Zepeda is a professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona and is well known for her efforts in the preservation of her native language and promotion literacy in it. She is the former director of the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Arizona. She is also known for her work as a consultant and advocate on behalf of a number of American indigenous languages. Her book A Papago Grammar is the standard textbook used to teach the Tohono O'odham language. She was a student of MIT linguistics professor Ken Hale.
Zepeda has worked with her tribe to improve literacy in both English and Tohono O'odham. In 1983 she developed A Papago Grammar from tapes of Native speakers because no textbook existed for the classes she taught. 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.
In 1999, Zepeda received a MacArthur Fellowship. She is the Poet Laureate of Tucson, Arizona. For several years, she continues to serve as editor for numerous journals and book series. In 2012, her book was banned by Tucson schools.
- When It Rains, Papago and Pima Poetry = Mat hekid o ju, 'O'odham Na-cegitodag (1982)
- A Papago Grammar (1983)
- Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (1995)
- Home Places: Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks (1995)
- Where Clouds Are Formed (2008)
- Jewed 'i-Hoi / Riding the Earth (2009)
- Dr. Ofelia Zepeda
- Native American Women. New York: Routledge. 2001. p. 343.
- Brenda Norrell (January 14, 2012). "Tucson schools bans books by Chicano and Native American authors". narcosphere. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- Interview with Ofelia Zepeda on Where Clouds are Formed by Christopher Nelson
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