Douglas R. Parks

Douglas R. Parks

Professor Emeritus


  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1972
  • A.B., University of California, Berkeley, 1964

About Douglas R. Parks

My training was in anthropological linguistics at the University of California-Berkeley. There, under the influence of Mary R. Haas, a student of Edward Sapir, I developed a lifelong commitment to the documentation of North American Indian languages. The ultimate goal of that work is to contribute to the reconstruction of American Indian culture history generally, but the focus of it is the study of the languages of the Great Plains, particularly the Caddoan and Siouan peoples. My first field work was in Oklahoma during the late 1960s. Then, after living for a decade in the northern Plains region, where I helped develop language retention programs on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, I came to Indiana University in 1983 to help found the American Indian Studies Research Institute, which was established to perpetuate studies in American Indian cultures, languages, and history.

A large part of my career has been devoted to the documentation of two Northern Caddoan languages, both endangered and spoken now by only a small number of elders: Pawnee (located in Oklahoma) and Arikara (located in North Dakota). This documentary work, which has extended over thirty years, is culminating in dictionaries, collections of native language texts, and grammars of these languages. In addition, in an ongoing collaboration with Raymond J. DeMallie, I am studying the dialectal diversity of the Sioux, Assiniboine, and Stoney peoples on numerous reservations throughout the Northern Plains. An important part of that project is a documentary study of the Assiniboine language, itself dialectally diverse, that will ultimately result in linguistic reference works. An outgrowth of these documentary efforts has been my work with language retention and maintenance programs.

In North Dakota I helped establish programs for teaching three languages, Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa. Currently, together with Professor DeMallie, I am developing a program for teaching Assiniboine on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. Another dimension of my career is native North American philology, the study of older linguistic records of American Indian languages, and the combination of American Indian language research with the writing and interpretation of history. The documentary record on American Indians is replete with native language material that requires identification, translation, and interpretation. It is a rich source of information on North American history and prehistory that has only recently come to be appreciated by scholars. Applying knowledge of American Indian languages to these documents unlocks their potential for study of the American Indian past. Exemplifying this effort is an edition that I recently prepared of the journals of the Saint Louis fur trader, Jean-Baptiste Truteau, who lived among the Arikara from 1794-96. The editorial work on these manuscripts required a firm grounding in the Arikara language as well as a comparative knowledge of Plains Indian ethnology and history.

Finally, a fundamental part of my study of endangered languages and North American culture history is the recording, editing, and translating of native language texts, both those recorded from contemporary raconteurs and those in documentary collections of stories compiled earlier in the century. Oral narratives are important historical and cultural sources as well as literary documents, and they provide an essential native voice in the study of the American Indian. To date this work in textual translation and redaction has resulted in an edition of Arikara narratives that I myself recorded and an edition of narratives recorded at the turn of the century from a Skiri Pawnee religious leader. I teach courses in general anthropological linguistics, American Indian languages, and, specifically, a two-year Lakota language sequence. These courses reflect my current research projects.

Through my research there is opportunity for graduate students to become involved in American Indian language documentation and description, textual analysis, language revival and maintenance programs and historical linguistic study. I am also editor of the journal Anthropological Linguistics, which is produced on campus. With it there is opportunity for both graduate and undergraduate students to gain experience in academic publishing at both editorial and production levels.

Selected Publications

An Introduction to the Pawnee Language. Coauthored with Janet Beltran, Nora Pratt, and Nicole Evans. Bloomington: American Indian Studies Research Institute (2001).

A Dictionary of Skiri Pawnee. Coauthored with Lula Nora Pratt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press (in press)

The Roaming Scout Narratives: Reminiscences of a Skiri Pawnee Priest. 2 vols. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press (in preparation).