Founding Director of the Native Nations Center
Copeland Hall, room 235/235A
Ph.D. University of Oklahoma, 1997
M.S. University of North Texas, 1993
B.A. Southeastern Oklahoma State University, 1992
Since receiving my Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma in 1997, I have held several tenured academic appointments, including faculty positions at the University of New Mexico and Oklahoma State University.
From 2007 to 2012, I had the opportunity of serving my tribe, the Chickasaw Nation, as the Administrator of the Division of History and Culture. During my time there, I had the honor of overseeing the curation and launch of the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, OK and directing the museums, archives, language programs, as well as the Chickasaw Press, the first tribal publishing house of its kind.
My research falls within two primary areas: (1) Tribal history and culture in Indian Territory and Oklahoma; and (2) issues of Native American representation and cultural production. I have published book chapters and articles on these topics in such peer-reviewed journals as American Quarterly, American Studies, Studies in American Indian Literature, and American Indian Quarterly.
My first book, which received the American Book Award, focused specifically on Chickasaw history. Listening to Our Grandmothers’ Stories: The Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females, 1852-1949 (2000; 2007) was published by the University of Nebraska Press. Bloomfield represents one of the rare instances in the 19th century of a Native community seizing control of its children’s formal education. My second book, a collection of essays co-edited with Amy Lonetree titled, The National Museum of the American Indian: Critical Conversations (2008), focuses on issues of representation and cultural production and provides the first comprehensive look at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). My current research examines the state of Oklahoma’s American Indian identity as it is manifested in popular culture, including commemorations, sculpture, performances, and museums beginning with the famous “marriage” of Miss Indian Territory to Mr. Cowboy Oklahoma on the steps of the Capitol at the time of statehood.
Serving as the Chair of the Native American Studies Department at OU is one of the highlights of my career—I have loved OU all of my life. Working with our students, with our faculty, and with the Native nations and communities of Oklahoma is truly a privilege.
Native American Studies. Co-Authored with Alan Velie. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, Under Contract, Research in Progress.
For Better, For Worse: The American Indian and the Oklahoma Imaginary.
Description: For more than 100 years, the state of Oklahoma has endeavored to control the construct and manifestation of American Indian and tribal identity through public commemoration, performances, and other types of cultural production and popular culture. The state has developed this “mythology” or “cultural identity” by variously celebrating, eliding, or manipulating its American Indian history and imagery during specific moments of heritage production. State-sponsored heritage production has served to define the tribes within the boundaries of Oklahoma as “belonging to” the state of Oklahoma, and notably, belonging only to the past. For Better, For Worse begins with an analysis of the statehood mock wedding of 1907—a “marriage” of Miss Indian Territory and Mr. Cowboy Oklahoma. The mock wedding serves as an extended metaphor to shed light on the ways the state’s “imaginary” or “mythology” has developed through time. Importantly, the project considers the ways in which American Indian tribes in Oklahoma are working to undo the legacy of colonization and presumed disestablishment by contesting this state mythology. In doing so, tribal nations are providing powerful counter-narratives to state-sponsored heritage production, revising the public’s understanding of Oklahoma’s history, and reshaping the public’s understanding of contemporary tribal sovereignty.
President David L. Boren officially established the Native Nations Center in October 2015. The Center will centralize resources across campus; support a research policy center with full-time non-advocacy, applied research faculty who develop tools and strategies for tribal governance in a variety of areas including health, law, economics, education, and the environment; support research and preservation efforts in the area of language revitalization; and support research and increased cultural production in the areas of Native art and cultural expression.