Category: American Indian Studies
AIS@UA Alumni Highlight – A Conversation with Michelle Hale
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, Professor and Head of the Department of American Indian Studies (AIS) at the University of Arizona, interviews former AIS M.A. and Ph.D. student, Michelle Hale (Dine’), now an Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University (ASU). The interview covers a range of topics including teaching experiences at UA and ASU, federal Indian policies, work among tribal nations, and the Navajo Local Governance Act. The interview was conducted on June 9, 2020 via Zoom.
For more information about the Department of American Indian Studies at UA, visit: WWW.AIS.ARIZONA.EDU
AIS@UA Alumni Highlight – A Conversation with Michael Lerma
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, Professor and Head of the Department of American Indian Studies (AIS) at the University of Arizona, interviews former AIS Ph.D. student, Michael Lerma, now Dean of the School of Business and Social Science at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona.
The interview covers a range of topics including Navajo political philosophies of governance, the role of family and mentors in one’s education and career pursuits, graduate studies in AIS at UA, and Indigenous water rights and COVID-19.
The interview was conducted on May 26, 2020.
For more information about the Department of American Indian Studies at UA, please visit: www.ais.arizona.edu
Making a run for the desert
I am excited to announce that I will be leaving the University of Illinois soon to begin a new appointment as Professor and Head of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona!
After 13 years at the UofI, I am finally making my way back to the Southwest and closer to family and the larger Hopi community.
I will be leaving wonderful colleagues and friends in the American Indian Studies Program and the Department of History, terrific students, and a very supportive College and campus administration.
But I will be joining a highly respected and established AIS department, a community of outstanding faculty and students, and a university (and program) that I have always wanted to work at.
Needless to say, I am thrilled to be making this run for the desert and taking part (once again) in the second wave of Hopi migration.
Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American
Today the University Press of Kansas officially launched my book Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American (CultureAmerica series).
I am grateful for the support of so many people over the years who have encouraged me as I completed this project. I thank my family and friends, past and current students, colleagues at the University of Illinois, and numerous scholars here in the United States and abroad. I also thank the wonderful staff at the press, and of course, readers of this blog!
Last week, Craig Chamberlin of the University of Illinois News Bureau published a story about the book. You can access the story here. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Hopi Runners, you can do so through Amazon or the publisher’s website.
Below is an excerpt from the book’s Introduction titled “To the Fence and Back.” The excerpt comes from a section of the Introduction where I describe Hopi runners who competed at federal off-reservation Indian boarding schools:
While Hopis participated in several sports, including basketball, football, and even boxing, their greatest success came as members of track and cross-country teams. Sports at off-reservation schools provided Native athletes opportunities that did not exist for them on their reservations. When Hopis joined cross-country teams at Sherman Institute, or the Indian school at Carlisle, they experienced for the first time different regions of the country, life in modern cities, and a new way of running footraces. And Hopis used these opportunities to learn and interact with people from other parts of the United States and the world. While competing in marathons, Hopis ran with runners from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Japan, and although from vastly different cultures, they spoke a common – and perhaps universal – language of competitive running.
Having come from a society that valued long-distance running for ceremonial and practical purposes, Hopi youth transferred this cultural mindset with with them when they entered these faraway schools. Hopi runners who competed at Indian schools had come from a tribe of racers. While none of these athletes needed to be taught the essence of long-distance running, coaches nevertheless trained them in modern running techniques and rules to compete effectively in American track and cross-country events. The dirt trails on the reservation did not resemble the paved roads or clay tracks used in many American running competitions. And so, in their first year on a school’s cross-country team, Hopis learned about running in different locations, climates, and elevations. And they had to develop mental and physical strategies for running in cities, on mountain roads, or in front of thousands of cheering spectators in a stadium.
When Hopis ran on trails back home, they did so in a relatively quiet and peaceful environment, far from the sounds of locomotives arriving and departing towns such as Winslow. Running on or near the mesas, Hopis became attuned with their bodies and surroundings, becoming one with their environment. They listened to their own breathing, the sound of their feet tapping the trail as they danced on Mother Earth. They felt the rhythmic pounding of their heart telling them to adjust or steady their pace. And they listened to birds singing and the sound of the wind cutting through the canyons. And often they ran alone, experiencing physical ailments that all distance runners endure. “He was alone and running on,” Kiowa poet N. Scott Momaday writes of a Jemez Pueblo runner named Abel. “All of his being was concentrated in the sheer motion of running on, and he was past caring about pain.” In the high desert of Arizona, Hopi runners also beheld beautiful landscapes , greeted majestic sunrises and sunsets, and had unobstructed views for miles in all directions. Running with no distractions from the outside world, Hopis ran with “good hearts,” prayed silently for the well-being of their people, and sang songs to the katsina spirits to entice the rain clouds to follow them home to their villages.
However, the tranquil environment that encompassed the trails back home did not reflect the fast pace and at times chaotic life in large modern American cities…
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American (University Press of Kansas, 2018), 8, 9, 10.
My foreword to Kevin Whalen’s Native Students at Work: American Indian Labor and Sherman Institute’s Outing Program, 1900-1945
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Six years ago, I received an email from my former graduate advisor Clifford Trafzer about a student named Kevin Whalen, who was conducting research on Sherman Institute, an off-reservation Indian boarding school in Riverside, California. Although Cliff had written to me about his students in the past, his enthusiasm for this student, coupled with my interest in Sherman, caused me to take special notice of Kevin and his work. At the time of Cliff’s email, he and I were putting together an edited collection on Sherman with Oregon State University Press, and he wanted me to consider including Kevin’s essay in our book, a chapter he had written entitled “Labored Learning.”
In the academy it is common for established scholars to “guard turf” and to be critical of others who do work in their area of research. All junior faculty experience this to some degree, and even I allowed this mentality to influence my initial thoughts about Kevin. Who was this “star,” as Cliff described him, and what more could he possibly add to what I had already done? While these were my original reactions to Cliff’s description of Kevin, my opinion of him quickly changed once I began reading his essay. It took only a few pages into his chapter for me to realize that his work was too good, and his writing too polished, for me to deny that there was something unique and special about him and his project.
In the chapter that Kevin wrote for our collection, he explained that beginning in the early 1900s, officials at Sherman sent Native students off-campus to work as domestic servants, ranch hands, and many other occupations. He noted how school superintendents and local farmers and ranchers used the agricultural industry of Southern California to further deeply held U.S. government assimilation goals and to fill the region’s labor needs. And he explored the reasons why Indian students agreed (and often requested) to work “beyond” the “school walls” at places such as the Fontana Ranch, and at the many citrus orchards in the greater Riverside area. Although I had written about Hopi students who participated in the school’s Outing Program in my book Education beyond the Mesas, Kevin took the conversation of Indian labor at Sherman to a different level. Even at this point, I could see that he was establishing himself as an authority on Sherman and Indian labor at off-reservation Indian boarding schools.
While Kevin and I share an interest in Sherman Institute and Indian boarding school histories in general, there are other areas in our career trajectories that we have in common. We both graduated from the same PhD program, and we were mentored and taught by the same faculty, including Cliff and Ojibwe historian Rebecca “Monte” Kugel. As graduate students at the University of California, Riverside, we learned the importance of working with Native communities, and not just writing about them. Our professors taught us the value of contributing something useful to Indian tribes, and they urged us to consider how our research could benefit Native communities.
In many ways, the education that we received in Native history at UC Riverside was a combination of the theoretical and the practical. Familiarity with archives and the process of honing skills needed to analyze documents was only part of our training. Cliff and Monte also encouraged us to leave the comforts of campus and interact with and work alongside Native people. Kevin certainly experienced this. As a graduate student, he regularly accompanied Cliff to community gatherings on and off Indian reservations in Southern California, including the Colorado River Indian Tribes. And he interviewed numerous individuals for his book, including the director of the Sherman Indian Museum, Lorene Sisquoc, and former Sherman student Galen Townsend, to name a few.
After Kevin completed his PhD from UC Riverside, he became my colleague at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and continued working on his book as a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow of American Indian Studies. At the time, the American Indian Studies Program was at the center of a major national and international controversy surrounding the university’s dehiring of the program’s new faculty member Steven Salaita. Although he had just arrived on campus, Kevin stood by my colleagues and me as we protested the university’s decision and demonstrated our commitment to shared governance and academic freedom. Nobody expected Kevin to join the fight, but he eagerly engaged in the protests, and soon it became clear to all that our struggle had also become his struggle.
While Kevin found himself in the middle of a highly politicized situation, and one that required huge amounts of time and energy from the program, he did not allow it to distract him from his major research project. In fact, nearly every time I walked into his office, he was revising some aspect of his book. Whether he was agonizing over external reader reports or adding new material to chapters, Kevin was always working. He gained valuable insights from faculty, including our director, Robert Warrior, and twice participated in writer workshops where colleagues and graduate students critiqued his work and offered suggestions on ways to improve it. During his yearlong fellowship at Illinois, Kevin and I also spent hours together—usually over a meal, coffee, or a craft beer—talking about his book. We had long conversations about the field of American Indian studies, the growing literature on Indian boarding school studies, and the important contributions that he was making with his scholarship.
The following book, then, has emerged from numerous spaces, and each of these spaces has influenced Native Students at Work in unique ways. They have all done their part to transform what started as a chapter of an edited collection into the present volume. Kevin will no doubt write other books. He may even one day write a second book on Sherman or some other aspect of Indian boarding schools. But for me, this book will always remain special. Not many scholars get an opportunity to help shepherd a project along from its infancy to publication. I did just that, and I remain grateful to Kevin for allowing me to accompany him on this journey.
Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowships in American Indian Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2014-2015
CHANCELLOR’S POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIPS IN
AMERICAN INDIAN STUDIES, 2014-2015
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign seeks two Postdoctoral Fellows for the 2014-2015 academic year. This fellowship program provides a stipend, a close working association with AIS faculty, and assistance in furthering the fellow’s development as a productive scholar. Applicants should have an ongoing research project that promises to make a notable contribution to American Indian and Indigenous Studies. While fellows will concentrate on their research, they may choose to teach one course in American Indian Studies. Furthermore, fellows are expected to participate in the intellectual community of the American Indian Studies Program. One of the positions may be renewable for a second year.
Stipend and Benefits: The Fellowship stipend for the 2014-2015 academic year is $42,000, including health benefits. An additional $5,000 will be provided for the fellow’s research, travel, and related expenses.
Minimum Qualifications: Ph.D. or equivalent terminal degree is required. Candidates must have completed all degree requirements by August 15, 2014. Preference will be given to those applicants who have finished their degrees in the past five years. The one-year fellowship appointment period is from August 16, 2014, to August 15, 2015.
To Apply: Create your candidate profile through the University of Illinois application login page at http://go.illinois.edu/AISPostDocFellowshipRegistration and upload your application materials:
Candidates should submit a letter of application to Jodi A. Byrd, Acting Director of American Indian Studies, providing a thorough description of the research project to be undertaken during the fellowship year, a curriculum vitae, two samples of their scholarly writing, and two letters of recommendation.
Applications received by January 24, 2014 will receive full consideration. The review process will continue until the fellowships are filled. For further information, contact Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, Chair, Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Committee, American Indian Studies: Email: email@example.com, Phone: (217) 265-9870, or visit the Program’s website at http://www.ais.illinois.edu.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is an Equal Opportunity Employer