Power and positionality: A case study of linguistics’ relationship to Indigenous peoples


  • Mskwaankwad Rice University of Minnesota




race, Indigenous language, language endangerment, language reclamation, Ojibwe, Anishinaabemowin, Nishnaabemwin, colonialism, decolonization, history of linguistics, ethics, missionary linguistics, SIL International, positionality, diversity, inclusion


The western scientific tradition has an exploitative, damaging history with Indigenous peoples and while not partaking in kidnapping and grave robbing, linguistics has been employed in justifying acts of genocide. Modern-day linguistics, notably within theoretical and documentary subdisciplines, takes an ahistorical and scientistic approach to its own relationship to Indigenous peoples and languages. The discipline does not acknowledge or engage with the problematic aspects of its history and current practices outside of discussions within sociolinguistics. This paper presents a case study of the relationship between linguistics and the Ojibwe people to demonstrate that it is essential for all linguists to address both their own positionality and the historical legacy of linguistics in their linguistic research. I offer several suggestions for how individuals and institutions may begin to address these issues in their research practices and in the norms of the discipline.




How to Cite

Rice, Mskwaankwad. 2022. “Power and Positionality: A Case Study of linguistics’ Relationship to Indigenous Peoples”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 7 (1): 5295. https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v7i1.5295.