Influential American Indian Scholars

Our list of 35 scholars of American Indian descent features historians, anthropologists, professors, and researchers alongside artists, authors, educators, and activists. These luminaries have helped shape the course of history within their communities, the broader cross-section of American Indian peoples, and for America as a whole.

Influential American Indian Scholars

These influential Native American scholars include academics and professionals who span a wide breadth of disciplines and who are touchstone figures in a broad spectrum of cultural movements and moments. The people highlighted here include historians, anthropologists, professors, and researchers alongside artists, authors, educators, and activists. Representing a sweeping diversity of Native American Tribes and Nations from Crow to Choctaw; Tuscarora to Muskogee Creek; Abenaki to Cherokee, the luminaries included on our list have helped shape the course of history within their respective indigenous communities, for the broader cross-section of American Indian peoples, and beyond.

Also represented within our list are the deep roots that so many Native American scholars have planted in the academy. The list below, which is composed both of living influencers and powerful figures who are no longer with us, demonstrates the profound and permeating influence of so many renowned American Indian academics, educators, and creatives. Included are people who remain active in the academy, and who still impact the world of learning, often in a multidisciplinary capacity. And there are those that, though deceased, have achieved a far-reaching legacy of influence and impact that persists today.

The people included in our list were identified using our machine-powered Influence Ranking algorithm, which produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data in order to identify top influencers in their respective areas of expertise.

Find out more about our Methodology.

The following list is presented alphabetically, and is therefore not intended to suggest a ranking of individuals. Instead, this is a comprehensive list of the top American Indian Scholars impacting the world today.

Influential American Indian Scholars

  1. Osceola Macarthy Adams

    Osceola Macarthy Adams

    1890 - 1983 (93 years)

    #744812 person's overall influence

    Osceola Macarthy Adams was an American actress, drama teacher, director, and clothing designer. She was one of the 22 founders of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Born to a life insurance executive in Albany, Georgia, Macarthy was mixed with European, Native American, and African-American heritage. She attended schools in Albany, Georgia including Albany Normal School, a predecessor to Albany State University, and then attended Fisk University's Preparatory School. Later, she attended Howard University, where she studied ancient Greek and philosophy.

    After graduating from Howard, Osceola married Numa Pompilius Garfield Adams , a chemistry professor, member of Alpha Phi Alpha, and first African-American Dean of Howard Medical School. She moved to Chicago in 1921 and taught at Bennett College. Osceola later moved to New York City where she was a director of the Putnam Country Theater in New York City.


  2. #2

    Taiaiake Alfred

    1965 - Present (56 years)

    #41357 person's overall influence

    Gerald Taiaiake Alfred is an author, educator, and activist, born in Montreal, Quebec in 1964 and raised in the community of Kahnawake. Alfred is an internationally recognized Kanien'kehá:ka professor. Alfred grew up in Kahnawake and received a B.A. in History from Concordia University, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. He served in the US Marine Corps in the 1980s. Alfred was the founding director of the University of Victoria's Indigenous Governance Program (serving from 1999 until 2015) and was awarded a Canada Research Chair 2003–2007, in addition to a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in education.

  3. #3

    Alvin Eli Amason

    1948 - Present (73 years)

    #376847 person's overall influence

    Alvin Eli Amason is a Sugpiaq Alaskan painter and sculptor. He was raised in Kodiak and is of Alutiiq ancestry. He received his Master of Fine Arts from Arizona State University and taught for several years at Navajo Community College. For seventeen years, he taught at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and was the head of the Alaska Native Art studies program there. After retiring, he was asked to join the Department of Art at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and develop an Alaska Native Art curriculum.

  4. JoAllyn Archambault

    JoAllyn Archambault

    1942 - Present (79 years)

    #268906 person's overall influence

    JoAllyn Archambault is a cultural anthropologist with an expertise in Native American people. She is the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s American Indian Program. Born to a Sioux father and Creek mother, Archambault was raised in Sioux traditions and is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North and South Dakota. Archambault has made a great contribution to anthropology by providing an insider’s perspective to her research on Native American people.

  5. Noelani Arista

    Noelani Arista

    #192386 person's overall influence

    Denise Noelani Manuela Arista is an associate professor of Hawaiian and US History in the Department of History at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her scholarship focuses on 19th century American History, Hawaiian History and Literature, Indigenous epistemology and translation, and Colonial and Indigenous history and historiography. Arista was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi and she graduated from the Kamehameha Schools in 1986. She received both her BA (1992) and her MA (1998) in Hawaiian Religion from the Department of Religion at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. In 2010, she earned her PhD from the Department of History at Brandeis University. Arista's dissertation, "Histories of Unequal Measure: Euro-American Encounters With Hawaiian Governance and Law, 1793-1827," won the 2010 Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians for the "best-written doctoral dissertation on a significant subject in American history". Arista was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa in 2008. In 2013-14, Arista was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2018, Arista was promoted to associate professor of Hawaiian History at the University of Hawai'i.

    Arista’s current research examines the cultural, legal, and political colonization of the Hawaiian Islands. She has published on prostitution in 19th century Hawai’i, the arrival of James Cook to the Hawaiian Islands, the appropriation of Hawaiian culture, the recording and transmission of Hawaiian history, and early Hawaiian publications and historians. She is a leading expert on Hawaiian historian and chiefly counsellor David Malo and is immersed within the community of Hawaiian scholars. Under the auspices of the University of Hawaiʻi Committee for the Preservation and Study of Hawaiian Language, Art, and Culture, Arista is a member of a team of University of Hawaiʻi researchers currently working to collect, understand, interpret, and translate mele Kanikau, Hawaiian grief chants and laments that were published in 19th century Hawaiian-language newspapers. Arista’s first book, The Kingdom and the Republic: Sovereign Hawai’i and the Early United States, relates the experience of native Hawaiian encounters with colonialism during the early- to mid-nineteenth century. It was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2018.


  6. #6

    Jodi Byrd

    #771152 person's overall influence

    Jodi Byrd holds a master's degree and Ph.D. (2002) in English literature from the University of Iowa. Her dissertation was Colonialism's Cacophony: Natives and Arrivants at the Limits of Postcolonial Theory. Before moving to Cornell University, she taught at the University of Illinois Chicago, and before that she was an assistant professor of indigenous politics in the department of political science of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She was formerly associated with the American Indian Studies Program at Illinois. She was president of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures for 2011–2012. In 2012, she was adopted as a Clan Sister (one of the central organizing members) of the Native American Literature Symposium, which she has stated has been an inspiring community for her since her first days as a graduate student.

    Byrd has also served as an editorial board member for the journal Critical Ethnic Studies. Byrd’s 2011 book The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism won the 2011 Best First Book of the Year award from the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), and the 2012 Wordcraft Circle Award for Academic Work of the Year. Earlier, Byrd won the 2008 Beatrice Medicine Award for Scholarship in American Indian Studies of the Native American Literature Symposium for her paper “Living my native life deadly: Red Lake, Ward Churchill, and the discourses of competing genocides” (American Indian Quarterly, 2007). She recently became an associate professor of Literatures in English at Cornell University, where she also holds an affiliation with the American Studies Program. Her research applies critical theory to indigenous studies and governance, science and technology studies, game studies, indigenous feminism, and indigenous sexualities. She also possesses research interests in American Indian Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Digital Media, Theory & Criticism.


  7. #7

    Gregory Cajete

    1952 - Present (69 years)

    #26632 person's overall influence

    Gregory Cajete is a Tewa author and professor from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico. Cajete earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and sociology from New Mexico Highlands University, with a minor in secondary education. His Masters of Arts degree is from the University of New Mexico, and his doctorate is from the International College, Los Angeles's New Philosophy Program. His Doctorate of Philosophy is in social science Education with an emphasis in Native American Studies. Currently he is director of the Native American Studies program and associate professor of education at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He has been a New Mexico Humanities scholar of ethnobotany and is a member of the New Mexico Arts Commission.

    For 21 years, he taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Cajete served as principal investigator for several prominent studies of native science and education, that were funded by the National Science Foundation, New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He has received fellowships from The Newberry Library’s D’Arcy McNickle Center, the U.S. Department of Education and The School of American Research. His books include Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous Education, Ignite the Sparkle: An Indigenous Science Curriculum Model, Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence and others.

  8. Ward Churchill

    Ward Churchill

    1947 - Present (74 years)

    #4066 person's overall influence

    Ward LeRoy Churchill is an American author and political activist. He was a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1990 until 2007. The primary focus of his work is on the historical treatment of political dissenters and Native Americans by the United States government. His work features controversial and provocative views, written in a direct, often confrontational style.

  9. Joe Medicine Crow

    Joe Medicine Crow

    1913 - 2016 (103 years)

    #32144 person's overall influence

    Joseph Medicine Crow was a Native American writer, historian and war chief of the Crow Nation. His writings on Native American history and reservation culture are considered seminal works, but he is best known for his writings and lectures concerning the Battle of the Little Bighorn of 1876.

  10. Jeffrey Gibson

    Jeffrey Gibson

    1972 - Present (49 years)

    #156022 person's overall influence

    Jeffrey A. Gibson is a Mississippi Choctaw-Cherokee painter and sculptor from the United States, based in Hudson, New York.Background Early life Born in Colorado, as a child his family moved frequently. As a youth he lived in and Korea. Important to his role as an artist, press releases state that “This unique combination of cultural perspectives and exposure are essential to understanding Gibson’s artworks that combine and transform seemingly disparate references drawn from both Western and non-Western sources.”

  11. #11

    Richard W. Hill Sr.

    Rick Hill is a citizen of the Beaver Clan of the Tuscarora Nation of the Haudenosaunee at Grand River. He holds a master's degree in American Studies from the . He is the former Assistant Director for Public Programs, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution; Museum Director, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM; and Assistant Professor, Native American Studies, SUNY Buffalo. He recently retired as Senior Project Coordinator of the Deyohahá:ge: Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations Polytechnic, Ohsweken, Ontario. Rick is currently a Distinguished Fellow – Adjunct Professor and curriculum developer at Mohawk College, in Hamilton, Ontario.

  12. Valjean McCarty Hessing

    Valjean McCarty Hessing

    1934 - 2006 (72 years)

    #2299458 person's overall influence

    Valjean McCarty Hessing was a Choctaw painter, who worked in the Bacone flatstyle. Throughout her career, she won 9- awards for her work and was designated a Master Artist by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in 1976. Her artworks are in collections of the Heard Museum of Phoenix, Arizona; the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko, Oklahoma; and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian of Santa Fe, New Mexico, among others.

  13. #13

    LeAnne Howe

    1951 - Present (70 years)

    #99889 person's overall influence

    LeAnne Howe (born April 29, 1951) is an American author and Eidson Distinguished Professor in the Department of English at the University of Georgia , Athens. She previously taught American Indian Studies and English at the University of Minnesota and at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    LeAnne Howe attended Oklahoma State University–Tulsa where she majored in English. Afterwards, Howe worked toward pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Norwich University in 2000. Over the next couple of years, Howe’s career decisions began to shift towards the academic world, and she began teaching, lecturing, and developing courses in Native American Studies at the University of Iowa as well as Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Howe is an author, playwright, scholar, and poet. Born and educated in Oklahoma and a member of the Choctaw Nation, she primarily deals with Native American experiences within screenplays, and she also writes fiction, creative non-fiction, plays, and poetry.


  14. Georgia Mills Jessup

    Georgia Mills Jessup

    1926 - 2016 (90 years)

    #755870 person's overall influence

    Georgia Mills Jessup was an American painter, sculptor, ceramicist, muralist, and collage artist.Early life and education Jessup, a native of Washington, D.C., was of African-American, Native American, and European descent. Her father, Joseph Mills, was a member of the Pamunkey tribe; her mother was Margaret Hall Mills, a hairdresser who had dreamed of a career in the theater. The thirteenth of eighteen children, she was one of twenty-nine members of her family who followed an artistic profession. After an early display of artistic talent she was apprenticed to Herman L. Walker; two of her pa

  15. #15

    Jennie R. Joe

    1941 - Present (80 years)

    #291216 person's overall influence

    Jennie R. Joe (born 1941) is an American academic, medical anthropologist, and fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Initially trained as a nurse, she was one of the health clinic workers during Occupation of Alcatraz in 1969. She is a professor in the Departments of Family and Community Medicine and American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. Joe was one of the inaugural board members for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and serves on the board of the Urban Indian Health Commission.

    She graduated from the University of New Mexico as a public health nurse in 1964 and having been commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy Nurse Corps, completed her training in Newport, Rhode Island. After her graduation, Joe worked for the Indian Health Service, spending three years in northern New Mexico before transferring to North Dakota. Wanting to continue her education, Joe moved to California and completed her master’s degree in public health at the University of California, Berkeley. Joe, and Dorothy Lonewolf Miller (Blackfoot) both assisted nurse Stella Leach (Colville-Oglala Lakota), who established the health clinic on Alcatraz Island during the 1969 Occupation of Alcatraz. In 1971, she was one of the women involved in the formation of the National Indian Women’s Action Corps, an empowerment organization for Native American women.

    After completing a second master’s degree from UC Berkeley, in anthropology, Joe consulted with the California State Health Department on Indian health. While working at the California Department of Health, she assisted in founding the first program to address child abuse and neglect in the urban Indian community, which resulted in the establishment of the Urban Indian Child Resource Center of Oakland. In 1976, working part-time, Joe went on to study for her PhD in medical anthropology at UC Berkeley. In 1976, working part-time, Joe went on to study for her PhD in medical anthropology at UC Berkeley. Jennie Joe Noswood completed her dissertation on Navajo children with disabilities and was the first Navajo to earn a doctorate from UC Berkeley. Graduating in 1980, she worked as a research associate for the Institute for Scientific Analysis, focusing on American Indian issues. Joe then became an associate professor at University of California, Los Angeles in the Anthropology and American Indian Studies department. In 1986, Joe took a leave of absence from UCLA to assist the University of Arizona in developing a curriculum on disabilities and rehabilitation for indigenous people. She was involved in the research project, considered a landmark investigation into the needs of Native Americans, for the United States Department of Education. By the time the report, A Study of the Special Problems and Needs of American Indians with Handicaps Both on and off the Reservation, was completed in 1987, she had been hired as the co-director of the Native American Research and Training Center at the University of Arizona. By 1990, Joe was teaching as an associate professor and sole director of the Research and Training Center for the university. That year she was selected by the Smithsonian Institution to serve as one of 12 members on the inaugural board of the National Museum of the American Indian, which was to be constructed.

    In addition to her work in the Family and Community Medicine Department, Joe teaches in the faculty of American Indian Studies and is an elected fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology. She serves on the board of the Urban Indian Health Commission, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Indian Health Commission of Seattle.


  16. Ruthe Blalock Jones

    Ruthe Blalock Jones

    1939 - Present (82 years)

    #224590 person's overall influence

    Ruthe Blalock Jones is a Delaware-Shawnee-Peoria painter and printmaker from Oklahoma.Background Ruthe Blalock Jones was born on June 8, 1939 in Claremore, Oklahoma. Her parents are Joe and Lucy Parks Blalock. Her tribal name is Chulundit.

  17. Daniel Heath Justice

    Daniel Heath Justice

    1975 - Present (46 years)

    #40895 person's overall influence

    Daniel Heath Justice is an American-born Canadian academic and citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He is professor of First Nations and Indigenous Studies and English at the University of British Columbia. He started his studies at University of Northern Colorado and received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He began his career at the University of Toronto, where he taught English and worked in association with the Aboriginal Studies Program. Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (2018) is the winner of the NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) Award for Subsequent Book published in 2018. It also received the 2019 PROSE Award, granted by the Association of American Publishers, in the category of Literature and was nominated for the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism from the Association of Canadian and Quebec Literatures (ACQL). In 2015, Justice was awarded the UBC Killam Research Prize[8] in recognition of his leadership in the field of Indigenous Literary Studies and for his many contributions to it, including Our Fire Survives the Storm: A Cherokee Literary History (2006), The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature (co-edited with James H. Cox, 2014), and Why Indigenous Literature Matters (2018). In 2010, he was awarded the Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize at the University of Toronto.

  18. #18

    K. Tsianina Lomawaima

    1955 - Present (66 years)

    #560603 person's overall influence

    K. Tsianina Lomawaima is an interdisciplinary researcher of Indigenous Studies, anthropology, history, and political science. She is a professor in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. She specializes in the interaction between sovereign Native nations and U.S. federalism, the status of Native people as U.S. citizens, and federal Indian policy particularly in education. Her historical focus is the early 20th century.

    From 1972 to 1974, Lomawaima studied art and pre-medical studies at DePauw University. In 1976 she obtained a B.A. degree in anthropology at the University of Arizona, followed by an M.A. in anthropology at Stanford University in 1979. She continued to study anthropology at Stanford University, earning a PhD in 1987. Her PhD dissertation was called They Called it Prairie Light: Oral Histories from Chilocco Indian Agricultural School 1920–1940. In 1988, Lomawaima joined the faculties of Anthropology and American Indian Studies at the University of Washington. From 1994 to 2014, she was a professor in the department of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, and she was the head of that department from 2005 until 2009. She moved to Arizona State University in 2014.


  19. #19

    Henrietta Mann

    1934 - Present (87 years)

    #345617 person's overall influence

    Henrietta Mann (Cheyenne, b. 1934) is a Native American academic and activist. She was one of the designers of the Native American studies programs at University of California, Berkeley, the University of Montana and Haskell Indian Nations University. In 2000 she became the first American Indian to hold the endowed chair of Native American studies at Montana State University and was honored with the Montana Governor's Humanities Award. She retired in 2004 and became a special advisor to the president of Montana State University.

    In 1970, Mann completed her master’s degree in English literature at Oklahoma State University–Tulsa and was hired as part of the faculty for ethnic studies created after the Third World Liberation Front strike at University of California, Berkeley. She helped develop the curricula for the first degree program for ethnic studies in the United States, while at Berkeley. That same year, she joined with other Native American women including Grace Thorpe in the founding of the National Indian Women’s Action Corps, an empowerment organization. After teaching for two years at UC Berkeley, in 1972, she was hired to direct the Native American Studies program at the University of Montana, in Missoula. She would be a key designer of the curricula and taught at the university for 28 years. As a Danforth Fellow, Mann continued her education, earning a PhD in American Studies from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1982. That year, she was honored as Cheyenne Indian of the Year, for the American Indian Exposition. Between 1986 and 1987, she took a leave of absence from the University of Montana, teaching at Harvard University and serving in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Indian Education Office.

    Mann was the first woman American Indian woman to hold the position of director of Indian education programs and was selected by Assistant Department of the Interior Secretary, Ross Swimmer. Mann was selected by the American Indian Heritage Foundation in Washington, D. C., as Indian Woman of the Year for 1987. In 1991, Morton stepped away from her duties as director of the Native Studies Program and was promoted to a professorship which would give her more time to focus on writing. That year, she was featured in Rolling Stone as one of the top ten professors in the United States. During her time at the University of Montana, she took eight sabbaticals and became a widely respected speaker nationally on the issue of Indian education. During one of those leaves in 1993 and 1994, she helped design a Native American Studies Program for Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2000, she was selected to receive the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award. In 2001, Mann moved to Montana State University, to accept a position as the first person to occupy the endowed chair of Native American Studies at MSU. Retiring from teaching in 2003, Mann became a special advisor to the president of Montana State University. She served as one of the trustees who guided the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 2004. In 2008, she was honored by the National Indian Education Association with a lifetime achievement award and in 2016, she became one of only two American Indians elected to the National Academy of Education.


  20. #20

    Devon A. Mihesuah

    1957 - Present (64 years)

    #56896 person's overall influence

    Devon A. Mihesuah (born 2 June 1957) is an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation, a historian and writer, and a previous editor of the American Indian Quarterly. She is the Cora Lee Beers Price Professor in the Humanities Program at the University of Kansas. She is the second Native woman to receive a named/distinguished professorship (the first is Henrietta Mann). Her lineage is well-documented in multiple tribal records. Mihesuah has written award-winning books and articles about colonization, boarding schools, stereotypes, research methodologies, Indigenous women, AIM, repatriation, racism, violence against Natives, "fake news," slander and libel against Natives, in addition to a series of award-winning novels.


    • Daniel F. Austin Award Presented by the Society for Economic Botany
    • Gourmand International’s World Cookbook Awards: Best Book Award for Arctic, University Press and Heritage Categories, 2020
    • High Country News’s “This Season’s Best Reads,” November 11, 2019
    • Literary Hub’s Best of University Press Books, 2019
    • EcoWatch’s Best Environmental Books of August 2019 for Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the U.S.: Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health
    • Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Trophy Award for Best Non-Fiction Book
    • Finalist, Oklahoma Book Award
    • Best of the Rest Law and Order History-True West Magazine, for Ned Christie: The Creation of an Outlaw and Cherokee Hero
    • Trophy Award for the Best Fiction Book of 2011 presented by the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation for Document of Expectations
    • Outstanding Book on Oklahoma History Award presented by the Oklahoma Historical Society for Choctaw Crime and Punishment, 1884-1907
    • Trophy Award for the Best Non-Fiction Book of 2009 presented by the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation for Choctaw Crime and Punishment, 1884-1907
    • Finalist, Oklahoma Book Award for Choctaw Crime and Punishment, 1884-1907
    • Special Award of the Jury of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, for Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness
    • Finalist for Best in the World Cookbook
    • Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers’ Best Research Book of the Year
    • Finalist, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights
    • Arizona Writer’s Association Best Non-Fiction Book Honorable Mention for So You Want to Write About American Indians? A Guide for Scholars, Students and Writers
    • Finalist Oklahoma Book Awards, Grand Canyon Rescue
    • Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Trophy Award for Best Non-Fiction Book, American Indigenous Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism
    • Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Trophy Award for Young Adult Novel Award for Lost and Found
    • Arizona Writers’ Association Best Book of the Year, for Grand Canyon Rescue
    • Wordcrafters’ Circle of Native Writers
    • Journal Editor of the Year Award for the American Indian Quarterly, 2001
    • Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Trophy Award for Best Fiction Book for The Roads of My Relations
    • Critics’ Choice Award of the American Educational Studies Association for Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing About American Indians
    • Critics’ Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association, for Cultivating the Rosebuds Mihesuah is also the recipient of awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, American Educational Studies Association, American Historical Association, Arizona Humanities Council, Flagstaff Live! Ford Foundation, KU Crystal Eagle American Indian Leadership Award, National Endowment for the Humanities, Newberry Library, Phi Alpha Theta, Smithsonian Institution, Westerners International, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers. At NAU she received the Native American Students United Award for Outstanding Faculty, President’s Award for Outstanding Faculty, and Outstanding Faculty Woman of the Year Award.


  21. Simon J. Ortiz

    Simon J. Ortiz

    1941 - Present (80 years)

    #12996 person's overall influence

    Simon J. Ortiz (born May 27, 1941) is a Native American writer, poet, and enrolled member of the Pueblo of Acoma. Ortiz is one of the key figures in the second wave of what has been called the Native American Renaissance. He attended Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, as a chemistry major with the help of a BIA educational grant. While enthralled with language and literature, the young Ortiz never considered pursuing writing seriously; at the time, it was not a career that seemed viable for Native people; it was "a profession only whites did." Since 1968, Ortiz has taught creative writing and Native American literature at various institutions, including San Diego State University, the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Diné College, the College of Marin, the University of New Mexico, Sinte Gleska University, and the University of Toronto. He currently teaches at Arizona State University.

    Ortiz is a recipient of the New Mexico Humanities Council Humanitarian Award, the National Endowment for the Arts Discovery Award, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and was an Honored Poet recognized at the 1981 White House Salute to Poetry. In 1981, From Sand Creek: Rising In This Heart Which Is Our America, received the Pushcart Prize in poetry. Ortiz received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Returning the Gift Festival of Native Writers (the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers) and the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas (1993).


  22. Bertha Parker Pallan

    Bertha Parker Pallan

    1907 - 1978 (71 years)

    #250376 person's overall influence

    Bertha Pallan Thurston Cody was an American archaeologist, working as an assistant in archaeology at the Southwest Museum. She was also married to actor Iron Eyes Cody. She is thought to be the first Native American female archaeologist of Abenaki and Seneca descent.

  23. #23

    Christopher J. Pexa

    #9179983 person's overall influence

    Christopher Pexa specializes in 19th and 20th century Native American and U.S. literatures, Native American studies, and settler colonial studies, with an emphasis on questions of indigenous ethics, sovereignty, and nationalism. He completed his latest book with University of Minnesota Press, entitled Translated Nation: Rewriting the Dakota Oyate, that explores the ambivalent ways in which allotment-era Dakota authors played to white regimes of legibility while at the same time honoring tribal common sense and producing a contemporary Dakota nationhood. Pexa's essays have appeared or are forthcoming in PMLA, Wíčazo Ša Review, SAIL, and MELUS. He is also a published poet and is currently working on a book of prose poetry, entitled Throne of Horses, about the afterlives of Indian boarding schools.

    Pexa’s educational achievements are many. Cornell University, Andrew W. Mellon Diversity Postdoctoral Associate, 2013-15; Mellon Dissertation Fellow, 2012-13. Education: Vanderbilt University, Ph.D. in English, 2013; M.A. in English, 2008; Arizona State University, M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry), 2003; University of Cambridge, Marshall Scholar, Graduate work in Social Anthropology, 1998-1999; Arizona State University, B.A. in Religious Studies, 1998, Summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Barrett Honors College Outstanding Graduate.

  24. #24

    Jolene Rickard

    1956 - Present (65 years)

    #877639 person's overall influence

    Jolene Rickard, born 1956, citizen of the Tuscarora nation, Turtle clan, is an artist, curator and visual historian at Cornell University, specializing in indigenous peoples issues. Rickard co-curated two of the four permanent exhibitions for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

  25. #25

    Alice Mary Robertson

    1854 - 1931 (77 years)

    #639034 person's overall influence

    Alice Mary Robertson was an American educator, social worker, Native Americans’ rights activist, government official, and politician who became the second woman to serve in the United States Congress, and the first from the state of Oklahoma. Robertson was the first woman to defeat an incumbent congressman. She was known for her strong personality, commitment to Native American issues, and anti-feminist stance.

  26. #26

    Luana Ross

    1957 - Present (64 years)

    #59408 person's overall influence

    Luana K. Ross (born 1949) is a Native American sociologist of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, located at Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Montana in 1979, her master's degree from Portland State University, and her doctorate in sociology from the University of Oregon in 1992, before serving as faculty at the University of California, Davis and University of California, Berkeley. Since 1999 she has been a faculty member for the Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington. She has also been an Adjunct Professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Washington since 1999. In January 2010, she was appointed president of Salish Kootenai College, effective in July of that year. She resigned from the position in 2012.

    Ross is currently the co-director of the Native Voices Graduate Program of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington. Native Voices is the master’s degree program in Native American Documentary, Film, and New Digital Media, and documentaries produced by students of the program have won numerous awards. Ross herself has produced several award-winning films, including The Place of the Falling Waters (1991), White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men (1996), and A Century of Genocide in the Americas: The Residential School Experience (2002). From 2010 to 2012, Ross served as president of Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana. Ross was the third president in the college’s history. During her tenure as president, Ross undertook many projects for the benefit of the campus community, including naming a Presidential Commission on Sustainability and a Presidential Commission on Parity, starting an honor professor series, addressing unethical grading in the Nursing Department, enacting new policies on violent and sexual crime on campus, and openly supporting the campus LGBT community. Ross resigned from the position in October 2012, citing “irreconcilable visions” between herself and the members of the governing board. Following her departure from Salish Kootenai College, Dr. Ross returned to teaching and research at the University of Washington. Ross served as a guest editor of the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Volume 40, No. 1 (2016). The issue’s theme is “Settler Colonialism and the Legislating of Criminality.” In addition, Ross serves on the international advisory board for the feminist academic journal Signs.


  27. #27

    Leilani Sabzalian

    #4199085 person's overall influence

    Dr. Leilani Sabzalian (Alutiiq) is an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies in Education and the Co-Director of the Sapsik'wałá (Teacher) Education Program at the University of Oregon. Her research focuses on creating spaces to support Indigenous students and Indigenous self-determination in public schools, and preparing teachers to challenge colonialism in curriculum, policy, and practice. She is also dedicated to improving Indigenous education in the state of Oregon by serving on the American Indian/Alaska Native State Advisory Committee and collaborating with the Office of Indian Education on professional development to support the implementation of Tribal History/Shared History, a law that mandates curriculum on tribal history and sovereignty in all K-12 public schools in Oregon.

    Dr. Sabzalian’s first book, Indigenous Children’s Survivance in Public Schools, uses storytelling to document the ways colonialism continues to shape educational policy and practice, and foster educators’ anticolonial literacy and commitment to supporting Indigenous students in public schools. Her latest book, Teaching Critically About Lewis and Clark: Challenging Dominant Narratives in K-12 Curriculum, co-authored with Drs. Alison Schmitke and Jeff Edmundson, complicates the Corps of Discovery and promotes students’ active and critical engagement with history.

    Education: 2015 Doctor of Philosophy, Critical and Sociocultural Studies, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR; 2003 Master of Education, Educational Leadership, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR; 2002 Bachelor of Arts, Educational Studies, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

    Honors and Awards: 2020 Outstanding Book Award, American Educational Research Association (AERA); 2020 Human Rights Leadership Award, Springfield Alliance for Education and Respect (SAFER); 2019 Indigenous Educator of the Year, Oregon Indian Education Association; 2018 Honorable Mention, National Council of Teachers of English; English Journal Edwin M. Hopkins Award; 2017 Curriculum Inquiry Writing Institute Fellow, Ontario, CA; 2017 Outstanding Dissertation Award, Narrative SIG, American Educational Research Association; 2016 Outstanding Dissertation Award, Division B, American Educational Research Association; 2016 Outstanding Dissertation Award Runner-Up, Qualitative Research Special Interest Group, American Educational Research Association; 2015 Wayne Morse Dissertation Fellowship, Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics (declined due to other accepted award); 2014 National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship.

  28. #28

    Audra Simpson

    #2146610 person's overall influence

    A member of the Mohawk tribe, Audra Simpson is a professor of anthropology at Columbia University. Simpson focuses on the politics of recognition, specifically the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk struggles in keeping their legal and cultural rights. Her book, Mohawk Interrupts, was celebrated by Indigenous studies scholars as a critical addition to education on tribal community and national identity. As an anthropologist, a career in a field that is notorious for exploiting and thinking of Natives only in the past tense, Simpson pushes against these notions by centering on Native epistemologies.

  29. #29

    James Thomas Stevens

    1966 - Present (55 years)

    #41981 person's overall influence

    James Thomas Stevens (born 1966) is an American poet and academic. He is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation and currently teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. James Thomas Stevens was born in Niagara Falls, New York, and his Mohawk name is Aronhió:ta's. His father was a Welsh-American and his mother is Mohawk. In 1993 Stevens earned his MFA in writing from Brown University Graduate Writing Program, where he had a full fellowship. He earned a Creative Writing AFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he received the Gerald Red Elk Scholarship in 1990, allowing him to attend the Naropa Institute Summer Writing Program. Stevens briefly attended the School of Visual Arts and Brooklyn College in New York. Stevens was an associate professor in the English Department of SUNY Fredonia and the director of American Indian Studies. He has also been an Instructor of Poetry at Brown University and taught at Haskell Indian Nations University. He is an author of numerous volumes of poetry. An international poet with professional invitations to France, Turkey, and China, Stevens spoke at the IIPF in the United Nations in 2006. He formerly taught at Haskell Indian Nations University and remains a vibrant member of the Native community as well as a leading young American Poet.

  30. #30

    Kim TallBear

    1968 - Present (53 years)

    #189443 person's overall influence

    Kim TallBear (born 1968) is a Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate professor at the University of Alberta, specializing in racial politics in science. Holding the first ever Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience and Environment, TallBear has published on DNA testing, race science and Indigenous identities, as well as on polyamory as a decolonization practice. TallBear is a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota, as well as a descendant from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma.

    TallBear pursued post-secondary education at the University of Massachusetts Boston obtaining an undergraduate degree in community planning. She then completed her master’s degree in environmental planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduating, TallBear worked for 10 years as an environmental planner for United States federal agencies, tribal governments, and national tribal organizations. She later worked for a non-governmental, Indigenous environmental research organization in Denver. This organization started holding workshops that researched the implications of mapping of the human genome and the genetic research on Indigenous peoples. It was through this workshop that TallBear found a desire to continue her education, and subsequently completed her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz in History of Consciousness in 2005. In 2010, TallBear was elected to be a member of the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) and served in the position until 2013. In late 2016, she became the first ever Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience and Environment. As she is an anthropologist specializing in the cultural intersection of science and technology, TallBear is a frequent media commentator on issues of Tribal membership, genetics and identity.


  31. France Winddance Twine

    France Winddance Twine

    1960 - Present (61 years)

    #44803 person's overall influence

    France Winddance Twine is an American sociologist, documentary filmmaker, a visual artist and an enrolled citizen of the Muskogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma. A native of Chicago, she is the granddaughter of Paul Twine, Sr., a Civil Rights activist and founding member of the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, a Civil Rights organization that brought Irish, Italian, German, Polish and Black Catholics together to fight for racial justice. Dr. Twine is a Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara where she regularly teaches courses on race, gender and class inequa...

  32. Gerald Vizenor

    Gerald Vizenor

    1934 - Present (87 years)

    #9823 person's overall influence

    Gerald Robert Vizenor (born 1934) is an American writer and scholar, and an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, White Earth Reservation. Vizenor also taught for many years at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was Director of Native American Studies. With more than 30 books published, Vizenor is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, and Professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico. After a stint in the military upon returning to the United States in 1953, Vizenor took advantage of G.I. Bill funding to complete his undergraduate degree at New York University. He followed this with postgraduate study at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he also undertook graduate teaching. After teaching at the university, between 1964 and 1968, Vizenor worked as a community advocate. During this time he served as director of the American Indian Employment and Guidance Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which brought him into close contact with numerous Native Americans from reservations. Vizenor began working as a staff reporter on the Minneapolis Tribune, quickly rising to become an editorial contributor. He investigated the case of Thomas James White Hawk, convicted of murder. Vizenor's perspective allowed him to raise difficult questions about the nature of justice in a society dealing with colonized peoples. His work was credited with enabling White Hawk to have his death sentence commuted.

    Beginning teaching full-time at Lake Forest College, Illinois, Vizenor was appointed to set up and run the Native American Studies program at Bemidji State University. Later he became professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (1978–1985). He later satirized the academic world in some of his fiction. During this time, he also served as a visiting professor at Tianjin University, China. Vizenor worked and taught for four years at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he was also Provost of Kresge College. He had an endowed chair for one year at the University of Oklahoma. Vizenor next was appointed as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He is professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico.


  33. #33

    Robert Allen Warrior

    1963 - Present (58 years)

    #198134 person's overall influence

    Robert Allen Warrior (born 1963) is a scholar and Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Kansas. With Paul Chaat Smith, he co-authored Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. He is generally recognized, along with Craig Womack , as being one of the founders of American Indian literary nationalism. Warrior served as President of the American Studies Association from 2016 to 2017. He earned a bachelor's degree in speech communication from Pepperdine University, a master's degree in religion from Yale University, and a doctoral degree in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In 1999, Warrior taught at Cornell University. Warrior previously taught at Stanford University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Illinois Chicago. He has served as president of the American Studies Association (ASA) and helped found the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). In 2018, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences inducted Warrior.

  34. #34

    Robert A. Williams Jr.

    1955 - Present (66 years)

    #61421 person's overall influence

    Robert A. Williams Jr. is an American lawyer, author, and legal scholar. He works in the fields of federal Indian law, international law, indigenous peoples' rights, critical race and post-colonial theory. Williams teaches at the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law, serving as Regents Professor, E. Thomas Sullivan Professor of Law and Faculty Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program. Williams is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina. He earned his B.A. from Loyola University Maryland in Maryland in 1977 and his J.D. from Harvard University Law School in 1980.

    Now at University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, Williams has established a notable career in the fields of American Indian and International law, indigenous people’s rights, and critical race and colonial theory. He has published several books on these topics. For the 2003-2004 academic year, Williams was named the first Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He previously taught there as the Bennet Boskey Distinguished Visiting Lecturer of Law.

    Williams served as Chief Justice for the Court of Appeals, Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation. He also served as Justice for the Court of Appeals and trial judge pro tem for the Tohono O’odham Nation. Williams has represented tribal groups before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples. He served as co-counsel for Floyd Hicks in the United States Supreme Court case, Nevada v. Hicks 533 U.S. 353 (2001). Williams has received awards from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Soros Foundation Open Society Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Institute of Justice in recognition of his research and advocacy on behalf of Indian tribes and indigenous peoples. 1990 Annual Gustavus Meyers Human Rights Center Award, for outstanding book on the subject of prejudice in the United States - The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest)


  35. Alfred Young Man

    Alfred Young Man

    1948 - Present (73 years)

    #103108 person's overall influence

    Alfred Young Man, Ph.D. or Kiyugimah (Eagle Chief) (born 1948) is a Cree artist, writer, educator, and an enrolled member of the Chippewa-Cree tribev located on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation, Montana. He is a former Department Head (2007–2010) of Indian Fine Arts at the First First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan and former Chair (1999–2007) of Native American Studies, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Lethbridge and University of Regina.

    Young Man attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (1963–1968) where the German painter Fritz Scholder was his painting teacher for two years (1966–68). The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts retains a considerable number of Young Man’s paintings in its collection from the five years he spent there. Young Man went on to study painting, film history and photography at the Slade School of Fine Arts for four years (1968–72). Young Man earned his M.A. at the University of Montana (1972–74), where George Longfish (Seneca-Tuscarora) was his teacher and mentor in the Graduate Program in American Indian Art. He graduated with his Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in anthropology from Rutgers University–New Brunswick in 1997, where he studied anthropology as a student of William Powers.

    Young Man has been an art teacher since the early 1970s, beginning on his home reservation at the Rocky Boy Elementary School (1973–1974), after which he moved to the K.W. Bergan Elementary School in Browning, Montana, on the Blackfeet Indian reservation for a short time. He continued to the Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana (1975–1977), where he helped found the Total Community Education television training program. When that program ended, he moved on to the University of Lethbridge in 1977, where he eventually became chair of Native American studies (1999–2010). He taught in the Faculty Exchange Program at the University of Lethbridge/Leeds University Leeds, UK, in 1985 and the Faculty Exchange Program University of Lethbridge/Hokkai Gakuen University Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, in 1992. He remained tenured at the U of L up until 2007 when he chose early retirement and began work as department head of Indian Fine Art at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan. In addition to his teaching activities at the First Nations University, Young Man also worked as archival curator and custodian of the school’s 1500-piece art collection. In August 2010 his employment at FNUC was terminated along with approximately 52 other professors and support staff, due to financial exigency budget cuts. He was appointed in 2015 Adjunct Professor to the Art Department, University of Calgary. Most recently in terms of his lifetime, Young Man did an artist/writer’s residency at the Lab 26 Tejiendo Identitdad Entre Las Culturas Originarias de America, Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo Paul Bardwell, Centro Colombo Americano de Medellin, Medellin, Colombia in 2011. He has spoken at numerous conferences and other venues held on every continent on the planet throughout his long professional career.


Photo Credits: