Today is Indigenous Peoples Day

Today we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, to remember and celebrate the heritage of indigenous people everywhere. There is a lot to say about IDP: is it too American? Does it elide the particularity of the American Indian experience? Is Dora The Conquistadora, perhaps, a bridge too far? And of course, there’s always this frequently-retweeted little morsel:

I don’t have a lot of insight at the moment into what IDP means of should mean. Since I feel that SM should mark this day, I will punt the ball with a random list of Indigenous Anthropologists (you’ll notice I’m biased towards the Pacific) who I’ve learned from over the years, and suggest you celebrate IDP today by making it a point to read something by them this week. So without further ado:

Native Men Remade, by Ty Kawika Tengan

Ty’s office is next door to mine, so I should probably start with him. I’ve learned so much from him I don’t even know where to start… so why don’t you learn something from him too?

Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba, by Katerina Teaiwa

Katerina is beyond anthropology now and I’m not sure she’d appreciate being labeled an ‘anthropologist’, but her work is amazing and her Ph.D. is in anthro so I will continue to insist that our discipline, in some way, gets part of the credit for her amazing work.

Waterlillyby Ella Deloria

An ethnographic novel by a woman who pursued anthropology even when she was so poor she ended up having to live out of her car (iirc). This handsome new edition is a great way to learn about Deloria’s life.

Learning to Be an Anthropologist and Remaining Native: Selected Writings, by Beatrice Medicine

Beatrice Medicine’s life spanned literally the entire course of anthropology — and SM blogged her passing in 2006.

We Are The Ocean: Selected Works, by Epeli Hau‘ofa

Another scholar who started in anthropology and went totally beyond it, Hau‘ofa is one of the key influences on Pacific Studies today.


I could go on listing names, but I will call it quits here because, frankly, I need to get back to work. I am sure that there are many many additional people who should be listed here… perhaps you could list them in the comments? Who am I missing? I’m sure there are many other authors that I still have left to discover on this Indigenous Peoples Day.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

3 thoughts on “Today is Indigenous Peoples Day

  1. Marcia Langton’s “Well I Heard it on the Radio, and I Saw it on the Television”: an Indigenous Australian’s perspective

  2. Sometime during fieldwork in Thailand (I think 1994) I saw in the Bangkok Post a story about indigenous peoples day, and it was a “borrowed” story about Native Hawaiians. This was pretty strange to me, since I was working with one of the minority peoples that would qualify as indigenous if it wasn’t so unthinkable in terms of official Thai nationalism. The newspaper showed no recognition of local realities. At the time my understanding was very much in terms of an ethnic faultline between the national majority and the various minorities that are often glossed as hill peoples or highlanders. Twenty years later I have had it with our general acceptance of ethnic divisions. Now I am instead invested in showing that ethnic separatism is pathological, and that there is a long trail of the peaceful negotiation of difference in Southeast Asia. This trail appears unthinkable for a range of reasons. It’s not that Southeast Asians have always gotten along with each other, but I think it is important to resist the inevitability of ethnic inequalities and -hostilies by imagining other futures, pasts, and presents. Once I recognized the problem, I could find various evidence for what seemed otherwise unthinkable (in terms of regional history). Western scholarship has contributed significantly to making interethnic negotiations toward equality/equivalence seem unthinkable, to some extent because western scholars seem not much invested in working toward equality in their home societies.

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