Professional and Biographical Information
academic and research interests
My research interests center on a history of representations of and by Native peoples from the Americas, and in particular concern the turn of the twentieth century moment. My first book, "Indigenous Intellectuals: Sovereignty, Citizenship, and the American Imagination, 1880-1930," (Cambridge University Press) examines the cultural production of four prominent Indian intellectuals: Charles Eastman, Carlos Montezuma, Gertrude Bonnin, and Luther Standing Bear within the shifting social and political milieu of the early twentieth century. Using collective cultural biography as my analytical framework, I argue that these figures were integral to the shaping of debates concerning citizenship and race within American society during the early twentieth century. I identify this cohort as part of a wider network of Indian people whose work as writers, activists, and performers demand a re-imagining of American history. For instance, in looking at Charles Eastman as a public face for Indian people, I demonstrate how he successfully navigated circuits of power made possible by academia, the literary marketplace, and the federal government’s Indian Service. I use those insights to argue that Eastman’s story gives us access to a critical historical period in which Indian people became central in influencing both culture and politics in the United States. Building similar arguments across four individuals and the networks in which they were enmeshed, I am able to illustrate the depth and importance of Indian cultural production during this period.
My second book-length project is tentatively titled: "Natives in Transit: Indian Entertainment, Urban Life, and Activism, 1930-1970." This project considers how from the earliest days of cinema in the United States to more recent works such as Walt Disney’s “Lone Ranger and Tonto”(2013), filmmakers have attempted to represent America through stories of western conquest and development, which has depended upon Native American actors. In a similar fashion, Native people have been utilized, in imagery and as actual guides, in marketing campaigns to draw tourists to the magic and beauty of the Southwest. My research asks: How did Indian people themselves participate in shaping these different cultural representations? How too did the genre of the western shift over time, from the first “blockbusters” of the 1930s directed by Cecil B. DeMille and John Ford to the more “revisionist” films of the 1970s? And how did the lives that Native actors led off-screen similarly reflect shifts in American cultural attitudes pertaining to the West and ideologies regarding America’s “manifest destiny,” as well as changes in how identities might be racialized and politicized? These questions require looking at cultural representations of and by Indian people alongside the labor and political histories that supported their employment and necessitated their participation as workers and activists.
With support from the Mellon Foundation's "New Directions" fellowship I have been able to study the language of my ancestors: Dakhota Iapi. While studying Dakodia I am working on producing new translations of rare archival newspapers, such as "Iapi Oaye" in collaboration with leading Dakota language experts, knowledge keepers, and teachers. Together we aim to provide new insights into the events recorded in this indigenous language newspaper, published in the United States from 1871 to 1939. Moreover, our translation work will help in the preservation and revitalization of the Dakota language. What we learn will be public widely accessible through an interactive story-telling website using the open-source tool twine favored by many Indigenous videogame developers.
My current projects are driven both by archival research and questions related to the production of knowledge by academic fields in the context of their origins, as well as how we might use this knowledge today to rethink the category of "Indian" within American society and culture. Moreover, I aim to highlight the critical necessity of studying American Indian peoples' past and present within U.S. history to not only complicate what we think we know but to challenge pervasive narratives that have sought to marginalize or diminish contributions by Indigenous peoples and cultures to the modern world.
Before I was an author and a researcher, I was a teacher. After receiving a master’s degree from Teachers College at Columbia University, I gained valuable experience as a high school history teacher in New York City. I have also taught a number courses dealing with issues and themes concerning race, politics, and power at the University of Michigan and at Williams College. Now at Amherst, I am excited to be teaching “Rethinking Pocahontas: An Introduction to Native American Studies.” In this course, we explore the major debates, themes, and issues that define the field of Native American Studies. I am also happy to have collaborated with staff and faculty who work at or are affiliated with the Writing Center while teaching my writing intensive course: “Writing Ourselves into Existence: Politics, Culture, and Rhetoric” and my first-year seminar, with Mike Kelly, titled "Archival Explorations: Becoming a part of Amherst College History." With the new Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Collection of Native American Literature at the College I have designed and taught an upper-level seminar called "A History of the Native Book," which enables students to work very closely with this extraordinary collection. In addition, I have taught “Red/Black Literature: At the Crossroads of Native American and African American Literary Histories” and co-taught with Prof. Lisa Brooks "When Corn Mother meets King Corn: Cultural Studies of the Americas." One of my newer courses, mounted for the first time during the Spring of 2020, is "Native Futures: Understanding Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Sovereignty," which engages students in Indigenous pedagogies, theories, and histories with an eye towards the possible futures we might one day inhabit.
All of my courses draw on my training in American Studies and enable students to work with tools used by historians and literary scholars as well as an array of interdisciplinary approaches stemming from various ethnic studies fields. I structure my courses to reflect my pedagogical view of a constructivist classroom, where the students and I work together to establish ground rules for discussion and participation. Students learn to draw on their prior knowledge and create interrogative and engaging analytical questions based upon assigned readings. With my guidance, the students themselves often lead many of our discussions.
awards and honors
the Mellon Foundation's Faculty Leadership Development Program, Five Colleges Inc. (2022-2023)
Editor, SAIL (Studies in American Indian Literatures) Journal (October 1, 2022-January 2027)
Faculty of Color Working Group, Mellon Mentor (2021-2023)
the Mellon Foundation's New Directions Fellowship Award (2021-2024)
Faculty co-convener of Five Colleges Native American and Indigenous Studies "At the Crossroads" Mellon Grant (2020-2021)
Elected to NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) Council (2020-2023)
Jan Cohn Fellowship and Lecture in American Studies awarded by Trinity College (2020)
Frederick C. Luebke Award for Outstanding Regional Scholarship for “Who Was Henry Standing Bear? Remembering Lakota Activism from the Early Twentieth Century,” best article published in the Great Plains Quarterly (2017)
Westerners Fellowship, Autry National Center and Library, Los Angeles, CA (Summer 2014)
Project in Innovative Curriculum and Teaching (PICT) course development award for "Archival Explorations: Becoming a Part of College History" (co-taught with Mike Kelly, Head of Archives and Special Collections), Amherst college (Summer 2014)
Mellon Faculty Seminar, facilitated by Austin Sarat, Amherst College (Spring 2014)
Teagle Advanced Writing Seminar pedagogical working group (2013-2014)
Faculty Seminar on "Comparison" sponsored by the Oakley Center for the Humanities, Williams College (2012-2013)
Amherst College Faculty Writing Seminar, Fall 2012
Gaius Charles Bolin Fellowship, American Studies Program, Williams College (2010-2012)
Rackham Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan (Spring/Summer 2011)
Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation Seminar in the Humanities, University of Michigan (May/June 2010)
Rackham Research Partnership Grant, University of Michigan (2010)
Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society (Inducted in 2010)
Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant Award (Fall 2009)
Program in American Culture Research Travel Award (Fall 2009)
GROCS (Grant Research Opportunities – Collaborative Spaces) Award for: “Digitizing Knowledge: Exploring Archival Collections in Virtual Spaces,” University of Michigan (Winter 2009)
Frances C. Allen Fellowship, the Newberry Library of Chicago (Summer 2007)
American Culture Program Fellowship, University of Michigan (2006-2011)
Calderwood Fellow: the Calderwood Writing Initiative at the Boston Athenaeum (2006)
Dartmouth College Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Scholarship Award (2004-2005)
Book Manuscript: Indigenous Intellectuals: Sovereignty, Citizenship, and the American Imagination, 1880-1930. Cambridge University Press, Studies in North American Indian History Series (2015) Series Editors: Ned Blackhawk, Frederick Hoxie, Tiya Miles, and Neal Salisbury.
"This series is designed to exemplify new approaches to the Native American past. In recent years scholars have begun to appreciate the extent to which Indians, whose cultural roots extended back for thousands of years, shaped the North American landscape as encountered by successive waves of immigrants. In addition, because Native Americans continually adapted their cultural traditions to the realities of the Euro-American presence, their history adds a thread of non-Western experience to the tapestry of American culture. Cambridge Studies in North American Indian History brings outstanding examples of this new scholarship to a broad audience. Books in the series link Native Americans to broad themes in American history and place the Indian experience in the context of social and economic change over time."
"Warrior Women: Recovering Indigenous Visions across Film and Activism," JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Vol. 60, No. 2 (Winter 2021), pp. 169-174
“Hollywood’s Indian: A Cultural History of Native American Actors,” Los Angeles Corral of the Westerners Brand Book #23: Life, Leisure, and Entertainment in the Old West, Joseph Cavallo, Editor (January 2020)
“Charles Eastman’s ‘School of the Woods’: Re-creation related to Childhood, Race, Gender, and Nation at Camp Oahe,” American Quarterly, Issue No. 70.1, Johns Hopkins Press (March 2018) Peer Reviewed
“Who was Henry Standing Bear? Remembering Lakota Activism from the Early Twentieth Century,” Great Plains Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 3, University of Nebraska Press (Summer 2017) Peer Reviewed.
“William Jones: Indian, Anthropologist, Murder Victim” for Indigenous Visions: Rediscovering the World of Franz Boas edited by Ned Blackhawk and Isaiah Wilner. (Yale University Press, 2018) Peer Reviewed
Book chapters: “Carlisle Indian Industrial School” and “Society of American Indians” in 50 Events That Shaped American Indian History: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic, edited by Donna Martinez and Jennifer Williams, eds. (Greenwood Press, 2016).
“Red/Black Literature” in The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literatures edited by Daniel Heath Justice and James H. Cox, and co-authored with Tiya Miles (2014)
Review of American Indians and the American Imaginary: Cultural Representation across the Centuries by Pauline Turner Strong, Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal (NAIS) published by the University of Minnesota Press (Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall 2015)
Review of The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism, by Jodi A. Byrd, Western Historical Quarterly published by Utah State University. (Spring 2013)
Review of The Art of Americanization at the Carlisle Indian School, by Hayes Peter Mauro, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies (Winter 2013)
“Turn of the Century Indian Intellectualism: Language and Literacy in Simon Pokagon’s Queen of the Woods” in O-gi-maw-kwe Mit-i-gwa-ki (Queen of the Woods) by Simon Pokagon, with a foreword by Philip J. Deloria, and essays by John N. Low, Margaret Noori, and Kiara M. Vigil. American Indian Studies Series, edited by Gordon Henry (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, March 2011)
Author of art exhibit labels for: “Don’t Fence U.S. In: Crossing Boundaries in American Art” (April 7, 2011-June 12, 2012) and “Label Talk: 2011 Art of the Ancient World” (March 12, 2011 – July 13, 2011), Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA
Review of Restoring the Chain of Friendship: British Policy and the Indians of the Great Lakes, 1783-1815, by Timothy Willig, The Michigan Historical Review published by Central Michigan University Press (May 2011)
Webpage: “Lesbians Between the World Wars” from www.OutHistory.org copyright 2008. This website grew out of a project for a graduate course taught by Esther Newton at the University of Michigan. (Fall of 2006)