Kauanui Co-Founds Native American, Indigenous Studies Scholarly Organization

Posted 06/03/08
A Wesleyan faculty member with Hawaiian ancestry is a founding member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of American studies, is one of six scholars to co-create the professional organization for faculty and researchers who work in American Indian, Native American, First Nations, and Aboriginal or Indigenous studies. The association was officially launched on April 11.

“It is clear that scholars in these linked fields are at critical mass, and that the intellectual work has matured in a way that makes the importance of our multi-faceted epistemological interventions undeniable,” Kauanui says. “It’s about time.”

According to the organization’s constitution, NAISA’s purpose is to “promote Native American and Indigenous studies through the encouragement of academic freedom, research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about Native American and Indigenous studies in all its diversity and complexity.”

The group was formed at an event titled “Native American and Indigenous Studies: Who Are We? Where Are We Going?” held April 10-12 at the University of Georgia. This event, which Kauanui co-organized, drew an audience of more than 450 scholars and graduate students from more than 165 institutions from 18 countries.

The first NAISA meeting is set for May 21-23, 2009 at the University of Minnesota. The new nominating committee will put together a ballot for the first official election for the NAISA council. Until then, the acting council –formerly the steering committee — will continue its work and leadership.

“Our goal is to gather a critical mass of scholars to help shape the new association and mold its agenda within the framework of a set of principles to guide its work,” Kauanui says. “As a result, our association will develop into one that is scholarly, interdisciplinary, is governed by individual members and is open to anyone who does work in Native American and Indigenous Studies.”

In addition, the association will hold annual meetings that rotate among institutional hosts or other locations.

Other founding members, which make up the organization’s acting council, are: Inés Hernández-Ávila (Nimipu), professor of Native American studies at the University of California at Davis; K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Creek), professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson; Jace Weaver (Cherokee), director of the Institute for Native American Studies, professor of religion at the University of Georgia; Robert Warrior (Osage), professor of English at the University of Oklahoma; Jean O’Brien (White Earth Ojibwe), associate professor of history and chair of the Department of American Indian Studies.

More information about the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) and the 2009 meeting is online at http://amin.umn.edu/nais2009/index.html.

An article on NAISA was published May 9 in Indian Country Today, online at http://indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096417251.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor