Thoughts on the benefits of book manuscript workshopping
A few months ago, I finalized my first draft of my book manuscript - all 350 pages of it. It was part of my NEH grant objectives, wrapping up some loose ends that I have been working on since my dissertation. At the top of those were addressing concepts of faith in research, Diné metaphysics in everyday life, and my role as the 2018 Miss Navajo Butchering Event Coordinator. I am lucky to have networked and found a group a great scholars who are very well-attuned to the areas I write in and luckily for me, they were gracious to invite me up to their home at the University of Washington. Once there, I would meet with graduate students and faculty, offer a presentation related to one of my chapters, and then workshop the manuscript with a group of scholars interested in my topics. No biggie, right?
Before I arrived - my manuscript made a pathway for me. The workshoppers would read it in all its spelling, grammar, and Chicago citation errors. I was excited and nervous for the feedback. What if it sucked? echoed in the back of my head, although I knew it is one hell of a manuscript. But I had questions about certain themes and non-chronological presentation. And of course, what if my writing is too honest? also hung around in my mind. Honesty - its a completely subjective trait but it is my most defining quality. I know that not all agree with it or appreciate it. But this manuscript, however, holds that honesty lens on myself -- a multispecies auto ethnography with sheep as the evaluator.
The night I arrived - I had dinner with Jose Antonio Lucero, MaríaElena Garcia, and their son. A welcoming of spicy foods that I have soo missed since having toddlers who opt out of the dichíí. It was also homecoming dinner in some fashion for my project. Tony was there at the very beginning of my dissertation's journey - back when I was still trying to find my voice in academia, when I felt like no one would want my work, that no one would want me. But Tony and the 2011 Social Science Research Council Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship Global Indigenous Politics Cohort did... From that space, I met a powerful group of scholars, Indigenous and allies, many of whom have become my people - the ones I turn to and those who turn to me. Included in that group is MaríaElena, who would eventually become part of my dissertation committee, guiding me in the areas of Indigenous experiences co-existing with nonhuman animals. It had been 11 years since our last meeting - and while our stories showed the passing of time, our meal together was as effortless as if it had been 11 months.
My presentation went off without a problem - it was great being in front of a crowd again. It was something that I missed since COVID set in. In the seats where scholars who I had intellectually grown up through, including Dr. Charlotte Coté! I wish I got a photo 🤣🤦🏽♀️. There were was also a fellow Aggie - Dr. Joshua Reid whose recent work is now informing my own. Missed my photo opt there too. 🤣🤦🏽♀️ Now that I think of it.... I missed all photo opts unless it was of food or the weather...🤣🤦🏽♀️ By the way.... I missed dining out... the food in Seattle - all the shell fish- it was AMAZING! But back to business.
In the group there were Native American Studies scholars, literary scholars, political science scholars, animal studies scholars, performance studies scholars, geography scholars, and friends. Radhika Govindrajan, who I had admired since one of my SSRC Global Politics cohort members introduced me to her work and who had also met with me during the start of my sabbatical, joined the table via zoom. I was astonished by the people who took the time to read me - some of them coming in from their own sabbatical to chat about this project. There were even graduate students who joined in, not merely in presence but also in voice!
I didn't know what I would take away from the meeting before we started, but looking back in hindsight, this is what I can tell you:
They helped me to see my overarching picture and end game that I, myself, was couldn't quite see from up close. They had me talk out where I had loose ends. Despite not being weavers, they could feel how I spoke of weaving and broken warps and they forced me to put names to those broken warps. In that theoretical framework, they encouraged me to embrace the messiness of the interventions that I have to make in Native American Studies, animal studies, Diné studies, history, anthropology, and academic writing in general. The honesty that I was afraid to share, they found comforting, even in my personal writings of loss, both human and nonhuman animals lives that have shaped me. That was the most shocking for me of the workshop- how the deaths in my writings came through. While the project focuses on sheep deaths, I didn't realize that I wrote so heavily about the death of my brother, of my grandparents, of sheep, and of mountain sheep as movements in my life that I had to overcome. But it was the first thing that the group brought up... condolences and gratitude for sharing those intimacies - intimacies that are part of our every day life now - opioid wars, becoming an elder as our grandparents move on into the next world, picking up stewardship responsibilities because our animals have chosen us. It was a lot to take in, a lot of voices and opinons - and I wrote down as much as I could in a newly christened writing journal that had been just gifted to me by the organizers of the group of MaríaElena, Tony, Josh and Radhika.
Sitting in the airport, taking the last of my meals without my boys, I set up my laptop to write emails of gratitude - here is what I have to say to each one of those individuals who are committed to helping other scholars grow... not just me -- but all those they can.
Boarding the plane back to Albuquerque, my boots now have dust from a different field that I bring home to my field.
In short, if you ever have an opportunity to workshop your book manuscript - DO IT. Sure, it might be a plane ride and a few time zones away. But you may just come home with corn seeds from fields that you didn't know you needed.
Thoughts about 2nd reader feedback and the completion of my NEH Award objectives
Pretty inspiring comments coming from the second reader of my NEH application, if I don't say so myself lol. By far, these were the most negative comments I received and the lowest ranking score I was given in my successful run for a NEH Awards for Faculty felllowship. Good thing the other readers thought otherwise. The other readers provided feedback taking into consideration my application as well as my letters of recommendation and my CV. Yet, regardless of the lines and lines of support from the other readers, for some reason, I just can't shake the feedback from that second reader. And I actually received the grant....Am I alone? I can't be the only one who let's the 2nd reader get under their skin, can I? You can judge for yourself as the NEH selected to showcase my project as a sample for future applicants to read. Check out Narrative Section of a Successful Application. Even better... rank it yourself and put that rank in the comments below... lol.
It's not just this application, the 2nd reader stigma has and always will be the bane of publishing hopefuls. This is the same in the grant and fellowship worlds. For those who don't know what / who a 2nd reader is - its basically the person presses and funders bring on to kill your publishing vibe... lol just kidding: It's usually the 2 review of your application or article and their job is to be a critical as possible. They are not there for the feels - they are there to find the holes you have left that could discredit your chance of actually completing a fellowship or any gaps that you have in articles that would discredit the press who is publishing your piece.
But here is the thing... I've been the second reader. And with grants like this one, livelihoods come down to these reads....literally tens of thousands of dollars that let academics pursue dreams. If someone honestly thinks that a junior scholar is incapable because of lack of publishing, lack of letters of recommendation support, whatever - they have to point it out. I've seen it within my own institution, faculty or staff receive the luxurious work load release to research and publish and when the time comes to produce the final deliverables - there is no research or publishable piece to present. So I understand.
But still, hey, second reader, have you heard Taylor Swift's song, you know the one were haters be hatin'. Well that's how you came in....and I was like.... damn, it's only 7am.
So to my second reader,
No offense (so you know I am here to offend), but I don't know if you have met junior scholars like me - the Indigenous scholars who are ridden hard by the academic system and put away wet. I know that sounds harsh and perhaps a bit crude but that is where the scholars like me come from. As minorities in R1 institutes, everyone wants a piece of us so they can claim diversity and equity, whatever that means. As type A personalities in tribal colleges, everyone expects we pick up everyone else's slack. (And if you are offended by the wet horses comment, clearly you have never had horses, sickos 😆. You should be more offended if you are part of the groups who stand by as we are put away wet).
We have learned to dry ourselves off. And you will never see the towels we use because we have a home support system that helps us balance our well-being. Our home may not be our biological relatives, but humans and nonhuman animals that have melted into our lives that wish us to succeed for who we are and not what we can provide for them.
Our drive will out race almost anyone in short or long distance runs, regardless of diversity or other merit based opportunities. If it sounds like a lot, it is - but that's what we, high driven, motivated Indigenous junior scholars do. We show up to cook and stay to clean up. We put in the grant fellowship applications and make rocks move so that we can finish them. Because if we don't, that gives others, especially those who have never met Indigenous scholars, the right to speak of our 'diversity given' opportunity and not of our stellar ethics, both in the work place and in the community.
I know your job is hard, but when you see a packet like mine fly into your email or be placed on your desk for review - you should listen to our recommenders when they tell you of what we are capable of. If our plans seem impossible of a task, ask yourself, is it unfeasible or is it just unfeasible for you. Look at the C.V. and read in between the lines, where grant management overlap, dissertation completions, and faculty of the year awards. That is not by coincidence, nor given by diversity, or gifted by administrations - that is the work of our horse. I don't want an award because I am an "Indian in Academia," I want an award because I aspire and I can do. If you don't read between the lines, if you don't justify your decision beyond "it doesn't seem feasible" it just looks like you need an excuse to award someone else. Provide suggestions on how to make it feasible.
Keep taking on roles as the 2nd reader. I took every single feedback you did provide and made it happen. I made sure that my story in my multi-species autobiographic manuscript highlighted the struggles of a junior Indigenous scholar, including my moments of doubt in me... I actually reduced my interdisciplinary connections because that was the dissertation's job - this book's job is to provide applications of real world experiences to reach broader community and academic realms... I contacted minority serving institutes across the nation to not only pitch this project and possible collaboration but to make them aware of grants their institutes could apply to meet their own program's food sovereignty, indigenous research, and community grounded projects come to life... And I built a new home of scholars to help me workshop this manuscript into its final publishing format - it is a team of individuals who, in fact, believe that the evidence is evident of successful objective outcomes. I know that not every scholar is like me. And I know that I can't be awarded every grant or fellowship that I apply to. But make your feedback, 2nd reader, count for improvement.
Thoughts about Sheep Is Life, the 2023 Window Rock Celebrations, and my first presentation with edits from the Navajo Lifeways group.
But this year's 2023 Sheep Is Life Celebrations in Window Rock, Arizona moved me to throw on my good boots, the ones that rarely see the corral, with some coral and Navajo pearls. On Saturday June 17th, with a mask and sanitizer ready, I headed to our Nation's capital. After a year of editing I am on the last leg of author edits of my book project prior to submission to the editors. Presenting helps to remind me of my chapter story lines, receive feedback from community members on my interpretations, and reinvigorates my project and the sprouts from the main research. And if there was a crowd I wanted to speak in front of, it was this one. So I stepped out - unsure of what was more daunting: presenting my findings to the group who spent years teaching me or stepping out into a world that has relaxed its COVID prevention protocols. Paranoid?, maybe. Crazy?, possibly. Nervous?, absolutely.
I arrived at the Navajo Nation Museum and saw so many beautiful familiar faces. They were chatting, working with fibers, selling rugs, jewelry, paintings, and shirts. Most were sheep themed - it made me which I wore my black sheep shirt :) I also noticed the missing presence of those hadn't made it to this side of the pandemic because of age, because of sickness, because of life. The warm sun and slight breeze meshed those memories with the current realities. It felt good to be touched by it all and to be around this group.
I made my way to the auditorium, removed my mask, hooked up my wireless mic, and started speaking. Maybe it was because this was my first in person presentation about my work in the dust of COVID - maybe it was because I was just grateful to be alive, when so many hadn't made it to this dust trail - maybe it was because my husband was in the crowd for the first time. What ever it was, as I spoke I became more and more grateful.
During my presentation, it hit hard -- the positive impact of the Diné be' iiná: Navajo Lifeways organization - the people, the histories, the sheep. They have been part of my journey, integrating a Navajo girl who grew up mostly off the reservation into a confident Táchinii woman who grows with the land and animals of the Chuskas. A lot of people talk about how difficult it is returning home to live, finding a job, fitting in - but it wasn't like that for me. While it may have been daunting, it wasn't something that I was going to shy away from. I accepted positions in the dorm before working up to an associate professor and grant manager for the Navajo Cultural Arts Program. All along, I was raising sheep, or as my book dives into, they were raising me. It had been in my dreams from childhood that I would return - and I have - but never along. My grandparents, family, sheep, shadow, and this Diné be' iina: Navajo Lifeways group helped me to secure my footing.
We have woven together, run together, butchered together, eaten together, celebrated together, and complained together.
I was particularly excited to share with Sheep Is Life's audience the introduction of the Indigenous Animals Studies curriculum at Diné College. This was an important result of my dissertation and my conversations with the individuals I met through the Navajo Lifeways Organization. In particular, at my very first focus group at Roy's house, a group assembled to butcher with me and to help me to fine tune questions for my dissertation. Roy himself suggested asking about what classes students could take to reconnect with nonhuman animals and if students would be interested in them. Turns out they were and now they can - so thank you, Dine Be'Iina Inc, for hosting not just Sheep Is Life, but for living it :) You have helped me live it too!
Sheep Is Life, I'll see you next year - hopefully with a book in hand!
If you would like to check out the presentation - I speak for about 30 minutest starting at the 50 minute marker: https://www.facebook.com/709240484/videos/6530199793698042/
Thoughts on creating curriculum that supplements inherent Indigenous approaches to reengaging animal relationships.
Coffee is the Start to All Great Days: We grab some coffee from the 1st floor of Diné College's Ned Hatalthi Center Building and make our way to my office - a room that has been vacant for the last year because of my sabbatical. These days it is more of a storage area than a place of critical thought or student advising. Embarrassed by the dust and clutter, I make room for Dr. Kelsey Dayle John to sit down and we start chatting about horses, sheep, dissertations, and life as Diné women, ranchers, and academics.
I met Kelsey after googling resources on Indigenous animal studies. I had found abstracts of articles that spoke to me as if we were writing from the same space: Diné relationships with nonhuman animals. She focuses on horses 🐴 and I sheep 🐑, both animals that have been written off as acculturated nonhuman animals acquired during colonial contacts 🇪🇸🙄. I tried to access her dissertation, book chapters, and articles but our library unfortunately did not have subscriptions. So, like any good academic - I stalked Kelsey on Facebook 👀 and asked for copies via messenger 🤣.
We got to chattin' online and, boy, did we have a lot in common! I shared this blog about my manuscript writing adventures. She sent videos and articles and let me know that she would be organizing the Horses Connecting Communities gather. This would be the 3rd annual community learning space that will take place June 17-18 at Diné College Rodeo Grounds to honor and perpetuate the legacy between Diné people and horses (PSSST - there is still time to register and attend so get on it!). We planned to meet up during one of her visits to Tsaile ... coffee - it was decided as a good meeting place :)
More than Animal Studies: Meeting Kelsey was a breath of fresh air because she made me feel normal about my thoughts about Animal Studies as a Navajo woman who works and lives with livestock. She had completed her dissertation a few years after I did. As we talked I wished we had met earlier, when I was in the trenches of writing. My biggest hang up during that time period was deciding if Animal Studies was what I was doing. I mean, I was justifying Diné relationships with nonhuman animals with the non Indigenous trending studies, using the lingo, had committee members dedicated to the field ... but what I was writing about was/is taught to me by animals (domesticated, wild, dreamt). It is much older than the academic field of Animal studies; it is much more prestigious than academia itself. Kelsey got that.
Purpose of Human Animal Studies Classes at Diné College: So I shared with her our new courses on animal studies from Indigenous standpoints that I had been working on as part of my larger NEH award. This part of my award was also an updating of my Animal Studies repertoire. I read A LOT of topics within the realms of Human Animal Studies, Animal Narratology, Critical Animal Studies, and Animal Science. I looked at curriculum in place and suggestions of how to create Traditional Ecological Knowledge lessons from places like Dr. Seafha Ramos' website Stem Trading Card: TEK Lessons. I checked out books like Dr. Margo DeMello's edited volume Teaching the Animal: Human–Animal Studies across the Disciplines (2010) to justify course descriptions and draft letters to adiministration. And I read as many of the Indigenous scholars I could find who worked with nonhuman animal relationships (enter my fb stalking of Kelsey lol). I found blogs to be a wonderful space to talk outloud. Dr. Zoe Todd's website Specultative fish-ctions helped me to organize my own website and blog (even how to find space to promote our family's art business - check it out).
The courses are spread across the Anthropology and Native American Studies disciplines and are meant to transition out ANT111: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and usher in approaches that understand culture beyond anthropocentrism, beyond primitive studies of Indigenous peoples and cultures. More specifically, they are closely aligned to four of Diné College Strategic Goals in 2022:
Human Animal Studies Series
ANT116: Introduction to Human-Animal Studies: This course explores relationships between humans and other animals, as well as ideas that humans have about animals. Topics will include introduction and application of fundamental concepts of Human-Animal Studies (HAS) as they apply to human-animal economies, attitudes toward animals, and animals in art, belief systems and literature.
ANT216: Animals as Commodities: Through Human-Animal Studies (HAS) frameworks, the class analyzes three areas in which non-human animals “serve” humans: as food, as pets, and as research tools. Students will explore notions of power and difference, ethics and responsibility, and creativity in re-imagining the status quo of human-nonhuman animal relationships.
NAS316: Indigenous Relationships with Nonhuman Animals: This course deconstructs anthropocentrism (human-centered perspective) to understand how Indigenous relationships between human and nonhuman animals are created, maintained, and destroyed. The class considers critiques of the Social Sciences, STEM, and Humanities’ approaches to human-nonhuman relations offered by Indigenous peoples, scholars, and knowledge holders and culminates with specific praxis to reestablish those relationships between human and more than human.
NAS416: Indigenous Relationships beyond Death of Nonhuman Animals: This class intersects Animal Science, Animal Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies to explore how, where, and why non-human animals die. Through case studies grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing, the class will analyze how relationships between human and non-human animals continue before, during, and after the death of the non-human animal. Example topics may include Makah whale hunts, Andean guinea pig butchering, and Hupa, Yurok, and Karuk salmon fishing among others. The class will culminate in technical workshops guided by cultural teachings of traditional Diné sheep butchering.
What do the Discpline Prefixes and Course Levels Indicate?
None of these classes have prerequisites, because in reality relationships between human and nonhuman animals can start anywhere, at any level, or at anytime. But the NAS classes allow for a sensory component to learning that the ANT classes don't engage as much. While students learn how to conduct multi-species ethnographies in the 116 and 216 classes, it is not until the 316 and 416 classes where we work with Dinécentric sensorial arenas. Students are required to work with their own livestock or assist with Diné College's Land Grant Office and their animals to reengage communication with both human and nonhuman animals.
So why bother with the ANT classes at all?
For starters they meet the general education degree checklist 😆. I am currently working on NAS meeting that criteria on its own. In the meantime, this has helped to facility other programs, such as the Animal Science degrees here at Diné College to add these classes to their degree checklists. But beyond checklists - the ANT classes bring me back advice by my doctoral advisors, Dr. Mendoza and Dr. Vareses, who told me as a Navajo Native American Studies scholar I will need to know both Western and Indigenous approaches, theories and trends just as well as, if not better than, scholars from the so-called main stream disciplines. It will only add to my tools in my tool kit and give me an upper hand in any debate or dialogue. I have taken that into my own pedogogical practices. Often you will hear me tell students "do not throw the baby out with the bath water." Just because they are written by non-Indigenous scholars, doesn't mean they aren't helpful in articulation or thought processes - even if it is to deconstruct their own discipline.
Therefore, the ANT classes introduce unique perspectives from both Western and Indigenous ways of knowing on how we relate with animals. This information helps us to grow how we look at ourselves. The NAS class will allow for us to focus on how we as Indigenous people dialogue and depart from other Indigenous communities throughout the globe.
✅ Update current trends in Animal Studies literatures, practices, and curriculum
✅ Create Indigenous Animal Studies courses to accompany my book manuscript
Classes are open to all Diné College students and will be taught in rotation. Thank you to all those great minds, scholars, teachers, and community members, who have helped bring these courses to life!
Don't forget to register!!!!
Thoughts on the acronym trend in academia and Indigenous ways of knowing.
BANG! Blood seeps from the sheep’s eye and nose as she falls to the ground. It is my first time in a USDA slaughterhouse and the first time I had seen a bolt gun used to kill a sheep. I am sick to my stomach but trying not to let it show as I stood with friends, Ph.D. Candidates in the biomedical field who had invited me with them as they extracted sheep brain samples for their cancer research. BANG! “How different is this butchering from your butchering,” my friend asked as he harvested the brains from a decapitated sheep head and then tossed the head into a bucket that will be marked for disposal.
BANG! As blood drains into a sewer for disposal from the first sheep's headless neck, another sheep falls to the ground and is lifted to a meat rack. That feeling in my stomach continues but not for the exposure to death. I have seen plenty of livestock butchered at home on the Navajo Nation and had a fair number of butchers under my belt before stepping into that building. BANG! It is the approach, the trivialization of lives that catches me off guard for some reason: Watching as other sheep watched each other die. I mean, I knew where I was going (to a USDA slaughter facility), I knew why I was going there (to start work with USDA sheep butchers), but still a sickness formed in my stomach that I had to learn to work through or with to complete my dissertation research. BANG! Did I need to butcher like this?, I thought. No, but I was there to learn so I did my best to push through it to see if I could do just that. Learning from them was difficult... but then I met Navajo butchers who worked in the slaughterhouses and who encouraged me to learn with them because maybe I would understand. To my surprise I did, and the sickness went away because of them and my insight to slaughterhouses and Indigenous butchers transformed. BANG!
This sickness in my stomach has once again touched me; this time as I transition my dissertation into a book manuscript. I returned in 2022 to the research realm since my 2016 graduation. It was a timely break from my 5/5 teaching load and grant work. I knew where I was going (back into the world of written academia, a place that belittles Indigenous ways of knowing and where Indigenous scholars are attempting to make major headway in changing that space) and I knew why I was going (to catch up on trends, verbiage, scholarship, emerging Indigenous scholars).
To my surprise, human-animal studies is in a huge boom; everyone is talking about “the more-than-human.” It is now cool to talk about what many Indigenous people still do, people who actually live these ways of knowing and being and who embrace these responsibilities since time immemorial.
While the trendy of what I write about took me off guard in terms of self-doubt about what makes my project distinct and if animals studies is what I actually do; what made my stomach turn - my BANG! is the absolutely astounding use of acronyms being employed by Indigenous and ally scholars to engage Indigenous Research Methods and Methodologies and ways of knowing.
IWOK: Indigenous Ways of Knowing
TKHs: Traditional Knowledge Holders
IRM: Indigenous Research Methods
TEK: Traditional Ecological Knowledge
ISW: Indigenous Storywork
ISW 4RS: Indigenous Storywork Four R's of Storywork
IK: Indigenous Knowledge
SNBH: Sa'ah Naaghai Bik'éh Hozhóón
and here is one that literally induced laughter:
OMC: Old Man Coyote
And the list continues…
BANG! BANG! BANG! Over and over.
Individuals who are publishing to teach others of the power and dangers of Indigenous praxis have created a trend of trivializing concepts, practices, collaborators, beings into a few letters because despite their claims of these ways of knowing as being ever so almighty, their academic labels are just too cumbersome to write out. Isn't it already problematic enough that we have the academic labels as it is? But I won't go there today.
The best case scenarios (please sense the sarcasm) occur when an acronym is employed without indicating what it stands for as if TKHs is so well spread, that all readers - including the alleged most important readers of Indigenous scholars... the community members - know what those letters are. (Here is Perdue Owl's help to properly use acronyms). I... myself... a community member and academic still has to google these letters. Just last week I received an invitation to offer a IWOK keynote, but I had no idea what IWOK is and it was never spelled. I had to google it... (No - I did not accept the invitation) WHO ARE YOU/WE WRITING FOR?
Don’t get me wrong I use acronyms- more than I like - mostly prefixes for classes like NAS for Native American Studies. And in my syllabus you will find SNBH because it is required as part of our academic policy to include the verbatim statement. Then there is the checking of the AI/AN box for demographic selections in surveys and such.
It is not just with Native American and Indigenous studies and those trying their best to engage these approaches; people everywhere are taking acronyms to the extreme. I hear ads on the radio for MBC, a condensed version for metastatic breast cancer. It’s as if we can’t say cancer anymore, we need to trivialize everything to acronyms.
When I read that scholarship with these acronyms, my stomach turned because I asked myself: do I need to use these acronyms now? I saw these Indigenous scholars, Navajo scholars, doing it. So I tried it. BANG - the bolt gun was now in my hand. My stomach turned. It wasn’t like I was learning from lifelong practitioners as I did with the Navajo butchers who work in slaughter facilities.
I returned to those acronym soup readings and even worse, memories of hearing Indigenous and ally scholars using acronyms for these being (FYI: people actually say I-R-M out loud in conversation), and I realized that it is the scholars that use the acronyms that I was questioning. Regardless of how meaningful or impactful their articles, books, lectures are, their uses of acronyms make me question their actual engagement; the use of those acronyms make me question if they actually experience these power and are willing to at all costs teach their children of the dangers.
For example Jo-ann Archibald (2019), who employs an alphabet soup of acronyms, elucidates seven "ISW" principles: "that facilitate meaning making through and with Indigenous stories, which may be of a traditional nature or about lived experiences" as if Indigenous ways of knowing is segregated traditional stories from lived experiences. She may have gems in this piece but her used of acronyms take away from what she and her collaborators have to say. Not to mention that this alleged segregation she suggest offers an impression that she doesn't understand how the "lived" and the "traditional nature" are all enveloped into one.
In fact, her use of acronyms is the only thing creating a segregation between the two. It actually makes me giggle think: Do scholars who use these acronyms go into the hogan and say outloud: "Wow, this IK hit me so hard," sit in the teepee and tell the roadman: "you are one bad ass TKH," or head out to gather herbs and shout to the tree tops: "hey, this TEK is powerful"? I doubt it. Will the Holy People know what you are saying if you sing "SNBH" instead of the full verses? I'm not willing to risk it.
And I am not just isolating Archibald for the fun of it. I am sure that those of you reading this blog are selecting your own example... WE are using acronyms everywhere. And I say we, because I, you, them, are we. We are the scholars and academics that continue to perpetuate this denigration. It just so happens that a chapter of Archibald was just the fortunate one to be assigned as a reading to my husband in his Indigenous Research Methods class this past week. So it is fresh in my memory.
There is no separation from between traditional and lived experience. Scholars are doing it to ourselves with engagements such as these (do I need to go into internal colonization discussions here?) Works like Archibald's work is a perfect example of Indigenous scholars isolating themselves further because these alphabet soup readings make their way back to our communities; sometimes because there is a topic provoked and other times we are just trying to figure out who these scholars are, where they come from, what clan they are, and when are they home. I learned that many (not all) are individuals who are vacationers to their homelands at best. They don’t want to relearn their language, only write of language loss. They don't want to engage with Indigenous research within their homelands, only in the city. They don’t want to become cultural artists, only do a couple of workshops and celebrate their temporal reconnections with raw materials. They don’t want to engage these ways of knowing at home as daily, seasonal obligations, only teach about Indian magic as a nostalgic or exotic propaganda tool used to enchant colleagues, students, and funders. In short - they never plant but still teach the Corn Pollen Road of Life.
"Chill, Christine. Why are you so angry," I asked myself out loud. "Because these beings, what have been reduced to a few letters, can literary cure cancer. They keep the world in balance and bring life and death," I responded to myself. When Indigenous and ally researchers use acronyms for these powers, they trivialize methods, collaborators, and extra-intellectual ways of knowing for the sake of ease and trend.
I remember speaking with an elder at our college about the use an the acronym for Sa'ah Naaghai Bik'éh Hozhóón and the complications of it use within a Western academic setting. He told me he understand why I was upset about the acronym and the institutionalization this being. But we talked it out. He explained to me that he used it because he didn't want students and non-Navajo faculty to feel intimidated with pronunciation at the time of the College's origins. It brought us back the age old language discussion and the major question of being able to pray in our language for ourselves and our loved ones; how we have made it "okay" to take short cuts by using English. It brings me back to: Will the Holy People know what you are saying if you use only English in your prayers and substitute the acronym of SNBH instead of the full verses. In the case of acronyms, we, Indigenous scholars, are pulling ourselves away - no one else to blame here.
Memories of that discussion help me to move through the anger into a new place -- how to approach this trend. I think of the institutionalization of young Indigenous scholars now - maybe, like myself, they felt/feel pressured to use the acronym because they were/are trying to prove that they can do the academic thing just as well as anyone else. Maybe they picked up the bolt gun because they thought there was no other option.
So I returned to personal accountability: Do I need to use these acronyms? My response is: “I will not.” I have sat up too many nights praying and singing for cures, I have been visited by one too many “nonhuman” animals, I have been informed by one too many dreams, I have teared over one too many failed crops because of drought and over one too many snowstorms that blessed our fields. I have fell asleep at one too many sings, been yelled at by one too many medicine persons, have been home long enough to know that reducing these ways of knowing to 3 or 4 letters is mockery.
If you use these acronyms in your scholarship or speak with them in classes, at lecture, or with friends, pause and think about this: If you can't spell out Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Traditional Knowledge Holders, if these words, concepts, beings are taking up too much of your word count; if you cannot even try to pronounce Navajo philosophies, maybe these things don't mean as much to you as you claim they do in your publishings or in your life for that matter. Am I judging us? Only as much as we judge the non-Native scholars who denigrate, dismiss, and belittle our ways of knowing.
Perhaps you will read this as too conservative, perhaps you will see me as a lateral oppressor, that’s okay. I don’t need an acronym to accept that although YDL would work well here.
Those Navajo butchers who work in meat processing facilities taught me so much about the power of life and death of these ways of knowing in a "sterile" Western environment and how that extends into their work and our lives. They taught me how to maneuver: when and how to pick up the bolt gun and when the knife. I thank them for helping me through those BANGs. Their work and applications of Diné ways of knowing within a slaughterhouse make more sense to me than acronym usage within Indigenous thought, philosophy, and pedagogy pieces.
For the scholar who use these acronyms and, consciously or not, trivialize our ways of living, I hope this is your BANG! Writing this blog was certainly one for me - no more acronyms in writings and no more in my syllabus. It's small but its a step.
Life’s not easy nor is it trendy - so stop making these approaches as if they were.
Thoughts on writing book reviews, where to start, templates to follow, and writing reviews on friends' books
Several of my former students and my colleagues who are now in graduate school have recently reached out to me asking how to get started with publishing. More specifically, they have wanted to know about building confidence in their writing voice and developing a thick skin for critical feedback from those who would read them. I tell them - "Book Reviews". It's like holding the sheep legs during a butchering. Yes, the butchering could take place without you, but with your help, others can get through the process a bit quicker (unless you aren't very good at holding the legs, which in that case, I hope your bread is outstanding 🤦🏽♀️🤣) In this regard, book reviews allow other readers to peruse texts for specific themes without reading the whole book. Your analysis may help them decide to buy, rent, borrow, or pass on a book.
Additionally, book reviews are a great way to not only start a publishing resume but also allow for the start of relationships with journals, journal editors, and even book editors (as long as you submit quality work on time). All of these networks will become extremely important to you, if you wish to pursue an academic publishing career.
But how do you write a book review? Today's blog I am going to share how I got started writing book reviews and suggest some possible templates that you can follow.
Recipe for Graduate School Response Papers: After a quick (1) blurb on the author (sometimes this was extremely significant; other times it was irrelevant but I included it anyway), I moved into identifying (2) key concepts of the book that the author intended after which I pulled sections that (3) positively stood out to me and then areas that (3) negatively stood out of the book. I then finished with its (4) applicability to the Native American Studies discipline. During this time, I was also prepping for qualifying exams so I found a way to make response papers helpful for my study process; this included placing images of both the author and text on the response paper to help me with memorization (I know - I am a nerd. But I passed my qualifying exams with high pass across the board so there is that 🤓).
Easy to critique: I learned during this time that it was way easier to pull things apart than it is to put them back together. I was in that first and second year of graduate school phase where you know just enough to get into heated debates but lack the diplomacy and maturity to work into an area of healthy dialogue. Micheal Yellow Bird in For Indigenous Eyes Only (2005) more eloquently defines this as the latter two stages of critical thinking: Deconstruction (for me the debate stage) and Conscientization (for me the mecca of critical thinking - the dialogue stage). Regardless of what you call it, all that "let me tell you how they are wrong" made my response papers long and often cumbersome (hopefully not like this blog🤣). I learned to make critiques helpful, instead of anger and ego fulled. This meant pulling out a lot of my emotion and focusing on what the author said.
Hard to get word count down: I'm wordy.... if you haven't gathered by now, my stories are detailed and so were my response papers. Enter Dr. Mendoza - my qualifying exam committee member and dissertation chair. "Christina, you need to cut this down. Be more concise." So book after book, my response papers got shorter but also more concise and helpful. And each submission, I got the feedback "Christina, you need to cut this down. Be more concise." So I continued to cut my response papers to where I expended no more than one concise paragraph on the entirety of the book. But even then - during our advisor meetings, she would request a wrap up of the book in a sentence. By the time my qualifying exams came, I could do it (albeit they were the most run-on and extra punctuated sentence structures but, hey, I still did it!🎉).
So what does this have to do with book reviews... they trained me to read and write with clarity, brevity, and critical voice - the perfect training for book reviews.
From Response Paper to Book Review: While some of my cohort started publishing book reviews during graduate school, I waited until after I graduated. My first review was for the Tribal College Journal (and I continue to publish with them today because I love the audience and the editors). I remember accepting the request and being really nervous because, even though the author wasn't Navajo, the book was about Navajo people and by a well-known anthropologist working in the areas of Native foodways. It took me FOREVER to write those 500 words. Well actually, it was pretty easy to get down 1000 words. I needed to cut it to 500 - that took forever. I sent it out to 2 or 3 of my friends to read and re-read for me. And I kinda felt sick to my stomach submitting. It was my first ever piece that would represent my thoughts in a published arena - and my thoughts are pretty honest. And what if I submitted it with spelling and grammar errors? Would the editor regret asking me to write for them? But when it came out, response to my book review was great and I was over the hurdle of getting my first publishing out there!
Recipe for Book Reviews:
The journal that you are writing for will have their own specific details that you will need to adhere to: citation formats, word count, headers, biographies, as well suggestions on what they want to see in your review. Pay attention to those instructions because they will kick back your book review if you don't. Not the best start to building a relationship with editors 😆.
Now-a-days, I am taking book review requests in areas that are helpful to my book project. To date, I have three styles that I have utilized:
Speaking of Lateral Oppression: The biggest hurdle that I have had to overcome is the fear of being accused of lateral oppression in book reviews. Just because a Native or Navajo scholar wrote it, doesn't necessarily make it a sound contribution to the area of study. How do I write that and not have everyone jump on my back?, I used to think.
Now that I am more confident in my writing and in my opinion as a Navajo scholar writing from within the Navajo Nation, I am not bothered as I was before. As I explain in my Transmotion book review on The Diné Reader (2021): "we, as Navajo writers and academics, want to create, publish, be read, we say we want to re-learn, re-member, re-vitalize but... are we ready to be reviewed by our own people in all its celebrations and critical feedback? It's hard, but I learned from my Nálí that not all criticism is a micro- or macroaggression of cultural bullying. More often than not, it is an undoing and rethreading of a misplaced line of wool to reconnect us with our traditional teachings."
Yes, it may hurt feelings; yes, it may create rifts; but in the end, it strengthens who we are as Native Scholars. Support is found in both critical analysis and emotional support. Why shouldn't I provide both?
Book Reviewing Friends: All the book reviews that I have done have been written by authors who I have never met or were merely acquaintances with. As more and more of my friends are publishing, I am receiving requests for book reviews about their work (and even reviews for books by my former professors). Up until now, I have pushed them away. I don't know why really... closeness, fear of losing a friendship, difficulty with emotional separation, general intimidation - I don't know really. 🤦🏽♀️
But, thanks to my buddy 🤝 Dr. Andrew Curley, whose book Carbon Sovereignty: Coal, Development, and Energy Transition in the Navajo Nation will be dropping in April 2023, I'll hopefully work through those discomforts by way of a book discussion during the 2023 Diné Studies Conference. Dr. Jennifer Denetdale organized a panel of Diné scholars to dialogue with Andrew and discuss the relevance of his study to local, national, and global academic conversations as well as it's impact on Navajo communities. We are just waiting for word on whether our panel was accepted or not. 🤞🏽
I also just accepted a request to review my NAS colleague at UNM and home girl 👭, Dr. Wendy Greyeyes' A History of Navajo Nation Education: Disentangling Our Sovereign Body (2022). Hopefully, the panel will help with confidence writing about my friends' work in written format.
So as I said, completing book reviews, they are the sheep leg holding of academic publishing. Slowly you build your confidence and hopefully, after a few rounds, you'll look to hold the knife.
Thoughts on life, death, moisture, and my brother.
Death is such a touchy topic for many, but especially for Navajo people. For me, my work brings me very close to death - mostly with non-human animal deaths- so much so that I am writing a whole book about it. But we often forget that humans are in fact animals and death is part of life.
To say that writing sections of this book has been cathartic would be an understatement; it has allowed a release of emotions and actions that, for me, have allowed grieving to take place. Many of the knowledge holders I worked with, had conversations with, butchered with during my dissertation now are gone. So, as I write, I celebrate their knowledges -- remembering them in a good way and re-membering me in a good way.
As Navajo people we have dealings with death that many of us have forgotten - relationships if you will - that have slipped into a realm of "taboo." When topics of human death arise, we quickly shove it away with "yiiyah." And when nonhuman animal deaths take place, we quickly brush it off as coincidence. In our avoidance, we have forgotten obligations, including gender led responsibilities, which for Navajos are heavily laid upon men's shoulders, especially in the case of human animal deaths. Entangled with avoidance, grieving also becomes hidden, because we have left behind practices of how to process death; grief, it seems, has also entered into a "taboo" topic.
But, death and grief aren't taboo, they are part of life. And now, as Navajo people we find ourselves at a critical juncture, where we can continue to let "taboos" run us away from
-learning how to care for our dead and dying through Navajo ways of knowing
-learning how to read signs about death that are brought to us by the more-than-human
-learning how to grieve so that we can create a healthy relationship with death that will not make us sick
or we can carefully, with respect, with knowledge holders, work to rebuild relationships with life and death.
Because death can make us sick - if we do not work through grief
-- avoidance is not working through it,
--labeling it as a taboo is not working through it,
And here, within this hamster wheel is where we get stuck -- needing to know how to process grief without overstepping "taboos". As the wheel moves, we go no where and grief weighs us down, making us vulnerable to sickness - both western and Navajo explained.
So I am glad that Navajo community members are writing about this - Dr. Jennifer New Denetdale has a piece coming out entitled: "Mom, you'll be home by summer": A Diné Story of Cancer, Death, Grief, and Home" Commissioner Steven Darden's work through the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission: "Revitalizing the Traditional Diné End of Life Practices" addresses the practicalities of death of Navajo people. And Wally Brown speaks of these topics in his YouTube video: "Traditional Navajo View on Death and Grieving." And of course there are those creative writers I mentioned in my book review of The Diné Reader (2021) for their "embrac[ing] death's integral relationship to our cycle of life—of our corn, sheep, ways of knowing." (Yeah.. I just quoted myself lol: Check out that book review here) These works don't get stuck in the fear of taboos but in the self-accountability of renewing relationships with a life that is larger than our own. They do not write to become obsessed or to have other obsess over human animal deaths - but to better understand how to be proactive in stopping the hamster wheel.
With that, I leave you with some thoughts of my brother, who inspired this butchering project, and passed away New Year's Day of 2022. This story is about stepping off the hamster wheel and listening to the snow...
It snowed today - New Year’s Day - just like it did last year.
This isn’t the first time moisture has come to me with news of this type and it won't be the last. When nálí man died, he traveled to me 4 days after his passing and broke our drought. That rain was soft, steady and strong like he was hugging me telling me to forgive. Then there was grandma, with immediate lightening, thunder, hard rain- telling me of the tests that would come, commanding me to stay put, and reminding me that she would be there to scold me when I did otherwise. And most recently my cheii left this world a few weeks ago with a fluffy soft snow 5 inches deep, like a blanket apologizing for his daughter, my biological mother, who seemingly tossed me away and yet it was also a reminder of where I came from and who I am.
Last year's blizzard though - it was filled with shock and pain, secrets and addictions- the blizzard came to tell me the news of my brother's death before I heard it from family.
Last New Year’s Day, after my dad called, after I spoke with family, life surrounded me - I had animals to get to and boys to feed. So after breakfast, we bundled up again and headed out into the unforgiving wind to shovel. The sun was out but the wind made it impossible for us to keep the trail from the house to the corral clear. We could move the snow and within minutes it would be filled again. But I didn’t stop trying, because I knew if I stopped, adrenaline would slow and I would feel inside. At that moment, I needed to feel the outside, I needed to feel the piercing wind on my face -punishment for not being there to help him, retribution for not being with his siblings at that very moment to help them, sanctions for not having trust set with people, with him, to tell me of his problems or maybe he did and I just wasn't listening. The stinging also created a tangible grounding to reality, that this blizzard was real. I needed to keep pushing every muscle in my body so I could feel life and do something with all the anger and hurt I had. So I kept going - until my husband took my shovel away and there, in front of the corral, my tears became one with the icy snow being thrown at my face by the wind.
Just then blizzard stopped, allowing me to process the reality - he was no longer physically in this world but now preparing for his journey to the north, a path that not all make to the end. It was now his fathers', all of them, their responsibility to push him on, to get him going, to have him leave. My roles as his big sister became different. While we aren’t the same clan - our fathers are brothers so that made us siblings and I prepared for mourning. I needed this period - I needed to really feel this - I needed to somehow sacrifice during these next four days. And in four days, I would send him away with water and sun and as much raw grief as I could wash from my hair. No, none of these are taboos, all of these are part of my obligations, recognizing the balance between life and death and the limits of their boundaries.
This year’s New Year’s Day, it is snowing again and life still continues. It is a different kind of snow - sleeting. But still a blessing. It comes after four days of fluffy wet snow that has now begun to melt. Together, the snow, slush, ice, and mud are making it a bitch to push the wheel barrel to and from the corral. I could take this as coincidence - but I know there is no such thing. Today’s snow is much like how life has been for the past year since he left, sleeting, muddy and a bitch to get through - and for me, my tires get stuck in anger. But I remember the lessons and remember the blessings. I am grateful for the moisture today - and last year’s despite the news it brought. They prepare me, test me, and tell me to keep trudging along -- in the mud and the slush, keep the tires moving, Christine.
So this New Year’s Day, like last year's I missed my morning phone calls with him, his late night messages. But I also remembered what I told my siblings after their brother passed - "it's okay to be sad, but not for too long." This morning and in the afternoon, I pick up my hay hooks, thought of him, and smiled. Tonight I made spam, potato and onions, a meal that I always photographed and sent to him because we are rezzy like that. And it was delicious; it made me smile.
It snowed today - and I miss him. But like the wheels on my wheel barrow -- life must keep moving forward.
Thank you for reading about this sensitive topic and this personal story.
If anything, I hope you take away how easily it can be get to get stuck, like a hamster wheel with grief. Not only can't you move forward but the loved ones who passed away can't move forward either. We forget that they are supposed to be on their own journeys now too. Moving forward doesn't have to be moving on. Every so often, it will sting again but keep your wheels moving forward; you don't get stuck, you don’t forget them, the lessons, or the memories; rather, you let them continue on their own journey, you learn from what they taught you when your journeys were in the same world and you teach that to others - the good and the bad. Lessons aren't always pretty sometimes they are harsh, like the snow.
And don't forget, it's okay to ask knowledge holders for lessons, it's okay to be sad, but not for too long, it's okay to find help if your grieving is making you sick, and if you are a knowledge holder, it's okay to share, especially with your loved ones.
Christine M. Ami
Thoughts on negating the value of dissertations in literature reviews.
If you do a google search on "are dissertations a scholarly source" you will find subtext such as from Walden who claims:
It's an honest discussion that I have had with my colleagues, evening fighting back about the mantra of "a done dissertation is the best dissertation." As an Indigenous scholar who works with and in Indigenous communities - if the "R's" of Indigenous research are part of your framework, then that statement doesn't apply to you. Your dissertation or thesis, especially if you are working with communities (regardless if they are Indigenous or not) is a reflection of the relationships that you have established and are striving to maintain. Are you just done with them because you are done with your written body of work? Your findings are significant to them and they too deserve closure. Done isn't a closure. Solid research with reported findings and continued relationships with the community are. And with your defense and submission of your committee approved thesis/dissertation, your community now also encompasses the academic community; so you should be prepared for your work to be engaged by your new peers and they should be ready to engage yours. The relationship doesn't end with that submission.
Now, this is not to say that I feel that my dissertation is in perfect condition; if it were, I would not be doing editing - my grammar, Chicago format, and sentence structures are cringe worthy at times. Not to mention, that I have grown so much since that 2016 Proquest publication that the time away from that written body of work has helped me to rethink my findings in a new, perhaps more mature light. But I don't devalue the findings, stories, and relationships from that writing, even if contemporary research conducted by myself or others have complicated those initial results. As I am in the editing process, I find my self writing about my dissertation as the 1st edition. My book publishing will be the 2nd edition with updates and a new voice, one that is grounded in storytelling instead of ensuring that I include a worldly breath of written works on the topic as presented in my "unique" literature review or of my statistical "brilliance" through presentations of equations (j/k but they are solid in the dissertation 😂😝😜).
Returning to my thoughts on published dissertations and theses, I honestly ask for academics, new, junior, and senior scholars, to do a run through on your topic in Proquest. With the growing number of Indigenous authored projects, keep in mind that not all of us have the desire, resources, or time to transition our dissertations into a book manuscript or article publishings. YET - the research, the data, the revelations from cultural, scholarly grounded perspectives may rock your world, or at least, your project. You may be astounded at the high level of the Indigenous critical inquiry stemming from our youth. Don't discredit the value of our black sheep resource - dissertations by Indigenous authors who are culturally grounded.
With that, I wanted to highlight some black sheep that I incorporate in my book project from Navajo scholars. And if you know of more, comment below... building a herd of black sheep requires some help 🐑🐑🐑🐑:
Wade Campbell (2021) Na’nilkad bee na’niltin – Learning from Herding: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Historic Pastoralism on the Navajo Nation, KIVA, 87:3, 295-315, DOI: 10.1080/00231940.2021.1893456
Lister, Andee Rose (2018) The bioaccumulation of uranium in sheep heart and kidney: the impact of contaminated traditional food sources on the Navajo Reservation. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.
There is a brilliance in these black sheep sources that merit recognition in our literature reviews and critical evaluations of questions at hand. Ahe'hee' nitsáago, shidiné - t'áá awołí bee iniłta. --- yeah...you, I am talking to you
Thoughts on how to submit a socio-cultural project to the Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board.
Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board Purpose
As explained in a 2006 Science and Engineering Ethics Journal article, “Protecting the Navajo people through tribal regulation of research” by Doug Brugge and Mariam Missaghian, through a review board, follows a process and procedure specifically created for biomedical research conducted with Navajo people. Here is where it gets a little tricky for people like me - qualitative, ethnographic oriented - because the NNHRRB is primarily concerned with clinical and biomedical projects. But fear not - I am here to share what I know on submissions of socio-cultural projects for NNHRRB review.
Word of caution - the following is based off my experience; my Navajo collaborators are all 18 years or older and are not identified as "high risk." For direct instructions that are specific to your research and your participants, contact the NNHRRB. You can't blame me for tabled or denied projects; but I'll accept some credit if your project is approved and you complete some awesome, ethical research 😎.
Who Needs to Submit to the NNHRRB
First, figure out if your project needs NNHRRB approval. You would think that this is an easy question ... If you are working with Navajo People - you go through the NNHRRB ... but people/institutions/programs/organizations and even the NNHRRB itself make it tricky.
At the core, if you are coming to the Navajo Nation to conduct research (qualitative, quantitative, clinical, biomedical of any kind) with Navajo people who live on the Navajo Nation, ✅ you definitely need approval. Even if your own institution or agency expedites your project through their IRB, ✅ you still need NNHRRB approval - this includes multi sited projects (i.e., comparison of the Navajo people to another tribe).
Now, if your project is working with "Native Americans" who are in locales off the Navajo Nation and there happens to be Navajo people in your random sampling, 🚧 often it is left up to the Principal Investigator (PI) and the sponsoring institution to decide if NNHRRB approval is needed. In scenarios such as this, for socio-cultural projects, more often than not, PIs will indicate that their project include qualitative research with a "sensitive" population, list "Native Americans," address how they will mitigate risk factors at their institution's level and forgo the NNHRRB process. Now - I am not saying this is correct or incorrect, I am only reporting on how I have seen projects completed by colleagues and other scholars .
But if you are researching on the Navajo Nation and you are working with Navajo people - this means even if you an enrolled Navajo individual and working with your own family - ✅ YOU WILL NEED TO RECEIVE APPROVAL FROM THE NNHRRB and, if you aren't doing any funny business, you should honestly want to. FYI: There is an exception for enrolled Diné College and Navajo Technical University students enrolled in research classes at those institutions - but I will address that later in this blog so pay attention for that.
Okay... now that that's settled....
What is Your Project's Classification
Depending on your project classification, you will have a different set of requirements to submit. Here are the three project classifications that the NNHRRB has outlined on their NNHRRB New Application Checklist Document.
Submission Requirements for Community Projects
In terms of actually submitting NNHRRB proposals, I am only familiar with the Community Checklist. So that is what I have outlined below - Once again - As a word of caution .... I am pulling together the various resources (from scattered NNHRRB pages) and utilizing my experience submitting to the NNHRRB. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to contact the NNHRRB office for any official guidance that you may need.
1. Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board Cover Sheet
Here are some additional components that I include in the Attachments but are not on the NNHRRB checklist. If you don't include these and your project gets tabled.... don't say I didn't tell you 🥲:
If you mailed in your project, I would request a tracking number and then call Mr. Winney to confirm the application's arrival to the NNHRRB office. Once the application is received, Mr. Winney will put your project on the meeting schedule.
Typically, the NNHRRB meets every 3rd Tuesday, starting at 9am. The meeting can last all day - so prepare yourself. As of late, all NNHRRB have been held virtually - which I appreciate.
At the meeting you will be given a brief amount of time to present, followed by time to answer any and all questions posed by the NNHRRB Committee Members. So questions are for clarifications, others are about missing information. After the question/answer portion, the Committee will vote according to Robert's Rules of Order - so be prepared to be Tabled as well.
Other Thoughts about the NNHRRB Application Process
Tabled Projects: As of late, I have seen projects tabled because their application is missing either one big component or a lot of small components (missing timelines, missing resolutions, missing support letters, missing measures, etc). Best way to be prepared is for you to be as organized as possible. If your project isn't prepared by the submission deadline, don't rush - just wait to submit at the following meeting. Your first impression should be one of preparation and organization. So my suggestion is to start your preparation way in advance - I suggest at least 3 months prior to the submission date (4 months prior to formal presentation to the NNHRRB). I know this is difficult because some of you are graduate students (and others are just impatient lol) but, as I tell my students - the more solid your IRB project packet presentation the better prepared you are for actually implementing the project. It will make your presentation much smoother. The presentation itself then becomes a training ground for you to talk about your project. The more you talk about it with audiences such at the NNHRRB, the more real your project becomes.
Academic Discipline Notes: The NNHRRB committee is composed primarily of experts from biomedical and clinical professional/academic backgrounds. This makes the presentation of socio-cultural projects a bit challenging at times. The first time I presented the committee wanted to push my project into an Animal Science realm, when I work in the area of Animal Studies (they are very distinct). Don't get upset, wait for them to finish their commentary and respond with clarification. As with all presentations to general audiences (grants, fellowships, IRBs), avoid discipline specific jargon.
Emic Cultural Notes: If you are well attuned to a specific cultural area, (1) do not assume you know all - be open to hearing what some of these individuals share (even if they are taking you down a worm hole) and also (2) do not hold back on your own areas of cultural knowledge - just like you don't know everything, the same goes with the committee members (everyone is here to learn). I have been fortunate to learn from a few of the committee members and they have hopefully also learned from me. I have also been on the other end of that spectrum as well. With that said...
Discrimatory Notes: If you feel that you are being discriminated for whatever reason - make that declaration, document, and submit a complaint. I have, in previous years, experienced and seen race and gender of the PI be questioned, and as a result, the entire project put under scrutiny. Now - there are times when gender or culture does play a role in research, access to cultural content, or data analysis. But when projects are tabled or denied merely based on the race of the PI and the biases of individual committee members, there is an ethics violation that require immediate legal review.
Honest Notes: Although I have some disagreements with the process and procedure, especially during COVID (you can check out the ICT article for more info on that), I must confess, this past time around was much smoother than my previous experience. I feel like the committee is better prepared for socio-cultural projects now than they were 10 years ago when I first presented to the NNHRRB. I also speak the Navajo language better and I am firmly grounded in my community and profession. Additionally, I am now on the Diné College IRB so I am starting to fully understand the intricacies of IRBs. Because of all these factors - and the change of atmosphere/leadership of the NNHRRRB - my project was reviewed for ethics, which is the purpose of the NNHRRB, and the committee members were professional, curtious, and helpful. Finally, like butchering - the more you do it, the familiar the knife becomes in your hand.
Last Note: CONTACT THE NNHRRB COORDINATOR FOR ASSISTANCE. This blog is not an official 'how to' document approved by the NNHRRB . This are just my thoughts and my experiences.
If you have any more guidance, be sure to put them in the comments! Your experience can help others navigate what is often considered a tedious and often stressful part of the research process. It doesn't have to be :)
Thoughts on selecting a book press.
Checking Press Tails:
"OOOO - This tail is nice!" When deciding on which sheep to butcher, we check tails. The area around the tail should be thick - if it is bony...we will pass until we can adjust the tail quality. So, when I checked press tails, I looked at the content they generally publish: what books have they published, were there topics similar to mine, were there books that I was already familiar with from within my discipline. If a press didn't have enough fat in these areas- (aka little to no attention on NA/IS topics), I passed.
I also made note of over saturation within the press - for example - if a press had a lot of topics similar to mine (aka heavy Navajocentric publishings). It wasn't that I was going to not pick them because they have a lot of Navajo content - I mean, have you ever decided to not butcher a sheep simply because it was too fat? 🤣
Most of the time we butcher weathers (castrated male sheep). Now gender in terms of characteristics and attributes pertaining to femininity and masculinity wasn't really a consideration as I continued reviewing the wide array of presses that I could submit to. But, characteristics associated with series within the presses were. This was new information for me to think about. I know this sounds silly- but I never really paid a tremendous amount of attention to series within presses before. How the times have changed - I was all over this now. So I identified series that focused on Native American and Indigenous Studies and made that a criteria for my list.
Age of Presses and Series:
You can taste age in the sheep - and its not like fine wine gets better with time. As sheep get older, their bones and their meat get tougher. Some people like that taste and others prefer tender lamb meat. I needed to figure out what kind of taste I wanted in a publisher. Diving into the age of the presses also meant exploring the reviews and classifications of presses like making note of tier one presses. What's tier one press? Great question... check this ranking out: Ranking List of Academic Publishers (I didn't rank these by the way... google found it for me). Selecting (and being selected by) a tier one press may be helpful for tenure or for pursuing employment at a R1 Institute. (I know what you are thinking - okay now on top of picking a publisher who will want me, I need to think about how this selection will impact my future politically in the tenure process...in short - yes, no, and maybe - depending on what you want in life. I know mind blown - 🤯 . Well don't worry about that now -- FOCUS -- what do you want your meat to taste like!).
In the case of series - I noticed that some were quite new and others were long standing. The longer standing series offered more publishing examples and, with that, an idea of what their final tastes are. Often there is an actual feel to a series (voice of the text, content, image, etc.) The younger series, however, seemed to offer a lot of support to newer authors. And let's face it, we could all use a little bit of help and support: check out my first blog for an example of that!
Examining the Behavior of Presses:
There are times that there is a sheep just asking to be butchered: like that +100lb whether that broke my orbital bone trying to escape being sheered in 2020 (that was fun); or that time when the twin brother of a goat we were trying to catch to butcher jumped out of the corral (we took it as a 'take me, not my brother' call). Sometimes, a press or a series just calls to you. It could be a geographic area highlighted, or the reputation of the editors, or the support of the press for new authors, or the long standing relationship factor with returning authors.
My suggestion isn't to just go off your gut... sometimes you take more on your plate than you can chew - so if your gut wants to go with a certain press, don't settle for "it just feels right"- figure out why it feels right. When we get ready to butcher... checking tails is just the first step in making our selection. So when you are checking press tails - just because they want you, doesn't always mean its a good fit for you. And if they deny you, take it as a learning experience, use the feedback as constructively as possible and keep searching for your next sheep to butcher.
Corral of Presses
Every sheep you butcher is distinct and so is each publishing press. And not to throw another hurdle in your planning and prep, you may find out along the way that maybe sheep meat isn't your thing - maybe you are looking for goat meat. We haven't discussed presses other than "academic" presses. You may decide to go with a press that is intended for another audience. Once again, as you are checking tails, you want to think about what is best for you.
What I can you.. is that in doing this review of presses and series, I learned so much about publishing trends in terms of themes and I even picked up some books I needed to read for the purpose of my book manuscript and the classes that I am developing. So yes, this took some time but it wasn't all procrastinator's paradise. I now have a working list. Next step - time for my to place these guys in a hierarchy... what are my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices. Judging is a hard, but someone has to do it. Oh wait... in this case, it's me... I'm the judge. 😫
The following is a listing of presses that I have narrowed down that seem to be a fit for me. There is no Da Vinci's Code here to be deciphered (or maybe there is and I haven't even realized it yet 🤯). The blue links bring you to helpful information about the press and to the purple links bring you to series. (If I missed any good ones... let me know - I'll review and update this list).
Yale University Press:
Series - The Henry Roe Cloud Series on American Indians and Modernity
"Drawing upon multiple disciplinary perspectives and organizing them around the place of Native Americans within the development of American and European modernity, this series emphasizes the shared, relational ties between indigenous and Euro-American societies. It seeks to broaden current historic, literary, and cultural approaches to American Studies by foregrounding the fraught but generative sites of inquiry provided by the study of indigenous communities."
University of North Carolina Press:
Series - Critical Indigeneities
"Critical Indigeneities publishes pathbreaking scholarly books that center Indigeneity as a category of critical analysis, understand Indigenous sovereignty as ongoing and historically grounded, and attend to diverse forms of Indigenous cultural and political agency and expression. The series builds on the conceptual rigor, methodological innovation, and deep relevance that characterize the best work in the field of critical Indigenous studies."
University of Nebraska Press:
Series- Many West
"The UNP-APS series offers opportunities for UNP to build on its already strong reputation in the field of Native American and Indigenous Studies by attracting the best new scholarship in the field and partnering with American Philosophical Society, the largest archive of Native American and Indigenous materials in North America and one of the Top 3 learned societies in the world."
Series - New Visions in Native American and Indigenous Studies
"The partners envision the series as open to any high-quality scholarship in the field, but manuscripts will be solicited in broad thematic areas related to editors’ research interests and expertise: Domesticity, Intimacy, and the Family; Decolonization, Reparation, Redress, and other legal issues; and Comparative and Transnational Indigenous Studies. These areas represent some of the most important new directions in the field of American Indian and Indigenous Studies in the last decade."
University of New Mexico Press:
Series- Studies in Indigenous Community Building
"This series focuses on how Native and Indigenous peoples are building their communities to resolve twenty-first century challenges. Using Native Studies knowledges, means, and approaches, the books showcase distinctive, inspiring, and insightful works that emphasize how to sustain Native and Indigenous traditional ways of life. Titles in the series draw from a variety of disciplines including education, health, governance, history, culture, and other nation-centered studies."
University of Washington Press:
Series- Indigenous Confluences
"Indigenous Confluences publishes innovative works that use decolonizing perspectives and transnational approaches to explore the experiences of Indigenous peoples across North America, with a special emphasis on the Pacific Coast."
University of Minnesota Press:
Series - First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies
"First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies publishes books that exemplify contemporary research in indigenous studies. This initiative is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a joint collaboration of four university presses: the University of Arizona Press, the University of Minnesota Press, the University of North Carolina Press, and Oregon State University Press. These studies are supported with unprecedented attention to the growing dialogue among Native and non-Native scholars, communities, and publishers."
University of Arizona Press:
Series - Critical Issues in Indigenous Studies
"The series editors seek monographs, edited collections, and synthetic works by new and established authors whose work prioritizes Indigenous peoples’ voices and knowledge and critically engages their lives, stories, and experiences. The series encourages a critical assessment of the “locations of engagement,” where the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples intersect with scholarly and Indigenous intellectual production. The series editors are especially interested in works that analyze colonization, land dispossession, and oppression while foregrounding Indigenous peoples’ resistance to these processes."
Still Need Help Picking a Sheep
This was me! Reach out to former advisors. I did and boy, did they help. My dissertation advisor helped me to focus, reinvigorated my project, put me in contact with editors, and got me to set a date to get my book proposal out. Our chat took us back 10 years to when I was in the trenches of grad school... but in a good way (with a few more grey hairs, a few more kids, and tons of new experiences).
And if you didn't have a kick ass relationship (professionally or personally) with your grad school advisors, talk with friends who have published, read blogs, call editors from the presses you are interested in, and SEND OUT YOUR MANUSCRIPT PROPOSALS. The only way you are going to start a relationship with a press is to actually put things into motion. You can check tails all you want, but if you never pick up the knife, you are never going to start butchering.
Just a Tách'inii thinking out loud about butchering, researching, manuscript writing, and life on the Navajo reservation.