Native American Scholars Initiative

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative (NASI) fosters the development of the next generation of Indigenous and allied students and scholars by supporting emerging scholarship in Native American and Indigenous Studies.

The Native American Scholars Initiative (NASI) complements the collaborative, community-engaged work undertaken by the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research. With funding from The Mellon Foundation, NASI promotes research in the field of Native American and Indigenous Studies and related fields by undergraduates, Native American scholars, Tribal College faculty members, and researchers who work closely with archives and Native communities. NASI offers annual opportunities through pre- and post-doctoral fellowships, undergraduate internships, workshops and other resources. 

Current and Past Recipients

2023 Recipients

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Career Pathways Fellowship

Emily Leischner, Independent Scholar, “Activating Nuxalk Ancestral Governance to Protect the Nuxalk Language at the APS"

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship

Christopher Roy, Independent Scholar, “Temahigániak and Hallowell"

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Predoctoral Fellowship

Alexandra Lamiña, University of Texas, Austin, “Indigenous Geospatial Mobility: Agency, Gender, and Urbanization in Ecuadorian Amazonia"

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Digital Knowledge Sharing (DKS) Fellowship

Alexander Jimerson, Deadiwënöhsnye's Gëjóhgwa', "Onödowa’ga:’ Gawënö’ Wadwënödahöh"

Sara Snyder Hopkins, Western Carolina University, "Scoping the Cherokee Language Journals of Will West Long"

Maureen Matthews, Independent Scholar, "Hallowell Photographs: Images and Memories"

Laura Spaan, Eyak Cultural Foundation, "Accessing Eyak: Connecting the Community to its Audiovisual Heritage"

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Undergraduate Summer Interns

Mara Gutierrez, Yale University

Kiwenke Hubbard, Washburn University

Keyen Singer, University of Oregon

2022 Recipients

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship

Eli Nelson, Williams College, “Sovereign Knowledge: Native Informants, Settler Occupation, and the Becoming of Native Science”

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Predoctoral Fellowship

Ruth H. Matamoros Mercado, University of Texas, Austin,"Land is Life: Towards a Political Reconfiguration of Miskitu People’s Relations with Land"

Maura Sullivan, Tulane University, "Redefining our record: Chumash inquiry in Smithsonian archives"


The Mellon Foundation NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing (DKS) Fellowship

Tressa Berman, Independent Scholar, "Voices from Fort Berthold: Mandan (Nueta)-Hidatsa-Arikara (Sa'nish)"

Sean Guistini, Nunavut Arctic College, "Returning Digtial History to Nunavut Communities 

Eric Johnson, Brown University, "Mapping Munsee Lenape Landscapes"

Dawn RandazzoChugachmiut Heritage Preservation Archive


The Mellon Foundation NASI Undergraduate Summer Interns

Gunnar Barnes, University of New Mexico

Katie McGhee, University of Texas, Austin

Alexis Scalese, University of New Mexico

2021 Recipients

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship

Anna Antoniou, "Living Off the Bay, Past & Present: Revitalizing Chinookan and Lower Chehalis Foodways"

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Predoctoral Fellowship

Jarrett Chapin, University of Wisconsin, Madison, "Indian Interiors of the National Imaginary: Industry and Individualism in Nineteenth-Century America"

Anabelle Rodriguez, Rutgers University, "Curating Xunantunich: Conserving Ancient Maya Art & Architecture & Preserving Natural Heritage in an Urban Cultural Landscape of Western Central Belize"

The Mellon Foundation NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing (DKS) Fellowship

[None this year due to COVID disruptions]

The Mellon Foundation NASI Undergraduate Summer Interns

[None this year due to COVID disruptions]

2020 Recipients

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship

Brooke Bauer, University of South Carolina, Lancaster, “Catawba Women and Nation-building, 1540-1840"

The Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative Predoctoral Fellowship

Candy Martinez, University of California, Santa Cruz, "Rethinking Structural Inequalities and Emotional Illnesses in Oaxacan Communities"

The Mellon Foundation NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing (DKS) Fellowship

Cassandra Smith, University of Illinois, Chicago, “Telling History from the Land”

Robbie Jimerson, Rochester Institute of Technology, “Seneca Language Revitalization”

Dianne Hinkley, Cowichan Tribes Land Research, “Oral Histories with Cowichan Elders” 

Hilary Leathem, University of Chicago, and Pedro Guillermo Ramon Celis, Indiana University, Bloomington, “Este Lugar Tiene Muchas Historias”

The Mellon Foundation NASI Undergraduate Summer Interns

Dynette Chavez, Whittier College

Nancy Mendoza-Ruiz, University of Washington

Tieranny Keahna, Coe College

2019 Recipients

The Andrew W. Mellon Native American Scholars Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship

Timothy Vasko, Barnard College, “Native Information: Indigenous Subjectivity and Political Autonomy in Early-Modern Colonial Arts of Governance, 1492-1690”

The Andrew W. Mellon Native American Scholars Initiative Predoctoral Fellowship

Mary Kate Kelly, Tulane University, “Speech Carved in Stone: Language Variation among the Ancient Lowland Mayas”

Angela Tapia, University of Texas Austin, "Mujeres de Polleras: Weaving A Way of Being in The Altiplano Region"

The Andrew W. Mellon NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing (DKS) Fellowship

Laverne Demientieff, University of Alaska Fairbanks, "Digitizing Deg Xinag: Inspiring Connections Between Language Learning and Well-Being”

Amy E. Den Ouden, University of Massachusetts, Boston, "Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribal Archive"

Brandon Graham, Chippewas of the Thames, “Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Treaty Research”

X'unei Lance Twitchell, University of Alaska Southeast, “Tlingit Language Revitalization”

NASI Undergraduate Summer Interns

William Cummins, Virginia Commonwealth University

Jasmine Gloria, Tulane University

Liandra Skenandore, Northland College

2018 Recipients

Tiffanie Hardbarger (The Andrew W. Mellon Native American Scholars Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow) of English/Irish and Cherokee decent and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, has a PhD in Community Resources & Development from Arizona State University. Currently, Tiffanie is an Assistant Professor in the Cherokee & Indigenous Studies department at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. She has developed and taught interdisciplinary courses including: community and cultural sustainability, traditional ecological knowledge systems, food sovereignty, sustainable tourism, Cherokee cultural heritage and lifeways, and Indigenous-led self-determination movements. Her dissertation, Sustainable Communities: Through the Lens of Cherokee Youth (2016), developed a Cherokee-led community development framework and raised the voices of Cherokee youth regarding questions of sustainable communities and perpetuating cultural practices. From this participatory community-based study, the concept of ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ("lifeways") emerged as a salient Cherokee-centered concept as well as a recognition of the deep importance of perpetuating community-based practices.

During this upcoming year she will be working to repatriate relevant archival materials to the Cherokee people in Oklahoma to be translated and used in multiple ways including community programs, developing language materials and curricula, etc. Additionally, a goal is to glean more specific data regarding the changes over time in Cherokee community-based practices. ᎦᏚᎩ (gadugi) is an example of a community practice that honors our ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ and worldview. With historical ties to communal economic work groups, gadugi has been described as a group of people (or a community) coming together to achieve one goal. The practices of gathering edible plants and gadugi will be examined in two Cherokee tribal nations, the Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma) and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (North Carolina). More research is needed to better understanding the barriers to passing knowledge and language on to future generations. Therefore, the intent is to examine the changes over time in community-based practices, such as how such land-centered literacies are taught, learned, and perpetuated. 

Research Project: “Sustainable Communities: Through the Lens of Cherokee Youth”

Morgan Ridgway (The Andrew W. Mellon Native American Scholars Initiative Predoctoral Fellow) is an interdisciplinary scholar and writer from West Philadelphia. Currently, he is a History PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with graduate minors in American Indian Studies and Queer Studies. Prior to moving to Illinois, Chris received his B.A. in Psychology and Gender and Sexuality Studies from Swarthmore College. The working title of his dissertation is “This Feeling of Being Together with Your Own: Competing Indigeneities in 20th century Philadelphia” which investigates the ways indigeneity was debated, enacted, and acknowledged by urban Native and non-Native people. Moving from Benjamin West’s 1772 painting, Penn’s Treaty with the Indians at Shackamaxon, he deploys a broad understanding of performance to include visual arts, dance, lectures, court trials, marches, etc., to interrogate how and why Philadelphia became a key site in the production of knowledge regarding what it meant be indigenous in the 20th century. Chris brings together anthropologists, religious groups, activists, architects, and an urban Indian center, asking what did “indigenous” mean, where was Philadelphia’s Native population, and how did its members create space for themselves in the city? In utilizing performance he focuses on the moments of possibility for Native life and the utopian potential within Philadelphia’s multi-tribal organization.

In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Chris wants to discover new ways of articulating and displaying history. He is particularly interested in findings points of connection between theatre, dance, sound design, and history in order to present historical evidence in more immersive ways for general audiences.  

Research Project: “This Feeling of Being Together with Your Own: Competing Indigeneities in 20th century Philadelphia”

The Andrew W. Mellon NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing (DKS) Fellows

Patrick DeɁileligi Burtt is an enrolled member of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California (Wašiw) and a direct descendent of the Tule River Tribe (Yokut). He is a graduate of Fort Lewis College and earned a Master of Arts in American Indian Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2018. In Fall 2018 he will enroll in the History PhD program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Burtt’s research explores state-sanctioned genocide and the Wašiw. 

Research Project: "Reclaiming Wašiw History: Washoe Digital Archive Construction"

Ashley Cordes is a doctoral candidate in Media Studies at University of Oregon with an emphasis in Native American Studies. Her research focuses on alternative and digital media in Native American tribal and global contexts. She is an enrolled member of the Coquille Indian Tribe based in Coos Bay, Oregon and Chair of their Culture and Education Committee.  Some of her work can be found in Television & New Media and New Media & Society, and she recently received an award for outstanding doctoral student teaching.  Outside of academics she enjoys hiking and nature, international travel, and time with animals.

Research Project: "Currency as Communication and Oregon Colonial Processes of the 1850s"

Maria Montenegro is a third year doctoral student in Information Studies at UCLA. Her interdisciplinary research sits at the intersection of critical archival theory, Indigenous studies, and tribal law and policy, in conversation with anticolonial theory and the Indigenous data sovereignty movement. With an MA in Museum Studies from NYU and a BA in Aesthetics from Universidad Catolica (Chile), she recently co-authored “Collaborative Encounters in Digital (Cultural) Property: Tracing Temporal Relationships of Context and Locality” with Dr. Jane Anderson, in the Routledge Companion to Cultural Property. She currently works with Dr. Kim Christen in the Sustainable Heritage Network and with Dr. Jane Anderson in Local Contexts.

Research Project: "What Makes Evidence Evidence? The Use and Interpretation of Records in the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians’ Federal Acknowledgment Petition"

Saul Schwartz is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He works on Native American language documentation and revitalization, focusing on Chiwere and other Siouan languages.  His research explores how representations of indigenous heritage languages—how they are recorded, written, talked about, translated, and curated—give them cultural significance. In addition to compiling a digital database of Chiwere texts at the American Philosophical Society, he is currently writing on the ideological dominance of immersion methods in Native American language revitalization and on the cultural politics of obscenity in Siouan languages.

Research Project: "Unarchiving Chiwere Language Documentation: Recontextualizing the Marsh/Small Texts"

NASI Undergraduate Summer Interns

Ashton Dunkley is a rising senior at Temple University with a History and Anthropology double major, as well as an Italian minor. Along with being a D-1 track and cross country athlete, Ashton is also within Temple University’s Honors College and a tutor at the Resnick Academic Support Center. In response to her success as a student, Ashton was awarded Temple University’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. She has been involved with research under the direction of various faculty members in the History department. Her thesis, titled “Hidden in Plain Sight: The American Indian Movement and the Revival of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape, 1969-1982,” explored the resurgence of the New Jersey tribal community in the latter half of the 20th century and argued AIM’s direct impact on the event. This particular topic was very near to her heart as she is Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape. Outside of academics and running, Ashton likes to spend her time painting, reading, and embroidering.

Mowana Lomaomvaya is a member of the Hopi Tribe and is from the village of Hotevilla on Third Mesa in northeastern Arizona. She is a student at Northern Arizona University and a student assistant at NAU Cline Library - Special Collections and Archives. Mowana is in the last year of her undergraduate studies, majoring in Anthropology with an emphasis in Archaeology and a minor in History.

Ian McAlpin just graduated in May from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, majoring in Cherokee Cultural Studies, emphasizing in language revitalization and minoring in 2D Fine Arts. In Fall 2018 he will start studying Library Sciences at the University of Oklahoma Tulsa campus, with a focus in Indigenous Studies. His goals are to work in a museum or library and continue to do his part in preserving and revitalizing Cherokee language and culture. Ian belongs to Squirrel Ridge Ceremonial Grounds in Kenwood, Oklahoma and is Gaduwa.

2017 Recipients

Tiffany Hale (Andrew W. Mellon Native American Scholars Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow) completed her Ph.D. in the department of history at Yale University with a specialization in Indigenous Studies and United States History. Her dissertation examined the interplay between U.S. military strategy and American Indian spiritual practices in the late nineteenth century. Tiffany was most recently a short term fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago and a dissertation research fellow at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. She is of Cherokee and African American descent, but was born in Gallup, New Mexico and raised in Virginia, North Carolina, and California. She is currently revising her dissertation into a book manuscript.

Research Project: “Hostiles and Friendlies: Memory, U.S. Institutions, and the 1890 Ghost Dance”

Teresa Montoya (Diné) (Andrew W. Mellon Native American Scholars Initiative Predoctoral Fellow) is pursuing a Ph.D. in Anthropology at New York University where she also earned a certificate in Culture and Media (2015). She holds an M.A. in Museum Anthropology (2011) from the University of Denver. Currently, Montoya is working on a multimedia project, The Day Our River Ran Yellow/ Tó Łitso, a Diné centered visual meditation on the landscapes and waterscapes affected by the Gold King Mine spill in August of 2015. Themes of environmental contamination and settler colonialism raised in this project are central to her dissertation research that engages issues of jurisdiction and regulation alongside articulations of sovereignty for Diné communities confronting various forms of toxic exposure in the Navajo Nation. Montoya’s doctoral coursework and research has been generously supported by funding from: New York University, the Ford Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Research Project: “Tracing Toxicity: Dine Politics of Permeability”

Holly Miowak Guise (Andrew W. Mellon NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing Fellow) is a History Ph.D. candidate at Yale University completing her dissertation on World War II Alaska Native history. Born in Anchorage, and Iñupiaq with family from Unalakleet, her research travels have carried her across Alaska. Her dissertation bridges archives and elder oral histories with a focus on gender, internment, Native activism, and military service during the war. She has received funding for her research from the Ford Foundation, the Cook Inlet Historical Society, the Western History Association, the American Philosophical Society, and at Yale she has been named the Bartlett Giamatti Fellow, William K. Fitch Fellow, Irene Battell Larned Fellow, Ralph H. Gabriel Fellow, and Paul C. Gignilliat Fellow.

Research Project: “World War II and the First Peoples of the Last Frontier”

Megan Lukaniec (Andrew W. Mellon NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing Fellow) is a member of the Huron-Wendat Nation of Wendake, Québec, Canada and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation, currently in preparation, is a grammar of her heritage language, Wendat. As the last speakers of this language passed away during the mid-19th century, Lukaniec’s research is based upon the historical documentation of the language, which dates from the 17th century onward and spans several centuries. Her work is situated within the broader language reclamation and revitalization efforts in which she has played an active role for the past decade.

Research Project: “A Grammar of Wendat (Huron)”

Anna Naruta-Moya (Andrew W. Mellon NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing Fellow) is project director for the Indigenous Digital Archive, an IMLS National Leadership Grant project of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (Santa Fe, New Mexico) in partnership with the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the State Library Tribal Libraries Program. Dr. Naruta-Moya has served as an archivist for the Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, and the US National Archives, and consults for organizations including the Santa Fe Opera. Concern for the ability to share and communicate about objects from different repositories and create projects with longevity led her to join the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) community to help create shared open source applications for archival collections. A past fellow of the Getty summer institute in digital art history, she is a research associate professor of the University of New Mexico and a research associate of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.

Daniel Moya (Tewa, P’o Suwae Ge Owingeh) conducts social media outreach and community engagement for the Indigenous Digital Archive. Mr. Moya was raised on the reservation by his grandfather and his grandmother, who attended the Santa Fe Indian Industrial boarding school from the age of five. (Her father was one of the few graduates from Carlisle Indian Industrial School, in 1901.) Mr. Moya works as a contractor for the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs International Visitor Leadership Program. He is an award-winning artist in sculpture and bronze, received a New Mexico History Scholar award for research on the Indian Boarding Schools of Santa Fe, and has given talks on the boarding schools as incubators of Native American sports.

Research Project: “Indigenous Digital Archive”

Edward Noel Smyth (Andrew W. Mellon NASI Digital Knowledge Sharing Fellow) received his Ph.D. in History from the University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) in 2016. He is a lecturer for the Writing Program at UCSC and also teaches history courses at Cabrillo Community College. He is currently working on a book project and an article about the Natchez who lived with the Chickasaws in the 1730s.

Research Project: “Digital Archives of Natchez Oral Histories”