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Indigenous Peoples’ claims for retributive justice are leading to debates over restitution and the legal, political and moral consequences of the acknowledgment of past wrongs. What are the ramifications of the right to self-determination for Indigenous Peoples in a contemporary world? Collective and individual identities and human rights may be in tension with each other. How are these to be reconciled? Gender and generational differentiations may underscore not just individual rifts, but the potentially broader conflict within groups themselves. What could be a human rights response to such conflicts? Economic interests of majorities are put forward to justify displacement, dispossession and other violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. And the hunger for the world’s still unexplored natural resources that reside on Indigenous Peoples’ lands motivates major decisions of governments and the private sector, with unclear commitment to benefit sharing and even the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.  How are conflicting claims and rights between Indigenous Peoples and the dominant society to be resolved? What should be the role of the state in these conflicts? Is the dichotomy between western knowledge and indigenous knowledge a true dichotomy? Can one think “scientifically” and yet be open to an indigenous worldview? Does the adoption of Western epistemologies, ontologies, and methodologies really entail the wholesale rejection of their indigenous counterparts and vice-versa? What is the role of expressive culture and aesthetics in these inquiries? How do they reveal and help us think through indigenous sovereignty or its pursuit, indigenous epistemologies, inter- and intra-community conflict over definitions of identity, social roles, relationships to the physical world and political organization and action?

The University Seminar on Indigenous Studies at Columbia provides the opportunity for sharing research on these many critical issues, which are challenging and unsettling scholars, researchers, and practitioners in and around this field. Discussions revolve around contentious and emerging issues in the field of indigenous studies and research and contribute to the advancement of the field.

Pamela Calla

Elizabeth Hutchinson

Sara Pan Algarra

Meeting Schedule

09/18/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Roundtable Dialogue - The Global Alliance of Territorial Communities: Indigenous Knowledge and Proposals as a Response to the Climate, Humanitarian, and Environmental Crisis
Multiple speakers (see abstract link),


Speakers: Juan Carlos Jintiach, Srio of AGTC, and Nina Kantcheva, UNDP; Balkissou Buba, Vice National Coordinator of the Network for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities for Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (REPALEAC) (Congo Basin); Cristiane Pankararú, Representative of APIB (Brazil); Gustavo Sánchez, President of Red MOCAF (Mexico); Giuseppe Villalaz, Representative of the Congress of the Comarca Guna Yala (Panama)

Respondent: Elsa Stamatopoulou, Columbia University

Respondent: Raúl Hinojosa, Center of Chicano Studies, UCLA

09/21/2023 Faculty House
7:15 PM
Joint meeting with (515) An Illegible Relation?: Black/Indigenous Being and a Study of Hemispheric Racializations
Ashley Ngozi Agbasoga, Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University


Abstract: Discourses on racialization throughout the Americas are often described in opposition to each other: U.S. racial understandings are often understood into the Black/white binary; in comparison, Latin American racial formations are placed into a spectrum of racial identifications. However, this configuration crumbles through conversations on lived experience, embodiment, and crossings across spatiotemporal terrain. Utilizing ethnographic and archival work, I ask: How do Black/Indigenous understandings of relation interrupt not only the (re)production of dichotomous spatial-racial logics but also present us with an alternative way of understanding race throughout the hemisphere?

10/19/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
4:00 PM
Education Policy Research By, For, and With Indigenous Peoples in Canada, Mexico, and the United States
Michelle Pidgeon, Simon Fraser University


In this talk, we offer a critical analysis of education policy research by, for, and with the 34 million Indigenous Peoples in the vast region occupied by Canada, Mexico, and the United States (US). In each of these countries, Indigenous Peoples have persisted despite colonial and state-sponsored oppression. Across the varied contexts and through generations, our chapter centers on growing Indigenous language, culture, and education resurgence movements. It does this by considering the current policy moment and paths forward in education policy research, practice, and praxis involving Indigenous Peoples in Canada, Mexico, and the US.

The talk will be primarily on Canada and Mexico based on Dr. Michelle Pidgeon’s and Dr. Regina Cortina’s contribution to a collaborative work between scholars Teresa McCarty, Angelina Castagno, Regina Cortina, Michelle Pidgeon, and Lorena Sanchez Tyson. This forthcoming publication is titled “Education Policy Research By, For, and With Indigenous Peoples in Canada, Mexico, and the United States,” in Lora Cohen-Vogel, Janelle Scott, and Peter Youngs (Eds.), Handbook of Education Policy Research, 2nd Volume. American Education Research Association, forthcoming

Regina Cortina, Teachers College, Columbia University

Discussant: Amanda Earl, Teachers College, Columbia University

11/16/2023 Institute of Latin American Studies, International Affairs Building, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Collective rights and Human Rights Education: Lessons from the Indigenous Navigator
Romina Quezada Morales, Columbia University


The collective human rights to which Indigenous peoples are entitled are part and parcel of seminal international law documents that should guide the United Nations’ approach to Indigenous peoples. Yet, the human rights-based approach largely uses the language of individual human rights. How does a collective human rights-based approach look like in international partnerships focusing on Indigenous peoples? What role does human rights education play for Indigenous peoples in the spread and fulfillment of their collective human rights? In her doctoral dissertation[1], Romina Quezada studied whether education projects in Bolivia administered by the Indigenous Navigator international partnership enhanced Indigenous participation, notably in the east of the country. The theoretical framework built on political science, education, and development studies. The results touched on the assets of the human rights-based approach for all partners, with human rights education being only mentioned as an added benefit. In this seminar, Quezada incorporates to her analysis human rights education definitions and models, notably those put forth by Tibbitts[2], to expand on her conclusions about the Indigenous Navigator’s potential for transformation.

Discussant: Felisa Tibbitts, Utrecht University (Netherlands)

12/05/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Declarations Through Design: Producing Places, Identities, and Relationships in Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations’ Textiles and Regalia (Declarations on Cloth)
Denise Nicole Green, Cornell University


Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations produce and create complex visual vocabularies through a range of mediums, including weaving, sewing, carving, painting, beading, embroidering, engraving, and silk screen printing, among others. Nuu-chah-nulth translates as “the people from the arc of mountains jutting out of the sea” and the name declares the centrality of Nuu-chah-nulth homelands, which include sea and land territories along the west coast of what is colonially known as Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Nuu-chah-nulth design work likewise asserts the centrality of haahuulthii (territories). As a form of visual sovereignty, crest images and design elements declare rights, sustain oral history traditions, create space, assert Indigenous presence, and resist oppressive and violent forces ignited by colonialism, capitalism, and racism. The longstanding history of exchange between Indigenous nations along the Northwest Coast and later, trade with Maatmalthnii/Mamalthnii (non-Indigenous people, directly translated as “people/person floating around on the water without a home”), has fueled dynamic and resplendent design work that continues to convey distinctive meanings and aesthetics of Nuu-chah-nulth nations and families. In this presentation, I draw upon ethnographic research that began in 2009, which included collaborative filmmaking, making and co-designing clothing and regalia, and travel to archives and museums across North America and Europe. I will discuss a series of documentary films about Nuu-chah-nulth design work, which are now part of the permanent display in the recently renovated American Museum of Natural History’s Northwest Coast Hall: Histakshitl Ts’awaatskwii (We Come From One Root) focuses on thliitsapilthim (large ceremonial screens); Mamuu (To Weave) explores survivance and intergenerational teachings about cedar and grass weavings amid environmental destruction caused by the logging industry; and Mapping Regalia in Hupacasath Territory, which examines the deep connections between material culture and specific places in Nuu-chah-nulth haahuulthii. I conclude by exploring the dynamic nature of Nuu-chah-nulth fashion and the complex ways it articulates with, challenges, produces and transforms relationships to places, people, and power.

04/30/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
6:15 PM
Racialized Geographies in México: Violence, Disappearance and Militarization in Indigenous Territories
Rosalba Aida Hernandez Castillo,


In the presentation, the speaker will reflect on the impact of the “war on drugs” on the bodies and territories of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Taking as an analytical window the life histories of women victims of sexual violence in militarized and paramilitarized regions, and the experience of relatives of disappeared persons, this presentation will establish connections between occupation through the violation and control of indigenous women’s bodies, the disappearance of racialized youth and the occupation of their territories and dispossession of their natural resources. These processes take place simultaneously and respond to the neocolonial logic of capitalism, within which gender and race inequalities are essential for their reproduction.