So, yes, I walked on June 13th but NO, I'm not actually fully done with the dissertation yet. That will be completed (fingers crossed) this summer. It's been a wonderful and difficult road since fall quarter 2006. Most of you know that I've been teaching full time (5-7 classes each semester) during my academic career at UCD, while I've also been the advisor for two clubs at American River College, but for the last two years, I've been traveling back and forth each month to Boston to help take care of my father who is dealing with dementia. What I'd like you all to remember is that no one travels through this journey without struggle and fear, and there are incredibly rough times we've already been through, but we'll all make it in the end. Thank you especially for the lovely dentalia earrings for graduation and the kind, supportive (and funny) messages in my graduation card. I look forward to the next NAS graduation!
This end of the year has been very exciting, as I get ready to embark on new adventures this summer. First of all, I would like to share a few amazing experiences I had this year. I presented at three conferences, which have not only challenged me as a young scholar who is starting her academic career, but which have become a life-learning experience at both personal and professional levels. In early January, I presented at the International Conference of Arts and Humanities in Honolulu, Hawaii. This was actually my first time travelling to Hawaii and I have to say, I enjoyed it! But it was not the beach, the wonderful weather, or the awesome food that made it enjoyable, but the opportunity I had to present my work on Hawaiian land. As I write about this experience now, I understand how important it is that as Indigenous peoples, we establish a connection with one another and share our experiences in order to find a way to move forward. As a young P’urhépecha scholar, I feel very blessed for having had the opportunity to talk about my own community and our struggles for the advancement of our autonomy at a place that seems to be so far away from home but in reality is so close, as we share histories of colonization and a spirit of survival.
At the same time, in late April I presented at the Native American Studies Graduate Students Symposium held at the University of California in Davis, and had such a wonderful experience. The committee did such an awesome job putting this conference together that brought students together from both UC Davis and UC Berkeley. Personally, I extremely appreciate the support I received from the graduate students and the audience in general. I look forward to presenting at the symposium next year, as it allows many of us young scholars, to present our work and share our thoughts, experiences, and research with other Indigenous scholars and create an intellectual space for us to develop a new form of collaboration and understanding of each others’ histories and struggles as Indigenous people.
Finally, I attended the Native American and Indian Studies Association Conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This was my first time presenting at NAISA and it definitely surpassed my expectations. Never before had I seen such an amalgamation of Native scholarship at one single place! At this conference, I had the opportunity to attend various panel presentations by Indigenous scholars from all over the Western hemisphere. What made me the most proud was to see the work that students from our department at UC Davis, are producing as we bring our research to conferences such as this and many others throughout the year. At this conference, I also attended the Abya-Yala working group meeting, which is an organization within NAISA, which concerns Indigenous studies in Latin America. Additionally, I was also present at the networking session for scholars working with Indigenous communities in Latin America. These two events allowed me to meet Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars from the U.S., Mexico, and Latin America.
As I’m barely beginning with my professional career, I feel very fortunate for having been invited to these sessions and for having the awesome opportunity to meet wonderful scholars, some of them whom I have read about but did not know personally. Nonetheless, most important is the fact that I was able to share more about my people with scholars from Canada, the U.S., Latin America, and other parts of the world. The most memorable moment I have from this conference was when I ended my presentation concerning the struggle for land and Indigenous resistance amongst P’urhépecha communities in Michoacán, Mexico, and a Maori scholar from New Zealand commented, “I understand perfectly what you are talking about, the Maori have experienced the same problem.” This brought me to an understanding that the development of Indigenous studies does not only pertain to the Western hemisphere, but it is a global movement that is reinforced as Indigenous people establish a dialogue with one another.
Hestum, This year has been so wonderful and so many accomplishments made by the NAS graduate students! I was a Graduate Representative for this year for the Native American Studies Graduate Student Association.
I had the honor to present for the second time at the American Indian Studies Association Conference in Tempe, Arizona on Inherent Sovereignty and US Federal Recognition Process. Locally, I presented at the Women of Color Conference with fellow NAS Grad Students Angel Hinzo and Stephanie Lunsden. I also presented at the "Native American Forum" for the Yolo County District Attorney's office and of course I presented at our own wonderful NAS grad symposium!
I also attended the Woven With Our Roots basket weaving retreat in Hoopa California where I learned to weave a basket for the first time with fellow NAS Grad Students Stephanie Lumsden and Cutcha Risling Baldy as well as my Aunt Amy.
And yes I am expecting my first child in Fall! YAY Whijay Joyce Meza! Welcome babygirl!
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It has been my great pleasure this past year to serve as visiting faculty in American Ethnic Studies (AES) at Willamette University (WU) in Salem, Oregon. My year here has provided me the opportunity to revise existing courses such as, Theory and Methods of American Ethnic Studies and Native American and First Nations Film, and develop new courses, Oregon Ethnicities, and Nine Tribes of Oregon. Further, I have been able to continue collaborative,
With support from WU’s Indian Country Conversations (ICC) program and in collaboration with the Native American Enlightenment Association (NAEA), I coordinated a campus visit from an intertribal sketch comedy group, The 1491s, to WU’s campus Fall semester to participate in a series of events. This spring, I will host a visit and public talk by award-winning First Nations filmmaker Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe), again in conjunction with ICC and NAEA. In both cases, these national (1491s) and international (Lisa Jackson) guests also spent time with students attending Chemawa Indian School. WU’s ongoing work with Chemawa is very inspiring to me, and I spoke with Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) students on several occasions. In the Fall semester, I visited Chemawa’s main campus to meet with a AVID class about opportunities in higher education and meet with AVID students who visited WU. In the Spring I was asked to teach a class at WU in order to give AVID students a firsthand experience with college curriculum.
Currently, I am part of a WU Liberal Arts Research Collaborative (LARC) team of faculty and students, working on the Indian Mascot Community Listening Project. During the Spring semester, I was happy to learn that I had been awarded the University of California, Davis, Dissertation Writing Fellowship for the 2013-2014 academic year, which will allow me to complete my dissertation.
This year was my second year in the UC Davis Native American Studies MA program. It has been a very important year for me for many reasons. This year I taught my first class, I presented at the 11th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, I helped organize our graduate student symposium, I completed my coursework, I got accepted to present at two conferences next fall, I submitted an abstract for possible publication, and I am currently in Washington D.C. at the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages learning my heritage language na:tinixwe mixine:whe’. All of the things that I have done this year have provided me with a great skill set and have rounded out my graduate education. I feel as though involving myself in all of these different projects – presenting, publication, organizing, teaching, and language revitalization – is bringing me closer to who I am meant to become and simultaneously making me a stronger scholar.
This past year I focused on preparing for my qualifying exam, which took place on the last week of May 2013. Last summer I decided that I needed to do independent studies with a number of professors who would serve in my qualifying exam committee. Thus, in Fall 2012 I started doing independent studies with Professor Ines Hernandez-Avila, Professor Beth Rose Middleton, and Professor Steve Crum, which would continue until Spring 2013. I enjoyed greatly doing these independent studies since I was able to really focus on the preparation for the exam, and I cherished the moments when I could discuss the books in person with those professors during the meetings. In addition, this past year was the year I allocated to write my exam statements, i.e. the theory, region, and topic statements. I learned from other graduate students’ exam papers regarding what I had to include in my own papers, and approximately three weeks before the first day of the exam, I managed to finish writing the papers, which I then submitted to the members of the exam committee. These past three quarters have been fruitful since in doing independent studies and writing my exam statements, I learned much more in one year than what I had learned in the previous two years.
Prior to the exam, people asked me whether I was nervous because I was going to take the exam. Well, for the written exam, I was actually worried that I would not be able to answers the questions. In retrospect, however, I think that I was quite successful, despite the fact that I had bad time management on the first day of the written exam so that I did not have enough time to proofread, resulting in very long paragraphs without indentation and some mistakes here and there in spelling. Prior to the oral exam, some people asked if I was nervous, and I said that I tried to suppress my fears because this oral exam was going to be one among a number of so-called “oral exams” that I had had in my life. In fact, this was going to be the fourth oral exam or interview that I would have conducted; therefore, to reduce my fears, I said to myself that it was going to be just another oral interview like the ones I had had before. I did one oral exam to defend my bachelor’s thesis, one oral interview as part of the application process for Fulbright scholarship, and one oral exam for my Master’s thesis defense. I managed to answer the questions during the oral exam (despite one or two questions to which I faltered in responding), and in the end all committee members congratulated me for my success. The passing of the exam was an important milestone since it means that I have moved one step further in my academic journey, and I can now focus more on my dissertation writing. Most importantly, now that I have passed my qualifying exam, I will have time for helping my wife taking care of the BIG GUY in our family. Our Bobby is now 11 months old, and soon he is going to be 1 year old, and soon he is going to want to explore the world using his two little feet. I will be busy both doing research for my dissertation and, as some people have warned me, chasing him around!
First and foremost I am now ALL BUT DISSERTATION! I passed my qualifying exams in Spring 2013!
This year I published two book reviews. One for the American Indian Quarterly and one for the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. I also presented at the National Women's Studies Association (Oakland, CA) on decolonization through the revitalization of women's coming of age ceremonies. I also presented (with fellow NAS Grad Student Brook Colley and UCD Alum Dr. Gina Caison) at the Modern Language Association Conference (Boston, MA) on creating and working as partners with Indigenous communities when doing research. And I presented at the UC Davis Provost Speaker Series "Contested Knowledges" on the Uneasy Remains Film Project. In the Spring I presented at the UCD NAS Grad Student Symposium and the Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research Symposium. Finally, I was an invited keynote speaker at the "Native American Forum" for the Yolo County District Attorney's office. My presentation was called "Native Nations, Native Communities, Native Peoples-History, Law and Culture in California.”
I am also still the Executive Director of the Native Women's Collective. This year we hosted a traditional basket weaving retreat which I planned and attended. As part of the Collective I also organized Flower Dance demonstrations at the Native American Day (Sacramento, CA) and the Humboldt State University Big Time (Arcata, CA). I also secured a $10,000 grant for the collective to complete a project telling the history of certain dance regalia pieces which we hope to turn in to an online exhibit and book.
I'm spending my summer up in Hoopa. I'm also (cross your fingers) teaching a class on Native American Women (NAS 180) in Summer Session II.