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Our Team ~ nOnzAk'@bE    

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is comprised of well-educated and culturally-knowledgeable Indigenous tribal members: 

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Dr. Negiel Bigpond
Board President

Dr. Negiel Bigpond has been in ministry for over thirty years and has been both evangelist and pastor, evangelizing in over 143 native reservations and currently serves as Apostle of Morning Star Church of All Nations. He is an accomplished musician and singer and is also a certified drug and alcohol abuse counselor. Dr. Bigpond is a full-blood Euchee (Yuchi) Indian and a fourth generation minister of the gospel. He and his wife Jan have been married for 40 years and have 3 children, 2 sons-in-law, 1 daughter-in-law, and 6 grandchildren.

Dr. Bigpond has spent time in Washington D.C. to work with Senator Sam Brownback (ret.) of Kansas regarding H.J. RES. 46, which is a joint resolution of apology to Native peoples for ill-conceived policies by the U.S. government regarding Indian tribes. Because of his tireless work with this resolution, Charisma Magazine named him one of the ten most influential Christian leaders of 2006. He is also involved with Native America Justice Gate east of the Mississippi, which deals with land reconciliation in the eastern states. Dr. Bigpond has received various keys to cities and proclamations from governors and mayors from his work in the east. He is also on the boards of the several ministries and provides an apostolic covering for many ministers as a member of C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles.

Wanda S. Brese

Jiles Turning Heart
Board Member

Daniel Wildcat, PhD
Board Member

Jane Breckenridge
Board Member

Richard Ray Whitman
Advisory Board 

Dana Tiger
Advisory Board


Richard A Grounds, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Richard A. Grounds, Ph.D. has worked with Yuchi Elders to create new young speakers over the last 25 years.  After completing his Ph.D. in the History of Religions at Princeton Theological Seminary, he taught at St. Olaf College and in the Anthropology Department at the University of Tulsa.


Under his leadership the Yuchi Language Project was recognized as the Outstanding Host for 2017 by the Tula Global Alliance for working with numerous international visitors over the years sponsored by the U.S. State Department, including Uighurs, Taiwanese, Mongolians, Brazilians, Indonesians, among numerous others. 

Dr. Grounds has presented on Indigenous language issues at many universities and colleges.  He has promoted Indigenous language issues for many years, presenting at the American Academy of Religion in Toronto in 2002, sponsoring a resolution passed by the World Council of Churches in 2005 to support Indigenous language rights and calling for an International Year of Indigenous Languages while he was a member of the WCC Central Committee, serving as an invited presenter for the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2008, presenting a keynote for the U.S. Department of Education NAM Directors in Washington, D.C. (2012), and co-chairing  a panel on the U.N. International Year of Indigenous Languages at the Palais des Nations in Geneva for the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

He is currently the chair of the Global Indigenous Languages Caucus and served as the Expert for the North American Region at the Expert Meeting on Indigenous Languages held by the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2016.  He served as convener for the University of Pennsylvania conference, "Native American Languages in Crisis: Academia, Technology and Smaller Language Communities," as consultant for the Smithsonian's "Recovering Voices" Initiative, and as co-planner for the "National Native Language Revitalization Summit" in Washington, DC.  Dr. Grounds was the consistent voice calling for an International Year of Indigenous Languages since the beginning of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2002 which was declared by the U.N. General Assembly for 2019.  He presented at the U.N. International Year of Indigenous Languages International Conference, in Yakutsk, Russia in far east Siberia and participated in the 2020 planning meeting for the upcoming U.N. International Decade of Indigenous Languages in Mexico City.

Dr. Grounds' recent chapter on Yuchi language revitalization in the face of intellectual colonialism appears in Indigenous Languages and the Promise of Archives, (2021) from the University of Nebraska Press.   He has co-written with his daughter, “Yuchi: Family Language without A Language Family,” in Bringing Our Languages Home, ed. By Leanne Hinton (2013). Dr. Grounds received the Humanities in Education Award from the Oklahoma Humanities Council for 2013 and is active in Pickett Chapel, the local Yuchi Methodist church, and at Polecat Yuchi Ceremonial Ground.


h@lA (Halay) Turning Heart
Project Administrator

h@lA (Halay) Turning Heart is Project Administrator for the Yuchi Language Project. h@lA holds a Linguistics degree from Dartmouth College and attended the University of Auckland-New Zealand and Charles University in Prague. She has served her Yuchi people for over ten years as a language educator and established shtahaê Ô’wAdAnA Yuchi immersion school in 2018.  She has been learning to speak Yuchi from her elders since childhood and is now raising her three young children solely in the Yuchi language. She mentors other parents in decolonizing their home language and reclaiming Indigenous lifeways.


h@lA is the 2021 NDN Changemaker Fellow representing the Great Plains region, USA.  She has received other awards and fellowships such as the Richard D. Lombard Fellowship, Dartmouth Fellowship, Native Knowledge Award, and Citizen of the Year Award.  She is published in the field of language revitalization in Bringing Our Languages Home: Language Revitalization for Families (ed. Leanne Hinton, 2013), American Indian Women of Proud Nations (ed. Ulrike Wiethaus, et al, 2016) and Cultural Survival Quarterly (2005, 2011, 2019). She is featured in documentary films such as Language Healers (2013), Keep Talking (2018), and sôKAnAnô: We Are Still Here (2010).   


h@lA is a NABE Bilingual Education Ambassador and a keynote speaker at national convenings such as the Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium. She is contributor to Indigenous language exhibits at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City and at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. She was a youth delegate to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the World Council of Churches General Assembly in Brazil.  She served as a Living Letter to Australia and a board member for the General Commission on Religion and Race of the United Methodist Church. h@lA was a panelist at the Foro Social de las Americas en Guatemala. She is an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and a member of yUsûnûnû Yuchi Ceremonial Ground.

yUdjEha KAnAnô, yUdjEhalA nÔ'wAdA

We are Yuchi, we speak Yuchi 

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