Native American and Indigenous Studies Association

The premiere international & interdisciplinary professional organization for scholars, graduate students, independent researchers, and community members interested in all aspects of Indigenous Studies.


The past is increasingly invoked in contemporary Indigenous health scholarship, reflecting the growing interest of health professionals and others in how colonial histories have shaped Indigenous health and illness in the present. What opportunities and challenges does this trend present for the critical analysis of Indigenous peoples’ historical relations with the health care systems of settler states? What is at stake in health professionals’ invocations of history in present-day debates about Indigenous health inequities? How can critical scholars best advance rigorous understandings of settler-colonial health care systems as sites of assimilation and coercion (Mosby 2013, Daschuk 2013), but also as sites of Indigenous activism, employment, identity-making, assertions of sovereignty, and other forms of creative and constructive engagement (Kelm, 1999; Lux, 2001, McCallum, 2014, Drees, 2013)? This panel casts a critical gaze over the relationship between Indigenous health and Indigenous histories.
The current literature in Indigenous health acknowledges the importance of the past to understanding present-day system and structures inflencing Indigenous health and Indigenous health services. Yet narrow analysis of limited historical topics (in particular, a focus on Indian Residential Schools, the Child Welfare System and the Indian Act, see for example Smylie, 2015) has resulted in the sense both that these histories are adequately known and fully understood and that they capture the full extent of Indigenous experience. Moreover, the application of Indigenous health history in Indigenous health research is limited to particular kinds of histories and particular kinds of uses. Due in part to the current political and economic climate of Indigenous health research funding in Canada and perhaps also internationally, Indigenous histories of medicine, health, and health service are pressed into existing and problematic assumptions in population health work; health research methodologies including clinical trial and data analysis techniques which leave little room for critical and theoretical engagement; and narrow and instrumentalist research objectives that favour projects that measure and directly aim to improve contemporary health status, propose direct changes to current health systems and policy; and develop tools and content for educating health care professionals.
Aboriginal health research and the writing of Aboriginal history in Canada most often proceed in radically different spaces and conditions. Yet Indigenous health research is often premised on an implicit understanding of historical Aboriginal decline over time. How to gage, prevent or address decline is the central question of community health sciences. Decline is so thoroughly immersed in our knowledge about Aboriginal people’s health that we often appear as best as known, medicalized and numbered bodies – “at risk populations” compelling regulation. While the premise of change over time is so important to Indigenous health research, it is remarkable that current invocations of history in Indigenous health discourse reflect little critical involvement of people who analyze the past. At the same time, as a result of their methodological separation from contemporary Indigenous commnities, the work of many historians who study Indigenous health often misrepresents Aboriginal peple as fixed and passive objects that historical colonial policies and systems processed and exceeded, and their work rarely engages with the contemporary priorities of Indigenous health researchers.
This panel provides examples of such critical involvement, including analyses of how history is invoked in health research, historical relations of power in Indigenous health research and health care instituitons, and studies which show the importance of rigorous and nuanced historical understandings to Indigenous health research. By “critical” we mean analyses which are attentive to both historical and contemporary relations of power permeating health care systems, including Indigenous health research, which include but are not limited to (often narrowly-defined) colonial relations. For example, this may manifest in attention to how the political economy of healthcare shapes when and how history becomes meaningful to Indigenous health researchers; the social and political implications of health research discourse which repeatedly foregrounds Indigenous people as victims of history requiring professional interventions; the ways in which “knowing our history” is invoked as a powerful antidote to or prescription for poor health; and the use of certain understandings of history in trauma discourse (Maxwell, 2014).
Our panel is seeking two papers that would suit this proposal. If you are interested in proposing a paper as part of this panel, please send an abstract and CV to Mary Jane McCallum and Krista Maxwell by October 10, 2015: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Proposals for the 2016 NAISA conference (May 18-21 in Honolulu) can now be submitted at -- The deadline for submissions is Nov. 1.

You'll need to create an account before submitting a proposal. Even if you created one last year, you'll need to create a new one.

In addition to submitting a proposal, people also can volunteer to chair one of the panels created from individual paper proposals.

Call for Applications: Native Scholar Fellowships at SAR

The School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe, NM invites applications for its 201617 resident fellowships for Native Scholars.

SAR awards fellowships each year to scholars who have completed their research and analysis and who need time to think and write about topics important to the understanding of humankind. Two of these awards are restricted to Native scholars:

Katrin H. Lamon Fellowship for a Native American scholar, either pre-or post-doctoral, who works in the humanities or the social sciences.

Anne Ray Fellowship for a Native scholar with a Master’s or PhD in the arts, humanities, or social sciences to work on their own writing or curatorial research project. This may include research and writing for a future exhibition at an arts or cultural institution. In addition, the fellow will provide mentorship to the two Anne Ray interns working at the Indian Arts Research Center and help guide their intellectual development while facilitating their engagement with other scholars on the SAR campus.

Resident scholars may approach their research from anthropology or from related fields such as history, sociology, art, and philosophy. Competitive proposals have a strong empirical dimension, meaning that they address the facts of human life on the ground. They also situate the proposed research within a specific cultural or historical context and engage a broad scholarly literature. Applicants should make a convincing case for the intellectual significance of their projects and their potential contribution to a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

SAR provides resident scholars with low cost housing and office space on campus, a stipend up to $40,000, library assistance, and other benefits during a nine-month tenure, from September 1 through May 31.

Deadline for applications is November 2, 2015.

For more information on resident scholar fellowships and other SAR programs, please visit

Please share this call for applications with scholars who might be interested.

The inaugural gathering of the Indigenous Literary Studies Association will occur at Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, Canada, on October 1st to 3rd, 2015. The theme of the gathering is "The Arts of Community."

We invite scholars, knowledge-keepers, artists, and community members to join us in generating new conversations about Indigenous literary arts and community engagement. Imagining literary creativity expansively, we welcome discussions of literature, film, theatre, storytelling, song, hip hop, and other forms of narrative expression.

Our inaugural gathering seeks to move beyond academic lip-service regarding “community consultation,” which too often replicates colonial power structures, and instead to build relationships among educational institutions and Indigenous groups based on reciprocity and respect. In so doing, we seek to foster collaborative discussions among creators, teachers, scholars, and readers of Indigenous literatures to better understand how research can become more accountable to the interests, concerns, and intellectual pursuits of Indigenous communities.

This gathering is conceived as a forum for discussion in this spirit and an occasion for celebrating the work of both established and emerging Indigenous narrative artists.

Confirmed keynote speakers include Jeannette Armstrong, Joseph Boyden, and Daniel David Moses.

To view the full program, please see the ILSA website:

The ILSA Executive

            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 responsibility to 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?’” Posted 09/05/2006, accessed 12/08/2015