A Wesleyan faculty member with Hawaiian ancestry is a founding member of the
Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).
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
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
“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
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
An article on NAISA was published May 9 in Indian Country Today,