This special issue on Indigenous Conversations about Biography is now available on Project Muse. The table of contents and abstracts appear below. For information about subscribing to Biography, contact University of Hawaiʻi Press at this address.



an interdisciplinary quarterly

39.3 • Summer 2016

Editors’ Introduction

Alice Te Punga Somerville and Daniel Heath Justice 

Introduction: Indigenous Conversations about Biography                              

Rather than being focused on Indigenous biographies as such, this special issue of Biography was conceived by Alice Te Punga Somerville (Māori), Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation), and Noelani Arista (Kanaka Maoli) as a wide-ranging conversation among Indigenous scholars, writers, artists, and filmmakers about the ethics, relations, practices, and considerations of representing Indigenous lives. The introduction by Te Punga Somerville and Justice offers observations about the process of bringing together a large community of Indigenous thinkers from a wide range of geographic, ancestral, and disciplinary contexts to this topic, and how this discursive approach shifted their understanding—individually and collectively—of the power and possibility of Indigenous biography.


K. Tsianina Lomawaima

A Principle of Relativity through Indigenous Biography                                 

Vine Deloria, Jr.’s principle of relativity directs Indigenous biographers to search for relationships. Examples from biographical projects focused on Curtis Thorpe Carr and other survivors of Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, and early twentieth century Creek performer Tsianina Blackstone, highlight key absences and presences that both trouble and enrich Indigenous biography.


Natalie Harkin

For you, K. Tsianina Lomawaima                                                    

David A. Chang 

Indigenous Biography, Genealogy, and Webs of Relation                

Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers

A Conversation with Helen Haig-Brown, Lisa Jackson, and Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers, with Some Thoughts to Frame the Conversation       

This article presents a conversation between three Indigenous filmmakers, Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers (Blackfoot, Sámi), Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe), and Helen Haig-Brown (Tsilhqot’in), along with a preamble and concluding thoughts from Tailfeathers. In the conversation, the filmmakers discuss the process and motivations of and responses to their (auto)biographical films, Bihttoš, Suckerfish, Su Naa, and My Legacy


Mārata Ketekiri Tamaira

Night Ceremony                                                                             

Dustin Tahmahkera

Tu–  bitsinaku–  ku–  ru–  : Listen Closely                                                      

Warren Cariou

Life-Telling: Indigenous Oral Autobiography and the Performance of 

Focusing on a single autobiographical story by Lakota/Kiowa Apache storyteller Dovie Thomason, this article argues that “life-telling” should be recognized as an important Indigenous art form, one that remains a vital and living practice. By paying attention to the performative elements of storytelling and its Indigenous contexts of ceremony, territory, and community, the article shows how oral autobiography enacts Indigenous sovereignty.


Nēpia Mahuika 

Telling “Us” in the “Days Destined to You”                                   

Peter Minter

Everything Is Speaking                                                                  

Arini Loader

“Kei Wareware”: Remembering Te Rauparaha                                             

Te Rauparaha is one of the most well-remembered nineteenth century Māori leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand (Niu Tireni). This article investigates the ways in which his son Tāmihana (Katu) Te Rauparaha biographed his father across a range of formats, including writing, oil portraiture, and statuary, thus ensuring that his father’s life would be remembered. 


Mary Jane Logan McCallum

Biographies of Marble, Wood, Paint, and Paper                           

Alyssa Mt. Pleasant

On Familiarity, Settler Colonialism, and Shifting Narratives          

Deborah A. Miranda

“They were tough, those old women before us”: The Power of Gossip in 
Isabel Meadows’s Narratives                                                                           

This essay argues that the immense and powerful reservoir of “ethnographic notes” is actually the Indigenous storyteller’s body of work. Focusing exclusively on the narratives of Carmel Indian Isabel Meadows about a Carmel woman named Estéfana Real, the lens of Athabascan scholar Dian Million’s “felt theory” establishes Isabel as a storyteller, scholar, and cultural activist who essentially uses Harrington as a note taker for communicating with future Indian communities through Indigenous storytelling strategies.


Leah Lui-Chivizhe

Yarning with Other Tough Old Women                                          

Tina Makereti

Stories: Making Soup, Baking Bread                                               

Shino Konishi 

Making Connections and Attachments: Writing the Lives of Two 
Nineteenth-Century Aboriginal Men                                                             

This article traces the history of biographies about Indigenous Australian people, and suggests key differences in approach between Indigenous and non-Indigenous biographers. Through a study of two Aboriginal men—Gogy and Bungin—this article suggests that by emulating Indigenous approaches and explicitly acknowledging our connection and attachment to the subject, we can better discern the lives of historical Indigenous figures as individuals.


Ashley Glassburn Falzetti

Subjectivity and Comparison                                                          

Joseph M. Pierce

Feeling, Disrupting                                                                       

Ngarino Ellis

Te Ao Hurihuri O Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho: The Evolving Worlds of Our 
Ancestral Treasures                                                                                          

This paper argues that biography in Māori art has many forms, from the individual named taonga, to the artist, to the life of the art form itself. As such, the nature of biography is not fixed and static, but rather is reflexive and reflective of time and space, as well as cultural values.   


Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka‘uta

Mānava: The Biography of Living Objects                                       

Chadwick Allen        

Grounded in Durable Indigenous Biographies                                

Jordan Wilson

Gathered Together: Listening to Musqueam Lived Experiences                    

What forms does biography take in my community, Musqueam? My experience listening to storytellers gathered together demonstrates a) the inseparability of narrating lived experiences and carrying forward Musqueam’s distinct teachings; b) the collective nature of telling and remembering; and c) how this form of oral tradition—of life-telling—requires its own set of listening skills. I conclude that group storytelling can inform other forms of representation such as biography and ethnography.


Crystal McKinnon  

Sitting and Listening: Continuing Conversations about 
Indigenous Biography                                                                   

Hōkūlani K. Aikau

Telling Stories at the Kitchen Table, or Lessons from My Father