Student Research - Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues

The projects listed below were funded by mini-grants from the Myers Center.

2023-24 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Sierra Edd, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Indigenous Translocal Belonging: Sound Aesthetics and Musicking"

My dissertation examines Indigenous music artists who reflect diverse Indigenous identity backgrounds, music genres, practices, and techniques. The artists for this study include Swinomish and Inupiat musician Katherine Paul who is known as Black Belt Eagle Scout, Diné music producer Kino Benally (DJ Béeso), Akwesasne Mohawk hip-hop artist Dio Ganhdih, and Diné-led jazz band Earth Surface People. I build from generative Ethnomusicology and Sound studies concepts in conjunction with my training in Native and Indigenous studies to highlight the political significance of listening, creating, and connecting through music. Scholarly discourses about Indigenous music throughout North America exist within power-ridden contexts, dominated by the settler state(s) which include policed and surveilled borders, tangible territories and, dominant cultural norms (Robinson 2020; Hochman 2014; Kheshti 2015). As a central intervention into such discourses, my analysis develops a concept of “Indigenous translocal belonging” to understand how Indigenous practices in music/sound indicate temporal and spatial functions across various sites of connection, collaboration, and listening. My analysis proceeds with two threads: first, I explore how Indigenous music kinships offer ways of unsettling liberal discourses of progress through reciprocal recognition and affirmative refusal of settler futurity. To do so, I address how technologies of recording, (re)mixing, and sampling in Indigenous music production are politicized within the context of ethnographic collection and encounter narratives. Second, I ask how linguistic and Indigenous vocality operates in music (eg., tribal slang, language vernaculars, trans-genre expression) as a mechanism of kinship and belonging for indigenous listeners and musicians.

Marlena Robbins, DrPH Student, Public Health "From Elders to Youth: A Multigenerational Study on Psychedelic Use Among Indigenous Communities in the San Francisco Bay Area"

The objective of this research is to explore the multigenerational perspectives of psilocybin mushrooms within urban Indigenous communities in the North and Southwest regions of the United States. The study aims to investigate the cultural, social, and psychological aspects associated with the use of psilocybin mushrooms in these communities. The hypothesis of this study is that within urban Indigenous communities, the use of psilocybin mushrooms is deeply rooted in cultural traditions and has multifaceted effects on individuals, families, and communities. The researchers anticipate that the perspectives on psilocybin mushrooms will differ across generations and that the study will uncover unique insights into their cultural significance and potential therapeutic benefits.This research is motivated by the need to understand the role of psilocybin mushrooms within urban Indigenous communities, particularly in the context of cultural preservation and mental health. Indigenous cultures have a long history of utilizing entheogenic plants, including psilocybin mushrooms, for spiritual and healing purposes. However, limited research has focused on the experiences and perspectives of urban Indigenous communities in relation to psilocybin use.

2022-23 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Sierra Hampton, PhD Student, Environmental Policy, Science, and Management, "Researching Food Sovereignty in the Chickasaw Nation"

I am using this project with my Tribe, the Chickasaw Nation, to expand scholarly analysis of challenges and opportunities for Indigenous communities strengthening food sovereignty, and to contribute to understanding of the relationship between agroecology and Indigenous science. Working alongside our Natural Resources, Horticulture, and Nutrition Services teams, I seek to understand our food system and bring people's ideas together from across the community, to reimagine what Chickasaws' food system and agriculture can entail, and inform broader understanding of what food sovereignty processes look like on the ground. During this project I will continue my research from the previous 14 months working in our native gardens, surveying pastures and farms, attending agricultural board meetings, visiting our farmer's markets, and helping with youth education about our foods and plants. I am using these ethnographic methods and semi-structured interviews to identify political, socio-economic, and environmental barriers to strengthening food sovereignty, and to see how Indigenous science and agroecology are being used by the community to navigate those challenges. My findings have practical application in the Chickasaw Nation to shape reports with department leads, that we can take to Tribal leadership to inform changes and bring us closer to a shared food system vision. Findings will also expand global scholarship on food sovereignty and food systems by building understanding of agroecology’s application in diverse communities, and of how Indigenous communities create, revive, and incorporate food knowledge in a settler colonial environment.

John Yunker, Undergraduate, Anthropology, "A Comparative Analysis of Archaeological Methods: Low Impact and High Impact Archaeology in Santa Cruz, CA"

California archaeology throughout the 20th century utilized high impact exploratory field methods, which prioritized excavating high numbers of large artefacts and ultimately resulted in the desecration of burials as well as other sacred indigenous remains. However, there has been a shift in California archaeology over the last two decades to a new low-impact methodology that combines advances in technology and collaboration with indigenous people. These methods aim to avoid disturbing sacred cultural remains, while maximizing the recovery of cultural resources providing new understandings of indigenous histories. This low-impact methodology is characterized by topographic mapping and geophysical surveys to gain understanding of a given site’s stratigraphy, without the need to unearth any soil as a first stage of research, followed by precise excavation taking place with the approval of local indigenous people. This low impact methodology also utilizes fine-grained soil analysis such as flotation and fine screening. Throughout this paper I aim to compare findings from the contemporary low-impact archaeological investigation of SCR-67 in Santa Cruz, California to an existing archaeological collection from an older high-impact excavation in the area provided by the California State Parks, Santa Cruz District Curation Center. I am particularly interested in the presence/absence of specific artefacts, including different plant and animal taxa that are related to food processing. The goal of this paper is to exemplify how low impact archaeology has the unique ability to shed light on cultural practices that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, while contributing to the de-colonization of the field of archaeology.

2021-22 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Ataya Cesspooch, PhD Student, Environmental Policy, Science, and Management, “Infrastructures of energy and making power on the Ute Reservation: oil and gas development, Indigenous sovereignty and the revitalization of Noohahpahgup”

The recent profusion of scholarship detailing Indigenous opposition to resource extraction has established Indigenous peoples as central to environmental justice issues around oil and gas development (OGD). Yet, there has been little research done with the numerous Indigenous communities who rely on this form of development for their livelihood. The Ute Indian Tribe has been leasing land on their 1.2-million-acre reservation in northeastern Utah for OGD since 1971. Revenue from leasing has lifted the Tribe out of poverty and provided necessary income for government function. However, the permitting process for a well on the reservation involves a tangled web of environmental approvals from four federal agencies whose decision-making processes do not include the Tribe. This is in direct contradiction to the Tribe’s own jurisdiction, making “the environment” a contested space and its protection deeply entangled with Indigenous sovereignty. Complicating this dynamic, elders in the community are some of the last fluent speakers of the Ute language and are particularly susceptible to impacts from OGD pollution. In recent years the reservation has experienced spikes in ground-level ozone far exceeding the levels determined unhealthy by the EPA. Ozone poses significant threats to the health of the community and of elder speakers and thus to the vitality of the language. Drawing from Ute language and epistemology, this work examines the complex and contradictory relationships between Indigenous sovereignty, OGD, environmental justice, and Indigenous language revitalization.

Anjika Pai, Undergraduate, Environmental Sciences, “Beyond Legal Standing: Rights of Nature as a Tool for Indigenous Sovereignty”

Ongoing environmental justice efforts highlight the need to revitalize Indigenous communities and natural bodies simultaneously (White 2018). The codification of such beliefs could take place through the creation and implementation of federal, state, or tribal laws recognizing Rights of Nature (Harris et al. 2017). Such laws could support local sovereignty movements, including the cultivation of Indigenous land sovereignty. By interviewing members of three tribal nations and associated activists, my research aims to understand the potential effects of Rights of Nature laws and discourses on Indigenous-led environmental protection efforts. Through this project, I expect to identify the challenges and successes of Indigenous Rights of Nature legislation.

Annalise Taylor, PhD Student, Environmental Policy, Science, and Management, “Amah Mutsun reciprocal restoration of coastal grasslands: studying the impacts of fire stewardship on the abundance and diversity of Mutsun cultural keystone plants.”

Amah Mutsun foodways and culture depend on reciprocal relationships with California’s coastal grasslands, which are increasingly endangered due in part to the disruption of cultural burning and stewardship. In this study, I am partnering with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to study the impact of long-term cultural burning on the abundance and diversity of cultural plants. I will systematically survey fourteen priority species identified by the Tribe at three adjacent grassland sites: one that has been burned every two years since the 1980s, one that recently burned in the CZU Wildfire, and one that has not burned in approximately 100 years. In addition to the ethnobotanical surveys, I will use high resolution drone imagery to analyze the spatial distribution and configurations of each cultural keystone species on this landscape. Lastly, I will use satellite imagery to compare how vegetation growth and recovery differ both over time and between the two types of fire. Our findings will guide the Tribe’s gathering and stewardship programs, including when and where to conduct cultural burns. As a federally unrecognized Tribe, the Amah Mutsun do not own land and do not receive any federal resources to continue their ancestors’ work of stewarding and caring for their traditional territory. This project and my PhD research broadly aim to support the Tribe’s ecological stewardship goals, which include the restoration of coastal grassland plant communities and relationships with cultural plants.

2020-21 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Lucy Gill, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, "Archaeology in service of Indigenous sovereignty: protection of sacred Ohlone shell mounds at Point Molate, Richmond, California"

On September 8, 2020, the City Council of Richmond, California voted to approve a development agreement to construct luxury condominiums and a commercial district at Point Molate, which will disturb four shell mounds identified as Tribal Cultural Resources (TCRs) by the Confederated Villages of Lisjan. I am collaborating with Corrina Gould, Tribal Chair of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan and founder of the Bay Area Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, to conduct noninvasive archaeological fieldwork and collections-based studies to support the Tribe’s efforts to protect these sacred sites. By demonstrating the intact, significant nature of these TCRs, I hope to provide my Lisjan partners with sufficient archaeological evidence for legally protecting these sacred sites and ensuring continued access for Tribe members. In a similar case, the Lisjan have been successful in protecting the West Berkeley Shellmound, but property owners are appealing the decision that halted development. As the case continues, these archaeological methods may also become relevant there. This project will foster collaboration between the University of California, Berkeley and the Lisjan—one of the tribes upon whose unceded ancestral land the university sits—which will hopefully lead to more substantive and sustained community-based work of this kind. It will also further the development of Indigenous approaches to archaeology in a discipline that has caused great harm to Native peoples. Most importantly, it will support Indigenous movements for sovereignty in a region where, due to the genocide of missionization, many tribes lack state and federal recognition and a land base.

Danny Sosa Aguilar, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, "People, Piedras, and Pictographs: Collaborative Archaeology atop the Abiquiu Mesa"

The community of the Merced del Pueblo de Abiquiú in northern New Mexico is surrounded by a rich deep history.  Due to their strong connections to their heritage and identity to their land grant and surrounding landscape, Abiquiuseños requested an examination of the material culture found atop one of their mesas known as the Abiquiú Mesa.  This project examines community-partnered questions pertaining to a deep cultural history that includes: what was the Abiquiú Mesa; what material culture is present at the site; how old is the site; who occupied it, and what ties does the Abiquiu Mesa have with other ancestral Pueblo sites.  This research addresses these questions archaeologically and stems from a larger ongoing project called the Berkeley-Abiquiú Collaborative Archaeology Project (BACA).  The research goals of the BACA project is to support the Merced del Pueblo de Abiquiú in their struggle to obtain federal recognition, reassert water rights, and reclaim lost ancestral lands by providing archaeological evidence of historical ties to material culture and surrounding areas.  This research does not intend to resolve all these issues but operates in conversation with them by providing archaeological evidence of pre-contact occupation.  A decolonizing praxis framed by community-accountable archaeology opens a historical interpretation of regional interactions that Abiquiuseños partook in and how their landscape narratives changed through time. This knowledge can then be deployed by the community to identify material culture and areas of interest within the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests as part of Abiquiú ancestral pueblo history.

Jesse (Jesus) Nazario, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "From the Alto Balsas to the Long Point: Diasporic Nahua Political Formations Beyond Mexican-U.S. Borders"

2019-20 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Ruth Rouvier, PhD Candidate, Linguistics, "Yurok Language Revitalization: Affective Stance and Language Learning"

My research examines how adult second language learners’ attitudes and emotions, or their affective stance, influence language learning within an indigenous language revitalization and reclamation (LRR) context. To investigate this question, I am conducting research within the Yurok LRR community. My research participants are current and former Yurok language learners and teachers, all of whom have learned the language as teen or adults. Through the collection and analysis of a series of ethnographic interviews with each individual, I am exploring how learners’ motivations, language beliefs, and emotions impact their engagement with the language learning experience. While affective stance is a prominent area of research and concern for the teaching of English and other major world languages of foreign or second languages, there is a notable absence of any research within indigenous communities outside of a European minoritized language context, and this project will help to fill that gap. Because the circumstances and contexts of language attrition, loss, and learning, are quite different in indigenous communities than for major word languages, this research will make a significant contribution to the field by allowing for a more well-informed theoretical understanding of the topic. It will also lead to improved language education practices within indigenous language revitalization. A better understanding of exactly how learners’ conscious and unconscious attitudes and emotions influence their learning behavior and practices has the potential to support LRR efforts everywhere. It will support improved pedagogical models, teacher training, and classroom practices, and guide engagement with learners and their communities outside of the classroom.

Desiree Valadares, PhD Candidate, Architecture, "The Reparative Logics of World War II Confinement Camp Preservation: British Columbia, Hawaiʻi and Alaska in Context”

My research focuses on the protection of tangible and intangible World War II heritage and addresses the conservation of ruins and landscapes in Alaska, Hawaiʻi, and British Columbia. This configuration aims to rethink the complex racialized dynamics of World War II confinement in addition to subsequent redress and preservation of these transpacific sites outside of the dominant narrative in the contiguous Lower 48 states. I trace how sites of confinement are recovered, remembered and federally recognized amidst ongoing Indigenous land claim negotiations.  Given my interest in land dispossession, cultural property law, indigenous-Asian settler relations and commemoration/memory, I engage in participatory action research (onsite field archeology, architectural documentation and legal geography) at recently designated World War II heritage sites located on unceded land (British Columbia), on contested land (Southeast Alaska) and on occupied land (Hawaiʻi).  I combine this approach with archival research and theoretical frameworks such as “Asian settler colonialism” to show how Asian North Americans (Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians) negotiate claims to space, national belonging and official memory through lobbying for the federal recognition of these sites of national trauma.  I offer a nuanced reading, a critical heritage study, to show how federal land designation of these historic sites further complicates and subsumes longstanding claims for the restitution of land by Native Hawaiians (kānaka ʻōiwi), Alaska Native or Unangax̂/Aleut people and Coast Salish Stó:lō peoples in southwest British Columbia.

2017-18 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Tasha Hauff, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Lakȟótiyapi kiŋ uŋglúkinipi! We revitalize our Lakota: A look at indigenous sovereignty through indigenous language revitalization"

Native American sovereignty is a concept that scholars and activists often invoke, discuss, debate, or even reject. While some scholars understand Native sovereignty in mainly political or jurisdictional terms, others understand sovereignty in ways that are grounded in Native existence, culture and worldview. Importantly, proponents of "cultural sovereignty" cite indigenous language, and the worldviews embedded within indigenous language, as a key source of Native sovereignty. My dissertation project explores the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's movement to revitalize their indigenous language. Using ethnography, this study examines why and how particular decisions about language revitalization are made in order to gain a better understanding of the limits and possibilities of certain language revitalization methods, as well as new insight into the complexities of Native sovereignty in today's so-called period of "tribal self-determination." This research will therefore help scholars better understand the intersections of Native sovereignty and Native language revitalization, and how today's indigenous language revitalization movements fit into larger narratives of anti-colonial activism.

Bayley Marquez, PhD Candidate, Education - Social and Cultural Studies, "Settler Pedagogy: Schooling in Indian Country, the Black South, and Colonial Hawaii, 1840-1923

This project examines the interconnected histories of Indigenous and Black education through a case study of the Hampton Institute and its Indian program during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The Hampton Institute, which was founded as a Black industrial school in the post reconstruction south in 1868 by Samuel Armstrong, later opened the Hampton Indian program in 1877 as an offshoot of the school dedicated to educating Native Americans using similar curriculum to that being offered to African Americans. The Hampton Indian program employed Colonel Richard Pratt who later went on to found Carlisle Indian school in 1879, the first of many Indian Boarding schools. This project examines the ways white reformers, such as Richard Pratt and Samuel Armstrong, conceptualized education for African Americans, American Indians, and Hawaiians in relation to each other and how their pedagogical and curricular models travelled across these different geographic locations: Hawaii, the Black South, and Indian country. The goal of this analysis is to place these educational experiences in counterpoint with each other in order to think about the modern day implications of this intertwined educational history.

Jen Smith, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Ordering Space, Spatializing Order: Land and Race in Edward Curtis' Photography of the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition"

In 1899, the Harriman Alaska Expedition (HAE) traveled around the coast of Alaska and carried some of the nation's most illustrious academics on board, including Edward Curtis and John Muir. The HAE team produced 12 volumes of data, discovered 13 genera and nearly 600 species, named and mapped several glaciers, and captured over 5,000 photographs. Edward Curtis who was the official photographer of the journey, is most famous for his later work The North American Indian (NAI), which is constituted by 20 volumes of ethnological data and photographs of over 80 Native American groups west of the Mississippi. Unlike the NAI, photographs from the HAE are mostly of landscapes in teh form of glaciers, mountain ranges, and rivers. The HAE represents some of Curtis' earliest work, and I contend that it is crucial to understanding his legacy, which has shaped the popular understandings of Native American peoples, legal relationships between Native peoples and state powers, and early anthropological thought. I show that investigating the spatial aspects of Edward Curtis' work is integral to critically analyzing his larger body of work. Furthermore, using Alaska as a rubric challenges the dominant modes of Native American Studies, in which Alaska remains at the periphery.

Leslie Hutchins, Undergraduate, Environmental Science and Policy Management, "Using Traditional Hawaiian Knowledge to Build a New Resource Management Paradigm"

Polynesians arrived in the Hawaiian Islands millennia ago and developed systems of resource management that provided an abundance of resources that sustained their high population densities while maintaining environmental health. Underlying the development of these systems were cultural values implicit with observation, reciprocity, care, and love. However, after countless years of colonization and environmental change, current generations of Hawaiians find themselves in a starkly different environmental, cultural, and socio-economic climate. Native Hawaiians face high rates of poverty and dismal health statistics. Moreover, innovative place-based systems of agriculture have given way to imported foods and agro-chemical companies. Nevertheless, not all has been lost; a new generation of farmers are beginning to pick up the digging sticks left by their ancestors, realizing and innovating resource management techniques that are ameliorating the problems impacting the environment and their communities. My project asks: What are the core principles that Native Hawaiians utilize to balance the needs of their society while maintaining the natural integrity of their surrounding landcape? And what specific lessons from their Hawaiian ancestors are current generations utilizing in order to build new resource management systems.

2016-17 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Tria Wakpa Blu, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Fixing, Eclipsing, and Liberating the Body: Education and Incarceration at the Rosebud Reservation"

Today Native educational institutions operate in the shadow of Indian boarding schools, which emerged in the late 19th century to assimilate Native youth and portrayed Native practices as deviant to justify their projects. What are the connections between education and incarceration on the Rosebud Reservation? How have Lakota people navigated educational institutions that sought to discipline Native youth for the purposes of liberation, and conversely, how have Lakota people designed carceral institutions for rehabilitation? To answer these questions I will conduct participant observation and interviews with incarcerated Native youth at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi. My project contributes to the Lakota community by uncovering how colonization has relied on the dehumanization of Lakota people as an attempt to justify its projects by documenting how Lakota people have responded to challenges to their physical and cultural survival. 

Hector Callejas, PhD Student, Ethnic Studies, "Re-examining Indigenous Agency at the United Nations"

While most scholarship on the transnational indigenous movement represents the United Nations (UN) as a crucial source of indigenous agency within the movement, this representation overlooks the complex and sometimes contradictory relationship between indigenous communities and the UN within the context of the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system.  This ethnography will re-examine the meaning of indigenous agency at the UN by asking the following questions: Why do indigenous activists participate in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)? How does the UN shape indigenous activism in the UNPFII? To what extent can indigenous activists successfully navigate the UN in order to achieve their political goals in the UNPFII without changing their desired outcomes for their local communities? This ethnography is part of a broader dissertation project that comparatively studies the relationship between the international community and indigenous communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, and the United States within the world-system context.

Sara Chase, PhD Student, Education: Language, Literacy and Culture, "Hupa Language Immersion Model"

For the past few decades the rate of new fluent speakers of the Hupa language, or Natini:xwe Mixine:whe, has laid stagnant at zero. Despite language classes being taught in the school system and in small doses in the summer, these efforts are simply not enough to create new speakers. This project aims to build the foundation for a Hupa Language Immersion Summer camp to be conducted on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. Similar camps and programs have been done around the country in other indigenous communities and have shown amazing results. Research questions for this project will be: What do these other models look like? How are they run? What types of activities are done? And how can these be tailored specifically to the Hoopa Valley context?  I will observe their programs as well as interview the organizers and facilitators of each program.  I will also work directly with fluent first language speakers of the Hupa language who will assist with designing the activities and instruction.

2015-16 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Tria Wakpa Blu, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Education and Incarceration for Lakota Youth on the Rosebud Reservation, 1886-Present"

My dissertation examines culturally relevant activities for school-aged children from the founding of St. Francis Mission School on the Rosebud Reservation, located in South Dakota, to the present day. My research investigates the relationships between colonial education paradigms at St. Francis and the culturally relevant curricula at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi, the tribally run juvenile detention facility founded in 2005. I demonstrate how the mission school and the tribally run juvenile hall have articulated almost identical goals: to socialize productive citizens of high character through educational programming. The dissertation considers how curricula linked with assimilation and subordination have come to seem "natural" or "common sense," even to those who were victimized by these models. At the same time, this dissertation surfaces how the Lakota administrators, educators, artists, and community leaders have been able to move beyond such programming to innovate and/or retraditionalize tribal programs for youth. I focus on extracurricular programming, because this is the realm in which activities associated with Indianness and culturally relevant curricula have existed at both St. Francis and Wanbli Wiconi Tipi. Centering my research on the Rosebud Reservation is important given the ways that Lakota communities have historically been implicated in American policies regarding education and criminal legislation. Using archives, oral histories, interviews, curricula, short films, and contemporary newspaper articles as primary sources, this dissertation creates a historical and contemporary narrative that examines the trajectory of education and incarceration on the Rosebud Reservation.

Caitlin Keliiaa, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Unsettling Domesticity: Native Women Disrupting Assimilation Policy in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1926-1946

My research project examines Native women domestic service workers in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1926-1946. Each year, the Bay Area Outing Program recruited hundreds of Native women from western U.S. boarding schools and placed them in wealthy white family homes to work as maids. In exchange for room and board,  young Native women--as young as fourteen--cooked, cleaned, and lived in the private, unmonitored homes of their employers. My project interrogates domesticity as a specific federal assimilation strategy meant to disrupt and reshape Native women's roles and power while inscribing western notions of gender. Theoretically, I use a settler colonial lens to better assert how this government project perpetuated its goal of assimilation--to supplant Native values and traditions with western substitutes.

Carolyn Kraus, UCB-UCSF Joint Medical Program -- Masters in Health and Medical Sciences, "Evaluation of the Fresno and Oakland Gathering of Native Americans Intervention Effectiveness"

The health disparties in Indian Country, coupled with the high prevalence of violence and substance abuse in urban Native American communities, both exacerbate illness and disconnect Native youth from their communities and culture. In partnership with the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, I am completing a longitudinal analysis on the effectiveness of a health intervention called the Gathering of Native Americans (GONA) using both quantitative and qualitative methods. This intervention is designed to build self-efficacy and cultural awareness amongst Native American adolescent participants. The GONA intervention and research collection is a continuing project coordinated by the Native American Health Center in Oakland and the Fresno American Indian Health Project. The previously collected data focuses on strength-based measures of wellness as opposed to health deficits and problems in the communities. This project is led by Native American Youth Councils at Fresno and Oakland as well as staff from both health centers. Their leadership and guidance of this research project distinctly follows a community-based research model.

Sheelah Bearfoot, Undergraduate, Environmental Science and Policy Management/Genetics and Plant Biology, "Klamath Basin Food Store Survey"

The Klamath Basin Food System Assessment will document the barriers and opportunities to creating a more sustainable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food system within the Yurok, Karuk, and Klamath Tribes' communities. It will evaluate the historical and current food system by documenting all of the food resources that exist in the community, collecting existing socioeconomic, demographic, and health data, and conducting focus groups and key informant interviews with community members. The final product will be a report which describes the state of the food system in the context of Tribal histories, and identifies community-generated solutions for improving the food system. I am currently a research assistant for the Klamath Basin Food System Assessment tasked with conducting a series of food store surveys. The data I collect will contribute to the overall assessment.

Meia Matsuda, Undergraduate, Sustainable Environmental Design/City and Regional Planning, "Klamath Basin Food System Assessment: School and Community Gardens"

I will conduct an evaluation of community gardens, specifically, school gardens, that serve the Yurok, Karuk, and Klamath Tribes' communities. Data will be collected on the locations of all community gardens and will be converted into a map. My work on the community and school gardens will contribute to the Klamath Basin Food System Assessment research project, which looks at the barrier and opportunities to creating a more sustainable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food system within the Yurok, Karuk, and Klamath Tribes' communities. I am currently a research assistant for the Food System Assessment and am working with a team of researchers to evaluate the historical and current food system by documenting all of the food resources that exist in the community, collecting existing socioeconomic, demographic, and health data, and conducting focus groups and key informant interviews with community members. The final product will be a report which describes the state of the food system in the context of Tribal histories, and identifies community-generated solutions for improving the food system.  

2013-14 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Tria Andrews, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, “Education on the Reservation: Extracurricular and Culturally-Relevant Programing, 1886 to the Present Day”

My dissertation examines educational activities for Lakota youth on Rosebud Indian Reservation from the founding of St. Francis Mission School to the present day. My research compares colonial education paradigms at St. Francis with the culturally-relevant curricula at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi, the tribally-run juvenile detention facility. The mission school and tribally-run juvenile hall have articulated almost identical goals: to produce productive citizens of high character. I focus on extracurricular curricula programing because this is the realm in which activities associated with Indianness and culturally-relevant curricula have existed at both institutions. This project considers how curricula linked with assimilation and subordination have come to seem “natural” or “common sense,” even to those who were victimized by these models. Conversely, this dissertation asks how  Lakota thinkers have been able to move beyond such programming to innovate and/or retraditionalize tribal programs for youth.

Molly Hales, PhD Student, Medical Anthropology, "Healthy Families: Re‐imagining Self‐determination for Alaska Natives"

In the Yukon-Kuskokwim of southwestern Alaska, the regional tribal nonprofit has begun offering a program called Healthy Families that uses cultural knowledge gathered from Yup’ik elders to support native families. I am interested in theorizing Healthy Families as a site of indigenous political resistance distinct from the ongoing struggles for tribal sovereignty. In my research I seek to answer: What spaces of resistance are opened up by indigenous program such as Healthy Families? What are the program directors’ and the participants’ visions for a healthy family, and how does this compare to the state’s vision for native families? How is the efficacy of the program understood and evaluated by both the native program directors and their state and federal funding agencies?

Bayley Marquez, PhD Student, Education, "Collective Identity Assertion and Educational Experiences of Urban American Indian Youth"

Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s (1999) call for decolonizing research is one that has reverberated through the academy. Yet even research that has the goal of decolonization and social justice often relies on western constructions of the individual as the site of knowledge and the privileging of the individual as the unit of analysis from which to collect knowledge. This study seeks to pair a decolonizing approach to research with indigenous communities along with an approach that privileges the collective as the unit of analysis in order to challenge the dominant research paradigms and create a research project that serves the interests of decolonization and social justice. Working in tandem with a local American Indian community organization, this project engages participants in a collective reflective analysis to name and engage with their experiences around schooling. I use this approach, which I call community engaged phenomenology, to understand how American Indian youth (re)form, negotiate, and enact collective identities as Native people in relation to their education and how American Indian youth identities interface with the colonial process of schooling.

Shelby Nacino and John Jairo Valencia, Undergraduates,  Ethnic Studies, "Voices of the Unheard - The Struggle for Equality & Rights in Indian Countey: Alternative Breaks Campo Trip 2014"

Many consider America to be the “Land of the Free,” but its foundations are built on the forced removal, genocide, and oppression of Indigenous peoples. Our ten participants will examine how U.S. government policies have systematically oppressed Native communities. We will also examine Indigenous resistance movements that have formed in response to historic and current injustices. Overall, we aim to de-­‐hxstoricize Native issues—to see Native issues as present, urgent, and current. During Spring Break 2014, our participants will travel to the Campo Indian Reservation to perform service. The Campo Indian Reservation is close to the Mexican border, not too far from San Diego, California. The reservation is home to the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, a band of the Kumeyaay tribe whose ancestral lands extend over a large part of Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. Participants will work with community partners such as tribal, educational, and health leaders, who everyday make a difference on the Campo reservation. We will work particularly with our community partners Deborah Cuero (Campo Indian Reservation Education Center Director) and Ann Pierce (naachum yname ma na ump “All of Us Moving Forward” Project Director, also liaison from the Mountain Empire Unified School District) to coordinate college outreach appropriate to the tribal community. We hope to strengthen and make more sustainable our relationship with the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, as well as offer participants the opportunity to engage in critical dialogue and learn about how we can use our own privileges to be allies with Indigenous peoples.

Peter Nelson, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, "Rebuilding Relationships with Land, Sacred Sites and Resources through Community-Based, Low Impact Strategies for Archaeology in the San Francisco Bay Area"

Tolay Lake Regional Park (TLRP) and Tolay Creek Ranch (TCR) in Northern California are properties that have been recently acquired and converted into park land. The master plan for the development and management of this park is still being created by the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department (SCRPD) and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR), the Native American descendent community of this area. Park development has the potential to adversely impact archaeological sites and sacred places. The master plan will also lay out a plan for restoration and management of indigenous plants and animals on the property. As a tribal citizen of FIGR and a member of my tribe’s Sacred Sites Protection Committee and Tolay Advisory Group, I am undertaking eco-archaeological research to help us understand more about the cultural and natural history of the Tolay Valley. Provided more information about the flora and fauna of Tolay, FIGR will be able to comment more precisely about cultural and natural resource management during the master planning process to ensure that sensitive resources are not adversely impacted by the development of the park. This project employs innovative, low impact methodological strategies to gain as much information as we can about regional cultural and natural history while impacting the archaeological site under investigation as little as possible.

2012-13 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Tria Andrews, PhD Student, Ethnic Studies, “Education on the Reservation: Punishing and Curing through Culturally Relevant Curriculum”

At the intersection of Native American, Education, and Critical Prison Studies, my project examines the trajectory of the punitive nature of educational programs for youth on Rosebud Indian Reservation from the founding of St. Francis Mission School (1886-1972) to present day. The primary purpose of my research is to investigate how colonial education paradigms have influenced the curriculum at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi, the tribally-run juvenile detention facility founded in 2005 on the Rosebud Reservation. My research compares mission education in the mid 20th century with the current rehabilitative program at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi. Using archival research and interviews with program directors and incarcerated youth, I will address my central research questions: What is the difference in function between punishing, curing, and educating at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi? What do the programs offered by these institutions at different points in time tell us about Western and Lakota perceptions of deviance and normativity in paradigms of young femininity and masculinity?

Jesse Dutton-Kenny, Undergraduate, Ethnic Studies, “Voices of the Unheard: The Struggle for Equality and Rights in Indian Country/Campo Kumeyaay Nation Alternative Break Trip”

Throughout the Alternative Breaks experience, we will explore complex issues facing the Campo Kumeyaay Native community such as identity, representation, historical contexts, health, education, environmental and food justice, and poverty. Our spring semester DeCal course focuses on understanding justice and equality in Campo Kumeyaay through direct service and building lasting connections with the community members. Throughout the weeklong service-learning trip, we will work with Sylvia Johnson, the founder of this Alternative Breaks trip and member of the Campo Kumeyaay Nation. We recognize the importance of building sustainable and committed relationships with Native peoples in situations, and we are honored to work with Sylvia, who began this decade long relationship with her tribe many years ago and who will help us design meaningful projects to benefit the tribe using Cal Corps and University resources as well as the energies of our student participants.

Ricardo Huerta Niño, PhD Candidate, City and Regional Planning, “Toward a Culture of Tribal Power: The Power and Promise of Culture in Development and Nation-Building in the Hoopa Nation”

The dissertation examines cultural projects as economic development enterprises to explore the power and potential power that culture has in informing, guiding and improving community and economic development efforts in the Hoopa Nation of Northern California. After decades of failed federal policies, many Native Nations have achieved modest to remarkable success. Drawing from a series of interviews with tribal leaders, development practitioners, business leaders, and tribal enterprise managers, I explore the ways in which the conceptualizations, discourses, and practices of Hoopa culture have the potential to inform and shape development projects and the ways in which these practices provide for greater efficacy. The research aims to show the concrete ways in which “culture” can be an effective input for development, a mobilizing discourse, and is often both a means and an end to development goals. To read Ricardo's working paper, click here.

Katie Keliiaa, PhD Student, Ethnic Studies, “Wá:šiw ?ítlu: Native Youth Narratives on Heritage Language Revitalization”

In the early nineties, the Washoe community opened the Washiw Wagayay Maŋal (WWM) language program. In 1997, it created the first ever Washoe language immersion school. The same children who attended the Washoe immersion school are now college graduates, Washoe Tribal Police officers and tribal members focused on making a difference in their community. Currently, some of these former students are assisting with a new redesign of the WWM to bring back successful immersion practices. And recently, the tribe was awarded a federal Administration for Native Americans (ANA) grant to fund a language nest for Washoe youth—a first in decades. In this research project I seek to understand the effect of learning a heritage language and compare the different methods of language learning. Overall, Washoe’s language revitalization efforts inform similar projects across the globe.

Melanie Redeye, PhD Student, Linguistics, “Seneca Language Documentation Project (SLDP)”

The purpose of this research is to carry out linguistic documentation of the Seneca, a language native to North America that is severely endangered. This research will result in a collection of texts as well as a grammatical description of the syntax of the language, which is an important goal of linguists and Indigenous communities in the face of the overwhelming language extinction rate. This research does not attempt to prove or disprove any hypothesis nor assume a specific framework for analyzing the language. Rather, this research will provide the documentation necessary to understand generalizations about how this language is used before it goes extinct. Hopefully this research will lead to further investigation on how to model the syntax of Seneca, this, however, is beyond the scope of the Seneca Language Documentation Project (SLDP). 

Kim Richards, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, “Ghosts of Urban Relocation: Archived Voices of Relocated American Indians in Oakland” 

Given the long history of educational activism within the Oakland Native community, one would expect life conditions of community members to have improved since the Relocation era. Yet low socio-economic status persists, and high school dropout rates are the highest of any racialized group.  As part of my dissertation, this project will examine BIA Relocation files located at National Archives in San Bruno and archived interviews, stories, the American Indian school reports/curriculum and other community materials at the Bancroft Library to help unpack the stark disparity between community efforts and the somber results the statistics suggest. More specifically I will be coding archives for relocatees’ access to work, educational and life opportunities initially promised by the BIA Relocation program and later advocated for by community members.  Connecting the history of relocation to the present status of Urban Indians in the Oakland area begins to unpack the ways their colonial relationship has changed little over time and space.

2011-12 Mini-Grant Research Projects

Sibyl Diver, PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, "Natural Resource Governance with Indigenous Peoples: Shifting Sovereignties Through Co-management?"

Natural resource management with Pacific Northwest indigenous communities is characterized by a history of environmental degredation, conflict, and a high degree of distrust between communities and state agencies. Cooperative management agreements and compacts are increasingly perceived as the solution to such conflicts. Yet co-management is often criticized as a flawed structure that continues to privilege dominant state positions while marginalizing communities. This project explores how and why indigenous communities continue to pursue co-management arrangements despite these flaws. Specifically, in Northern California, disputes have occured between the U.S. Forest Service and the Karuk Tribe regarding the construction of forest roads across sacred lands and wildland fire management on Karuk ancestral land. The Karuk Tribe has recently engaged in co-management agreements based on community driven plans for eco-cultural restoration. By studying this case, this project seeks to provide a deeper understanding of co-management processes in the context of land tenure disputes and eco-cultural restoration.

John Dougherty, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Flooded by Progress: Federal Indian Law and the Columbia River"

Drawing upon archival materials from federal agencies and Native communities in the American West, this project examines the ways in which Native communities in the region, specifically the Pacific Northwest, were inequitably burdened by the region's economic and environmental transformation in the postwar years. The project is particularly interested in the development and transformation of the Columbia River, and its impact on Native claims to land, resources, and rights along the river in the present day. The study will show that the origins of many contemporary debates surrounding Native rights, environmental decline, and economic development lie in the period of 1945 to 1960, when Native communities were actively excluded from crucial policy decision-making, the effects of which continue to be felt today. 

Hillary Tomas, Undergraduate, Native American Studies, "Digging Up Native Languages"

This project will examine the problem of language loss among youth in Native communities. Using archival materials and in-depth interviews with members of her own tribe, Tomas will examine the factors that contribute to language loss among Eastern Pomo youth, as well as the role that the Elders play in keeping their tribe's language alive. 

Colleen Young, Undergraduate, Anthropology and Native American Studies, "Education in Native America"

In the past, education has been used as a tool for assimilation and extermination of Native culture (for example, through the boarding school system). More recently, American Indian schools have been founded to promote and preserve Native culture. This project examines contemporary forms of Native American education and the extent to which American Indian schools promote or challenge assimilation into white society.