NAISA began through exploratory meetings hosted by the University of Oklahoma in 2007 and by the University of Georgia in 2008, incorporated in 2009, and has since become the premiere international and interdisciplinary professional organization for scholars, graduate students, independent researchers, and community members interested in all aspects of Indigenous Studies.
Our annual meetings have grown exponentially: from 350 people at the first gathering in 2007 to now averaging 800-900 attendees.
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NAISA Council Statement on Indigenous Identity Fraud
Issues of Indigenous identity are complex. Hundreds of years of ongoing colonialism around the world have contributed to this complexity. However, such complexity does not mean that there are no ethical considerations in claiming Indigenous identity or relationships with particular Indigenous peoples. To falsely claim such belonging is Indigenous identity fraud.
As scholars of Native American and Indigenous Studies, we are expected to undertake our work with a commitment to the communities with whom we work, about whom we write, and among whom we conduct research -- we are expected to uphold the highest ethical standards of our profession. Further, as scholars it is incumbent upon us to be honest about both our ancestries and our involvement with, and ties to, Indigenous communities. This is true whether we are Indigenous or non-Indigenous. In no way are we implying that one must be Indigenous in order to undertake Native American and Indigenous Studies. We are simply stating that we must be honest about our identity claims, whatever our particular positionalities. Belonging does not arise simply from individual feelings – it is not simply who you claim to be, but also who claims you. When someone articulates connections to a particular people, the measure of truth cannot simply be a person’s belief but must come from relationships with Indigenous people, recognizing that there may be disagreements among Indigenous people over the legitimacy of a particular person’s or group’s claims. According to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues statement on Indigenous identity, the test is “Self-identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.”1
Being dishonest about one’s identity and one’s connections to Indigenous communities damages the integrity of the discipline and field of Native American and Indigenous Studies and is harmful to Indigenous peoples. If we believe in Indigenous self-determination as a value and goal, then questions of identity and integrity in its expression cannot be treated as merely a distraction from supposedly more important issues. Falsifying one’s identity or relationship to particular Indigenous peoples is an act of appropriation continuous with other forms of colonial violence.The harmful effects of cultural and identity appropriation have been clearly articulated by Native American and Indigenous Studies scholars over the past four decades, and it is our responsibilityto be aware of these critiques.
The issue is not one of enrollment, or blood quantum, or recognition by the state, or meeting any particular set of criteria for defining “proper” or “authentic” Indigenous identity. The issue is honesty and integrity in engaging the complexities, difficulties, and messiness of our histories (individual and collective), our relations to each other, and our connections to the people and peoples who serve as the subjects of our scholarship.
For these reasons, the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association expresses its conviction that we are all responsible to act in an ethical fashion by standing against Indigenous identity fraud.
Approved by NAISA Council, 15 September 2015
1United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, “Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Voices Fact Sheet, ‘Who are indigenous peoples?’”
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/5session_factsheet1.pdf. Posted 09/05/2006, accessed 12/08/2015
NAISA Council Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions
The council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) declares its support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
A broad coalition of Palestinian non-governmental organizations, acting in concert to represent the Palestinian people, formed the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Their call was taken up in the United States by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. A NAISA member-initiated petition brought this issue to NAISA Council. After extensive deliberation on the merits of the petition, the NAISA Council decided by unanimous vote to encourage members of NAISA and all who support its mission to honor the boycott.
NAISA is dedicated to free academic inquiry about, with, and by Indigenous communities. The NAISA Council protests the infringement of the academic freedom of Indigenous Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Israel who are denied fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly, which we uphold.
As the elected council of an international community of Indigenous and allied non-Indigenous scholars, students, and public intellectuals who have studied and resisted the colonization and domination of Indigenous lands via settler state structures throughout the world, we strongly protest the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the legal structures of the Israeli state that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples.
NAISA is committed to the robust intellectual and ethical engagement of difficult and often highly charged issues of land, identity, and belonging. Our members will have varying opinions on the issue of the boycott, and we encourage generous dialogue that affirms respectful disagreement as a vital scholarly principle. We reject shaming or personal attacks as counter to humane understanding and the greater goals of justice, peace, and decolonization.
As scholars dedicated to the rights of Indigenous peoples, we affirm that our efforts are directed specifically at the Israeli state, not at Israeli individuals. The NAISA Council encourages NAISA members to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies. We champion and defend intellectual and academic freedom, and we recognize that conversation and collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice. In recognition of the profound social and political obstacles facing Palestinians in such dialogues, however, we urge our members and supporters to engage in such actions outside the aegis of Israeli educational institutions, honoring this boycott until such time as the rights of the Palestinian people are respected and discriminatory policies are ended.
Approved by NAISA Council, 13 December 2013