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Fall 2015: AIIS Speaker Series 

In Fall 2015, the American Indian and Indigenous Studies (AIIS) Speaker Series has featured the following scholars. These lectures are part of a bi-weekly graduate seminar, however they are open to the public. Enrollment is not required, but strongly encouraged.

Carol Warrior PosterSEP. 11:  Worldview and Villainy in Native American Narratives  


Indigenous Literatures, Department of English, Cornell University


When Euro-Western boundaries, categories, and hierarchies are violated, narratives in popular culture construct the trespasser as uncontrollable, and thus, fearsome. The focus becomes centered on what the villain is, rather than what it does. While such anxieties are sometimes present in Native American narratives, more often, contemporary Indigenous artists and authors model fearsome figures on settler-colonial transgressions against Indigenous values and relationships. Villainy, then, is depicted in Native narratives as behavior that imposes fixity, followed by voracious consumption of land and life. In the process, such villains destroy balance, and disrupt the ability for life to reproduce itself without human mediation or technological intervention. In other words, the emphasis is on what the antagonists do, rather than what they are. Interpretation of narratives through this lens aids comprehension of the cultural critiques in Native narratives, and can provide readers and audiences with strategies for resistance to fixity while maintaining self-determination and sovereignty.

Accepted Eurowestern categories are based on a variety of intersectional human features, including, but not limited to race (as perceived or as claimed), economic status, nationality, sex, gender, language, religion, ethnicity, culture, age, health (e.g. physical and mental vigor, sobriety), hygiene, familial roles, education, and occupation. When such categories are violated through what I call “movement” beyond the boundaries of one or more intersectional categories, vilification ensues. That is, people who have internalized the notion that such categories are valid, definitive, and rigid, begin to act with discursive, psychological, and/or material violence against the one who has violated norms. The “violator” is accordingly perceived as monstrous, despicable, or otherwise fearsome. In an attempt to ground this theory in material experience, I give one contemporary example of this phenomena at work, and describe how an Indigenous man—John T. Williams—became a victim of this process on the streets of Seattle. I demonstrate how Indigenous authors anticipate and respond to this and other instances of what Jack D. Forbes calls “wétikoism.

Carol Edelman Warrior recently joined the Cornell community as a Postdoctoral Mellon Fellow in the Department of English, where she will begin her service as an Assistant Professor during the 2016-2017 academic year. She is enrolled with the Ninilchik Village Tribe (Dena'ina Athabascan / Alutiiq), and is also of A'aninin (Gros Ventre) descent. Before coming to Cornell, Warrior taught in the Departments of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. Among her research and teaching interests are Indigenous critical theory, Indigenous philosophies, futurisms, ecocriticism, activism, literature, film, music, material culture, and sovereignty.

OCT. 2:  The Settler Complex: Recuperating Binarism in Colonial Studies


PATRICK WOLFEPatrick Wolfe Poster
Historian and author of Settler Colonialism, the Transformation of Anthropology and the forthcoming Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race


Dr. Wolfe will discuss the theoretical and political background that led him to organise a forthcoming edited collection of essays under the same title, which are intended to show that, through all the complexity of settler-colonial social formations, the Indigenous/settler relationship is distinctive and inherently binary. Other divisions within both settler and Indigenous societies are of a different order to the foundational opposition between Native and settler, which survives the passing of the frontier and persists into contemporary settler social relations. The argument will be illustrated with comparative examples drawn from a number of settler societies.

Patrick Wolfe is a freelance historian who lives and works in Wurundjeri country near Healesville, Australia. He works comparatively on race, colonialism, settler colonialism and the history of ideas. His books include Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology and the forthcoming Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race. His article ‘Against the Intentional Fallacy: Legocentrism and Continuity in the Rhetoric of Indian Dispossession’ was awarded the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association article prize for 2012.

Speaker hosted by the Political Theory Workshop.
Co-Sponsors: The Berger International Legal Studies Program, the Department of Anthropology,
The Society for the Humanities, and the Mellon-Sawyer Seminar on Political Will.

The discussion is based on a pre-circulated paper. To gain access to the paper, please contact

OCT. 9:   Indigenous Peoples and Climate Justice: Is it a new or old moral issue?


KYLE WHYTE Kyle Whyte Poster
Timnick Chair of the Humanities, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University. Indigenous Peoples, Climate Science, Policy and Environmental Ethics


Living and future Indigenous peoples face severe harms from climate change impacts such as sea level rise in the Arctic region. Given these impacts are tied to human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforesting landscapes, the harms Indigenous peoples face are issues of justice. Yet many people involved in climate justice advocacy and education treat these harms to Indigenous peoples as "unprecedented" or "new" issues of justice. Whyte will argue in this presentation for why these issues are not "new" at all for Indigenous peoples and why treating climate injustice as a more longstanding issue is a requisite condition if living and future Indigenous peoples are ever achieve climate justice. Whyte's presentation will draw on his research into climate justice, organizing and advocacy on Indigenous climate change issues and direct work with Tribes in the Great Lakes region on Indigenous adaptation planning.   

Kyle holds the Timnick Chair in the Humanities in the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University. He is a faculty member of the Environmental Philosophy & Ethics graduate concentration and serves as a faculty affiliate of the American Indian Studies and Environmental Science & Policy programs. His primary research addresses moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples and the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and climate science organizations. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. His articles have appeared in journals such as Climatic Change, Sustainability Science, Environmental Justice, Hypatia, Ecological Processes, Synthese, Human Ecology, Journal of Global Ethics, American Journal of Bioethics, Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics, Ethics, Policy & Environment, and Ethics & the Environment.

OCT. 16The Killer Whale on the Coffee Mug: Ownership, Protection, and Global Circulation of Images


CHARLOTTE TOWNSEND-GAULT Charlotte Townsend-Gault Poster
Department of Art History, Visual Art, and Theory, the University of British Columbia


"My long-standing engagement with the reception of Indigenous cultural expression, particularly in North America, is reflected in my own writing and teaching.  Debates and teaching in both Art History and Anthropology Departments, in combination with other professional and personal affiliations, consistently reveal the conflicting diversity of ways in which First Nations cultures are understood, by whom and for whom, and how, or whether, contradictory positions are to be reconciled. Such issues prove to be inseparable from broader contemporary methodological, political, ethical and epistemological concerns relating to art. A closer association for myself and for students with First Nations artists and thinkers, who are invited whenever possible unto our classes, may bring us closer to the contradictions in the “conversation” that Chuuchkamalthnii (Ki-ke-in) points out is not happening."

Dr. Townsend-Gault is a Professor in Art History, and Faculty Associate, Department of Anthropology, at the University of British Columbia. She is also an Honorary Research Scholar, Anthropology, at University College London.

OCT. 23:  Skawennati: Reconfiguring Reality


SKAWENNATI AIS Skawennati Poster
Indigenous Aesthetics/Technologist. Co-Director of AbTeC, CyberPowWow and TimeTraveller™ and Winner of 2013 Best New Media Award from imagineNative Film and Media Arts Festival


Skawennati makes art that addresses history, the future, and change. Her pioneering new media projects have been widely presented across North America in major exhibitions such as “Now? Now!” at the Biennale of the Americas; “Looking Forward (L’Avenir)” at the Montreal Biennale; and “Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3” at the Museum of Art and Design. She has been honored to win imagineNative’s 2009 Best New Media Award as well as a 2011 Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. Her work is included in both public and private collections.

Skawennati will discuss her recent and upcoming projects, including TimeTraveller™, Dancing with Myself and Regalia of the Future.  Having worked in cyberspace for almost two decades, Skawennati has dealt extensively with the avatar body, in particular in figuring out how to work both with and against software limitations to representing Native people. In Not A Toy: Fashioning Radical Characters, the authors discuss the effect Second Life (the massively multi-player online 3D world) has had on high-end fashion. In a section entitled “Masquerading as Avatars”, they write: “It could be argued that this is the very essence of fashion, to culturally construct oneself.” Skawennati’s new work continues her investigation of cultural construction, while also—always—asserting the continuity of Indigenous cultures between deep past and far future.

Born in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, Skawennati holds a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal, where she is based. She is Co-Director of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC), a research network of artists, academics and technologists investigating, creating and critiquing Indigenous virtual environments.

NOV.6:  Red Skin, White Masks: Fanon and Decolonial Thought in Canada


GLEN COULTHARDGlen Coulthard Poster

First Nations Studies Program, Department of Political Science, The University of British Columbia


"My lecture will interrogate the reception and application of psychiatrist-turned-anti-colonial-revolutionary Frantz Fanon’s theoretical work in Canadian political thought and activism from the 1960s to the present. Fanon’s theoretical influence in the United States has been well noted.  The profound mark that Fanon left on post-war US anti-colonial radicalism led cultural theorist Stuart Hall to declare The Wretched of the Earth nothing less than “The Bible of Decolonization.” Interestingly, however, Fanon’s influence is perhaps even more pronounced (although decidedly less discussed) in Canada. For example, Quebecois sovereigntists in the 1960s often borrowed the language of Fanonian anti-colonialism in their own struggles for national recognition, while largely ignoring both Fanon’s insights into the problem of recognition in colonial contexts and Quebec’s own problematic status as a settler-society actively complicit in the violent dispossession of Indigenous peoples in the province. Fanon’s work was also used by high-level federalists like Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau to critique Quebecois nationalism and by multiculturalists like Charles Taylor to chart a conciliatory path between both the claims of Quebec and Canada’s concerns about national unity. And, of course, truer to form, Fanon was also an inspiration to Francophone Black intellectuals contesting the racism of Quebec and Canada and by Indigenous nations in their struggles against the colonial state at both the provincial and federal levels.  I will chart this eclectic terrain through an engagement with the texts of Fanon himself, as well as those that have taken up his ideas in political thought and activism in Canada."

Glen Coulthard is an assistant professor in the First Nations Studies Program and the Department of Political Science. Professor Coulthard has written and published numerous articles and chapters in the areas of contemporary political theory, Indigenous thought and politics, and radical social and political thought (marxism, anarchism, post-colonialism). His most recent work on Frantz Fanon and the politics of recognition won Contemporary Political Theory’s Annual Award for Best Article of the Year in 2007. He is Yellowknives Dene.

NOV. 13  Strengthening the Challenge of Preservation


GREGORY RICHARDSON  Gregory Richardson Poster
Executive Director, North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs


Culturally, the future chances of American Indian survival are diminished when our children, the transformers of our Tribal heritage are being placed in non-relative homes and not being exposed to the traditions of their tribal community. Community relations by definition in Indian communities are not only your next-door neighbor or blood relative, but also the people that know and have interaction with the child. The preservation of American Indian culture starts with the protection of our most precious resource, our American Indian Children.  It is only when American Indian families are being preserved and protected, are we saving our future.

Throughout history, federal and state statutes, policies, and regulations has been and continue to establish preservation efforts for American Indians.  However, many of those governing documents, have failed the American Indian by silently and strategically forcing American Indians to assimilate into western idealism. Programs such as the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Federal and state Recognition Policies, Native American Graves Protection Act, Indian Education Act and the US Census have made progress in the area of American Indian Preservation, however, more work is needed. How are these challenges being met by the American Indians of North Carolina?

Mr. Richardson serves as Executive Director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs and has served this state in a variety of roles since 1975. He brings thirty years of work experience in administration, management and planning of Indian programs at the state and federal government levels and extensive work experience in the development of collaborations and partnerships with Indian tribes and Indian Associations and non-profit community based organizations. He is a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe.

NOV. 20:  #BlackLivesMatter and #IdleNoMore: Contemporary Demands for Legal Change


THERESA ROCHA BEARDALL Theresa Rocha Beardall Poster
JD- Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology, Cornell University


Through analysis of contemporary legal struggles embedded within the #BlackLivesMatter and #IdleNoMore movements, this talk highlights the power of collective dissent, female leadership, and social media to build a broad movement. By understanding law as a set of social relationships that can and will change, this talk centers each movement’s constituencies, as opposed to the state, and analyzes how both movements actively contest courtrooms and case law as sole sites of legal authority.  Our focus is the strength of everyday people to shape their realities against persistent legal inequality in Black and Indigenous communities – both through institutional violence at the hands of law enforcement and through an unwillingness of governing bodies to honor treaty responsibilities.

Theresa Rocha Beardall is a second year Cornell PhD Student in Sociology.  She received her JD with distinction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MA from UCLA in American Indian Studies with a concentration in federal Indian law and tribal legal systems, and BA from San Francisco State University in Latina/o Studies and American Indian Studies.  Her scholarly interests converge in the application of social
science methods to questions of law and inequality with a focus on Indigenous legal
issues and race/gender/class stratification

This seminar is led by Dr. Troy Richardson, Director of Graduate Studies, Associate Prof. American Indian Program ( For a full course description or more information about how to enroll in AIS 6010, please visit Cornell's course roster: