libraries’ ongoing commitment to supporting Native students and engaging with Native communities through initiatives such as our technology lending, the Native American Science & Engineering Program computer build event that we host, and protocols for using Native American archival materials in the Libraries’ Special Collections department.”

Regents Professor of Linguistics Ofelia Zepeda and Professors Heidi Harley and Natasha Warner were recognized at the dedication ceremony for inspiring and collaborating with the Office of Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement (NAATE) on a campus-wide initiative to create and dedicate new building signs that include translations representing different Native Nations. According to the NAATE website, the sign initiative “is part of our broader efforts to make the University a welcoming and inclusive place for Native American students, faculty, staff, and visitors, and to honor the Native Nations that make their homes in our region.” 

The first Native language sign translation on campus was unveiled at the Communications Building on International Mother Language Day in 2022. Some of the other buildings with translations include Old Main, the Arizona Stadium, and the Poetry Center-Helen S. Schaefer Building

Senior Vice President Esquerra shared at the dedication celebration that more building signs on campus will be added.