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Honoring American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

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In honor of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, deepen your learning in American Indian studies, make connections on campus, and celebrate the work of the University of Washington Seattle's College of Arts & Sciences faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Thank you to College of Arts & Sciences faculty, staff, students, alumni and affiliates for contributing to this article.

*phrasing/descriptions in this article are pulled from the source documentation and may vary.

Community and Connection at the UW Seattle

Department of American Indian Studies

The Department of American Indian Studies explores the history and culture of Native peoples through teaching, research and community service. American Indian Studies approaches the work from a decolonized, community-based and global perspective. Faculty and students partner with the local Native community through research collaborations and internships. 

Center for American Indian & Indigenous Studies (CAIIS) 

CAIIS's mission is to support American Indian, Alaska Native, and Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and communities through scholarship, research, teaching, learning, and mentorship that strengthens and builds relationships among the UW and Tribes, First Nations, and other Indigenous peoples.

CAIIS's vision is to create a University of Washington that recognizes, values, and strengthens American Indian, Alaska Native, and other Indigenous intellectual traditions, communities, and futures.

Outside of the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House
wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House

wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House is a longhouse-style facility on the UW Seattle campus. It provides a multi-service learning and gathering space for American Indian and Alaska Native students, faculty and staff, as well as others from various cultures and communities to come together in a welcoming environment to share knowledge. For updates, follow the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House on Facebook and Instagram.

Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center

The Kelly ECC is an inclusive and affirming space that cultivates a transformative student experience. The Center serves and empowers historically marginalized and underrepresented students by providing educational and cultural opportunities for holistic development. In addition, the ECC houses First Nations @ UW, an undergraduate intertribal registered student organization. First Nations @ UW hosts events both on- and off-campus with the intention of educating the community about Native cultures, spreading awareness to issues affecting the Native community and upholding their respective customs and traditions.


Books and Articles

Article: “What Is at Stake for Washington’s Native Nations Today?” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 111.1 (Winter 2019/2020): 35-47 

Edited and Annotated by UW Professors Jean Dennison (Osage Nation) and Joshua L. Reid (Snohomish) and local Native leaders Melvinjohn Ashue (Hoh)  and Lisa Wilson (Lummi)

In October 2018, the Seattle Public Library hosted a roundtable titled “What is at stake for Washingon’s Native nations today (video - Seattle Channel). While the discussion covered a broad range of topics and issues four interrelated themes emerged: treaty rights, relationship building, environmental concerns and activism, and education. This article is a recap of the roundtable, edited for length and clarity. 

Earth Works Rising cover
Book: Earthworks Rising: Mound Building in Native Literature and Arts (University of Minnesota Press, 2022)

by Chadwick Allen, Professor, Department of English; Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement; Russell F. Stark University Professor

Alongside twentieth- and twenty-first-century Native writers, artists, and intellectuals, Chadwick Allen examines the multiple ways Indigenous mounds continue to hold ancient knowledge and make new meaning—in the present and for the future. Clear and compelling, Earthworks Rising provokes greater understanding of the remarkable accomplishments of North America’s diverse mound-building cultures over thousands of years and brings attention to new earthworks rising in the twenty-first century.

Video: Katz Distinguished Lectures in the Humanities: Earthworks Rising

Therapeutic Nations cover
Book: Therapeutic Nations: Healing in an Age of Indigenous Human Rights (The University of Arizona Press, 2013)

by Dian Million (Tanana Athabascan), Associate Professor, American Indian Studies and an Affiliated faculty in Canadian Studies, the Comparative History of Ideas Department, and the English Department

Therapeutic Nations is the first book to demonstrate affect and trauma’s wide-ranging historical origins in an Indigenous setting, offering insights into community healing programs. The author’s theoretical sophistication and original research make the book relevant across a range of disciplines as it challenges key concepts of American Indian and Indigenous studies.

cherokee earth dwellers cover small
Book: Cherokee Earth Dwellers: Stories and Teachings of the Natural World (University of Washington Press, 2023)

by Christopher B. Teuton (Cherokee Nation), Professor and Chair of American Indian Studies and Hastings Shade, with Loretta Shade and Larry Shade, illustrated by MaryBeth Timothy

Ayetli gadogv—to "stand in the middle"—is at the heart of a Cherokee perspective of the natural world. From this stance, Cherokee Earth Dwellers offers a rich understanding of nature grounded in Cherokee creature names, oral traditional stories, and reflections of knowledge holders. During his lifetime, elder Hastings Shade created booklets with over six hundred Cherokee names for animals and plants. With this foundational collection at its center, and weaving together a chorus of voices, this book emerges from a deep and continuing collaboration between Christopher B. Teuton, Hastings Shade, Loretta Shade and others.

A Drum in One Hand, a Sockeye in the Other cover
Book: A Drum in One Hand, a Sockeye in the Other, Stories of Indigenous Food Sovereignty from the Northwest Coast (University of Washington Press, 2022)

by Charlotte Coté (Tseshaht/Nuu-chah-nulth), Professor, American Indian Studies

Charlotte Coté shares contemporary Nuu-chah-nulth practices of traditional food revitalization in the context of broader efforts to re-Indigenize contemporary diets on the Northwest Coast. Coté offers evocative stories of her Tseshaht community's and her own work to revitalize relationships to haʔum (traditional food) as a way to nurture health and wellness. As Indigenous peoples continue to face food insecurity due to ongoing inequality, environmental degradation, and the Westernization of traditional diets, Coté foregrounds healing and cultural sustenance via everyday enactments of food sovereignty: berry picking, salmon fishing, and building a community garden on reclaimed residential school grounds. This book is for everyone concerned about the major role food plays in physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. 


Article: What does it mean to 're-Indigenize' contemporary diets? KUOW

The Sea is my Country cover
Book: The Sea is My Country: The Maritime World of the Makahs (Yale Books, 2015)

by Joshua Reid (Snohomish); Associate Professor, Department of History and American Indian Studies; Director, Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest; John Calhoun Smith Memorial Endowed Professor

Joshua L. Reid discovers that the “People of the Cape” were far more involved in shaping the maritime economy of the Pacific Northwest than has been understood. He examines Makah attitudes toward borders and boundaries, their efforts to exercise control over their waters and resources as Europeans and then Americans arrived, and their embrace of modern opportunities and technology to maintain autonomy and resist assimilation. The author also addresses current environmental debates relating to the tribe’s customary whaling and fishing rights and illuminates the efforts of the Makahs to regain control over marine space, preserve their marine-oriented identity, and articulate a traditional future.

Colonial Entanglement bookcover
Book: Colonial Entanglement: Constituting a Twenty-First-Century Osage Nation (The University of North Carolina Press, 2012)

by Jean Dennison (Osage Nation), Associate Professor, American Indian Studies; Co-Director, Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies

From 2004 to 2006 the Osage Nation conducted a contentious governmental reform process in which sharply differing visions arose over the new government's goals, the Nation's own history, and what it means to be Osage. The primary debates were focused on biology, culture, natural resources and sovereignty. Osage anthropologist Jean Dennison documents the reform process in order to reveal the lasting effects of colonialism and to illuminate the possibilities for indigenous sovereignty. In doing so, she brings to light the many complexities of defining indigenous citizenship and governance in the twenty-first century.

Cherokee stories of the turtle island liars' club cover
Book: Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars’ Club (The University of North Carolina Press, 2012)

by Christopher B. Teuton (Cherokee Nation),  Professor and Chair of American Indian Studies

Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars' Club paints a vivid, fascinating portrait of a community deeply grounded in tradition and dynamically engaged in the present. A collection of forty interwoven stories, conversations, and teachings about Western Cherokee life, beliefs, and the art of storytelling, the book orchestrates a multilayered conversation between a group of honored Cherokee elders, storytellers, and knowledge-keepers and the communities their stories touch. Collaborating with Hastings Shade, Sammy Still, Sequoyah Guess, and Woody Hansen, Cherokee scholar Christopher B. Teuton has assembled the first collection of traditional and contemporary Western Cherokee stories published in over forty years.

Article: "Prejudicial reactions to the removal of Native American mascots" SAGE journals (Winter 2021)

by Tyler Jimenez, UW Assistant Professor of Psychology, and Jamie Arndt, and Peter J. Helm of the University of Missouri

Research shows how discontinuing a Native American mascot can stoke racism among a team’s surrounding community.

Related article: Bias against Native Americans spikes when mascots are removed, UW News

Reclaiming the Reservation
Book: Reclaiming the Reservation: Histories of Indian Sovereignty Suppressed and Renewed (University of Washington Press, 2019)

by Alexandra Harmon, Professor Emerita, American Indian Studies and History

In Reclaiming the Reservation, Alexandra Harmon delves into Quinault, Suquamish, and pan-tribal histories to illuminate the roots of Indians’ claim of regulatory power in their reserved homelands. She considers the promises and perils of relying on the US legal system to address the damage caused by colonial dispossession. She also shows how tribes have responded since 1978, seeking and often finding new ways to protect their interests and assert their sovereignty.

Unsettling Native Art Histories book cover
Book: Unsettling Native Art Histories on the Northwest Coast

Edited by Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Associate Professor, Art History; Bill Holm Center Endowed Professor; Curator of Northwest Native American Art, Burke Museum; Director, Bill Holm Center, Burke Museum and Aldona Jonaitis

By centering voices that uphold Indigenous priorities, integrating the expertise of Indigenous knowledge holders about their artistic heritage, and questioning current institutional practices, these new essays "unsettle" Northwest Coast art studies. Key themes include discussions of cultural heritage protections and Native sovereignty; re-centering women and their critical role in transmitting cultural knowledge; reflecting on decolonization work in museums; and examining how artworks function as living documents. The volume exemplifies respectful and relational engagement with Indigenous art and advocates for more accountable scholarship and practices.

Lectures, Conferences and other Media


Owen Oliver
Tour: Virtual Campus Indigenous Walking Tour

Join Owen Oliver (Quinault/Isleta Pueblo) (BA, American Indian Studies / Political Science, 2021) on a special virtual tour of the University of Washington campus through an Indigenous lens. The tour is based on Owen’s original publication and includes narration by Owen and photos and videos across 10-stops. 

Related articles:

Annual event: "The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ" Indigenous Ways of Knowing Cultural Food Practices and Indigenous Food Practices and Ecological Knowledge Summit 

This symposium brings people together to share knowledge on topics such as traditional foods, plants and medicines; environmental and food justice; food sovereignty/security; health and wellness; and treaty rights. This event serves to foster dialogue and build collaborative networks as we, Native peoples, strive to sustain our cultural food practices and preserve our healthy relationships with the land, water, and all living things. 2023 date TBA.

Annual event: Sacred Breath: Indigenous Writing and Storytelling Series

The Department of American Indian Studies hosts an annual literary and storytelling series. Sacred Breath features Indigenous writers and storytellers sharing their craft at the beautiful wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House. Storytelling offers a spiritual connection, a sharing of sacred breath. Literature, similarly, preserves human experience and ideals. Both forms are durable and transmit power that teaches us how to live. Both storytelling and reading aloud can impact audiences through the power of presence, allowing for the experience of the transfer of sacred breath as audiences are immersed in the experience of being inside stories and works of literature. 2023 date TBA.

Video: Sven Haakanson | SASS 2021 Keynote Speaker

Sven Haakanson, Associate Professor and Chair, Anthropology and Adjunct Associate Professor, American Indian Studies

Professor Sven D. Haakanson is a leader in the documentation, preservation, and revival of indigenous culture, including his own native Alaskan Sugpiaq traditions. He is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (2007), the Museums Alaska Award for Excellence (2008), the ATALM Guardians of Culture and Lifeways Leadership Award (2012), and his work on the Angyaaq led it to be inducted into the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame (2020). He was Executive Director of the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository (2000-2013 Kodiak, AK), and joined the University of Washington as an associate professor of Anthropology and curator of Native American collections at the Burke Museum in 2013. He played a central role in the design of the new Burke "Culture is Living" Gallery (2016-19). Dr. Haakanson engages communities in cultural revitalization using material reconstruction as a form of scholarship and teaching. With a Nordic-American background himself, Dr. Haakanson has long been interested in the intersection of communities, traditions and material cultures in Alaska and elsewhere.

Video: The Historical Roots of Indigenous Activism in the Era of Standing Rock - History Lecture Series 

Lecture by Joshua Reid  (Snohomish); Associate Professor, Department of History; Director, Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest; John Calhoun Smith Memorial Endowed Professor

Coverage of the activism against the Dakota Access Pipeline framed the conflict as one of American Indians as protectors of the Earth in opposition to economic development. We will widen the view of Indigenous activism — both locally and historically — revealing how activists’ long-term goals have continually sought to maintain and strengthen Native sovereignty in the face of settler colonialism.

Video: Charlotte Coté: ḥačatakma c̓awaak (everything is interconnected), Simon Fraser University, Harbour Centre

Lecture by Charlotte Coté (Tseshaht/Nuu-chah-nulth), Professor, American Indian Studies

Watch Dr. Charlotte Coté's talk: ḥačatakma c̓awaak (everything is interconnected). INDIGENOUS FOOD SOVEREIGNTY, HEALTH, RESILIENCE, AND SUSTAINABILITY

People and Stories

Burke Museum curator is a bridge to an ancient world, University of Washington Magazine

Features Sven Haakanson, Associate Professor and Chair, Anthropology and Adjunct Associate Professor, American Indian Studies

Sherri Berdine named UW’s Director of Tribal Relations, UW News

Sherri Berdine (Unangan - Aleut) is a graduate of the UW with bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and American Indian Studies, and she earned a Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law from the University of Tulsa College of Law.

Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies (CAIIS) Launches the First UW Canoe Family, CAIIS News

In launching the first UW Canoe Family, Native Knowledge-in Residence Coordinator Philip H. Red Eagle (Steilacoom/Dakota) has brought together students, staff and faculty for workshops to study and carve traditional Coast Salish style canoe paddles at the Burke.

A Tlingit Leader in the Making, Perspectives

Her exploration at the UW has led Stephanie Masterman (Tlingit) (BA, American Indian Studies; Arctic Studies minor; 2022) to leadership roles in her tribal community.

Video: Lushootseed, Seattle's original language, Seattle Channel

Tami Hohn (Puyallup), Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of American Indian Studies, explains why preserving the language – and sharing it with students – has been a fulfilling personal journey.

Tribes in our region originally spoke a form of the Salish language, and here in the Seattle area, that language is Southern Lushootseed. Today, there are no people left who speak Lushootseed as a first language, but there are local efforts to keep the language and the culture it represents, alive. 

Chenoa Henry (Tulalip) Appointed Director of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House, Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity 

Earning an undergraduate degree in American Indian Studies, Chenoa Henry (Tulalip) is an alumna of the University of Washington and also holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Seattle University.

I Climb Up the Ladder, Undergraduate Academic Affairs 

UW volunteers visited his second grade class on the Makah Reservation. As a UW student, Auston Jimmicum (Makah) (BA, Law, Societies & Justice, 2020), paid it forward. 

Video: Meet Polly Olsen (Yakama), the Burke Museum director of DEAI Decolonization / Tribal Liaison, Burke Museum
The Language of the Land, University of Washington

UW Lecturer Tami Hohn (Puyallup) is bringing Southern Lushootseed to a new generation across the University and the Puget Sound — where the language has always lived.

Unearthed and Retooled, University of Washington Magazine

The unlikely story of two carved canoes, divided by decades, linked in tribal tradition.

‘Relationships Don’t have an End Goal: A Q&A with the Burke Museum’s Decolonization & DEAI Team, American Alliance of Museums
When is cultural appropriation ok? Never, say some Native Americans, KUOW 
Updated Diversity Blueprint Emphasizes Indigenous Communities and Place Based Learning, College of Arts & Sciences

Polly Olsen has been instrumental in the museum's decolonization work and creating stronger partnerships with the communities we work with every day.

Please note, this is a sample of the large and diverse body of work relating to the field of American Indian studies at the University of Washington. If there is work that you would like to see in this article, please email us at

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