Research Projects and Community Engagement

Student Projects

Final Project by Rae Kuruhara, NAISI/Public Humanities Fellow 2019-2021: Rae Kuruhara's final project highlights the experiences of local tribes through intricate portraits and eloquent interviews.

"Out of Frame: Visual Counter-Narratives Reframing Development Studies," created by Professor Geri Augusto's Fall 2020 IAPA seminar, Development's Visual Imaginaries. The exhibit explores how publics were persuaded to support or oppose policies constructed around notions such as progress, technology, modernization, sovereignty, land/human/water relations, hierarchies of human difference, borders and immigration, citizenship and selfhood as much by their visual framing as by spoken and written words. This student-and-professor co-curated exhibit shares their own visual work as a way of inquiry, questioning and storytelling, to fill in some of the lacunae in the history of development studies, and especially to imagine narratives that were silenced, distorted or occluded.

HIAA 1882 Final Projects: For their final assignment, students in Marina Tyquiengco's History of Art and Architecture course (HIAA 1882) proposed Indigenous Art exhibitions.

Youth Ambassadors for Land Conservation Program with the Center for Native American Youth: Native Hawaiian undergraduate Brody Yamada spent two months during the summer of 2020 working with the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY), a national advocacy organization working for the health, safety, and overall well-being of Native youth, as a pre-program coordinator for their Youth Ambassadors for Land Conservation program. The program sought to bring together a small cohort of Native youth and empower them to advocate for the protection of the Grand Canyon region from uranium mining and to educate members of their communities, media, and state and federal decision-makers. Over the course of his involvement with the program, Brody conducted a landscape analysis on uranium mining and the Grand Canyon; reached out to different organizations, individuals, and stakeholders throughout the region; wrote an outline for the program curriculum; and assembled the Native youth cohort.

Helu Kanaka: In the summer of 2020, Native Hawaiian undergraduates Leinani Roylo and Connor Kalāhiki organized a census project to increase the amount of Native Hawaiians who counted in the 2020 Census in a project called “Helu Kanaka,” which translates to “The Census” in the Hawaiian language. Hawaiians are historically undercounted due to language barriers, lack of trust in the government, and other external factors, so they endeavored to counter these obstacles by demystifying its inner-workings and emphasizing the ways that census data can benefit Hawaiian communities. Leinani created a website tracking available census data about Native Hawaiians over the course of Hawaiian history, while Connor headed a social media campaign, creating infographics that break down the complexities of the census into digestible slides.

Tracking COVID-19 in Indigenous Peru: Undergraduate student Valerie Aguilar Dellisanti worked on was a smart chatbot Simi that reports and diagnoses COVID-19 cases in rural and Indigenous Peru. It is an automated text messaging system that seeks to relieve some of the pressures on COVID-19 hotlines in Peru by answering user questions. The Simi algorithm determines whether a user requires COVID-19 testing. If the user's responses indicated that they were not at a high-risk for the virus, they would be followed up with chat questions to monitor their progress, if not, they would immediately transfer to the emergency hotline. This project won the MIT COVID-19 Challenge: Latin America vs. COVID-19. 

John Hay Library Protocols for Native American Archival Materials: Public Humanities MA student Felicia Bartley (Pueblo of Isleta) is working with the Hay Special Collections Library to implement the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. Felicia is currently determining educational readings about tribal sovereignty, decolonizing methodologies and archives, socially-just knowledge organizational systems, object stewardship, and issues pertaining to culturally sensitive materials for a Library Staff Education program. In the upcoming months, Felicia will continue to work with the Hay library to draft guiding principles for the library's future protocols for Native American archival materials, including next steps.

Entangled Legacies Zine: Public Humanities capstone project by Fellow for the Study of the Public History of Slavery, Chandra Marshall (MA ʻ20), focusing on the intersections between African American and Native American histories. Connecting the work of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice with that of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, Marshall created a committee which guided the project’s scope and connected her to local artists. The artists, Becci Davis, Sherente Harris (Narragansett), Nia Holley (Nipmuc), and Jordan Seaberry ranged from metalworkers to portrait painters. In interviews, Davis, Harris, Holley, and Seaberry reflected on their heritages, possibilities for expanding their work, and hopes for the future.

Faculty Projects

Stolen Relations: Recovering Stories of Indigneous Enslavement in the Americas (formerly DISA): Led by Professor of History Linford Fisher, the Database of Indigenous Slavery in the Americas (DISA), is a community-centered database project that seeks to document as many instances of indigenous enslavement in the Americas between 1492 and 1900 (and beyond, where relevant). The hemispheric study of Native American slavery represents cutting-edge research in multi-lingual and multi-national contexts in the Americas. DISA will allow the slow centralization of biographical information related to enslaved indigenous people and place them online where historians, researchers, students, tribal members, and families can use the information to reconstruct histories, chart networks, and make connections in ways that have never before been possible.

The Cofán Heritage Project: co-founded by Professor of Latin American History James Green, the Cofán Heritage Project aims to gather documentation and raise awareness of the Cofán people’s struggle for survival.

The Kotyiti Research Project: A research collaboration between Professor Robert Preucel and the Pueblo of Cochiti. It focuses on the meaning and significance of Hanat Kotyiti, a Cochiti Revolt Period village using archaeology, ethnohistory, and oral history. It involves training Cochiti high school interns in basic archaeological methods and theories.

Native Appropriations: Run by Professor Adrienne Keene, Native Appropriations is a forum for discussing representations of Native peoples, including stereotypes, cultural appropriation, news, activism, and more.

PACUNAM LiDAR InitiativeThis project, an international collaboration coordinated in Guatemala, featuring Professor Stephen Houston, uses LiDAR technology to uncover virtually all major cities of Maya civilization in Northern Guatemala. Newly discovered roads, fortifications, waterworks, and areas of unsuspected, dense urbanism promise to revolutionize Maya archaeology. In related fieldwork, it folds in "ground-truthing" and fieldwork, conducted with Prof. Thomas Garrison of Ithaca College, on the newly discovered citadels near Tikal, Guatemala. 

Proyecto Arqueologico Zaña Colonial: Directed by Professor Parker VanValkenburgh, Proyecto Arqueologico Zaña Colonial is a research project investigating the impacts of Spanish colonial forced resettlement (reducción) on landscapes and political subjectivities in Peru’s North Coast region.

Proyecto Paisaje Piedras Negras-Yaxchilan, Guatemala: Co-directed by Andrew Scherer, Charles Golden, and Griselda Pérez Robles, The Proyecto Paisaje Piedras Negras-Yaxchilan is exploring the ancient cultural and natural landscapes of the of the Classic Maya kingdoms (AD 250-900) of Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan. Current fieldwork aims to deepen our knowledge of Maya political history through the comparative study of competing polities in the western Maya lowlands, focusing especially on warfare, economy, and environmental history.

The Right to Food Security Sovereignty Project: established by Mariaelena Huambachano, The Right to Food security Sovereignty Project is an international research collaboration with Quechua communities in the region of Lares in Peru, Cofan Amazonian people of Ecuador, and Maori people of Aotearoa New Zealand. By means of an analysis of food-related rights, this research examines the issue of food sovereignty, towards which all of today’s peasant movements, Indigenous peoples, confederations, and unions are working. Cultural and environmental indicators of well-being in agricultural systems, are also examined in association with the global food sovereignty movement advocating for a more democratic and fairer food systems.

Shiprock, the Sacred, and Environmental Justice: The Ancient Echo between People and Place: Mark Cladis is currently exploring the desecration of sacred Navajo sites (especially Tsé Bit' a' i', or Shiprock) and the assault on the health of Navajos by the U.S. government’s pursuit of uranium. His task and challenge is to relate “sacred sites” to environmental justice.