A sendoff and a reunion at NAISIP 2023-24 year-end celebration

Written by
Sarah Malone, Department of English
May 16, 2024

At the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative (NAISIP) year-end celebration, graduating seniors, doctoral candidates with final public oral exams moved up ahead of the starts of accepted tenure-track positions, and first-year undergraduates with minors to select among and majors to come reflected on work done and prospects ahead.

The celebration was held on Thursday, May 9 and sponsored by Land, Language, and Art (LLA), a Humanities Council Global Initiative.

Represented were 11 Princeton fields of study; student groups Natives at Princeton (NAP), Native Graduate Students at Princeton (NGSP), and the Princeton American Indian and Indigenous Studies Working Group (PAIISWG); and over 10 Native nations.

Mingling flowed into choosing seats, and with everyone at two long tables, Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Ellis and Professor of English and American Studies Sarah Rivett stood to welcome and thank them for their work during the year and for being part of the celebration.

“Weeciwiiyaakiteeheemilaani ceeki," Ellis said, “Congratulations, everyone.”

The year’s robust programming set the backdrop — the roster of events organized by many in the room, the Princeton Public Lecture by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatomi Nation), and the visit of Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota Nation), the first known Native American woman playwright on Broadway and a Belknap Fellow in the Humanities Council via LLA, who arranged much of her visit around workshops with Native students.

Rivett closed the welcome, saying, “All of you here — you are NAISIP.”

NAISIP members at dinner

NAISIP members at dinner, May 9, 2024. From left, graduate students unless noted otherwise: Noah Collins (Cherokee Nation); Ikaika Ramones (Kanaka ‘Ōiwi), Assistant Professor of Anthropology; Patrick Jaojoco; Andrew Schlager; Ella Weber '15 (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara); Isabel Lockhart Ph.D. '22.

Personal highlights sparkled in conversation alongside group highlights, notably the growth of NAP to 55 members, and anthropology senior Travis Chai Andrade’s (Kanaka ʻŌiwi) efforts to secure institutional support for future students to learn Native and Indigenous languages and earn credit. Acquaintances made on Zoom during NAISIP’s coalescing in 2020-21 delighted to connect in person. Longtime PAIISWG organizer and 2022 English Ph.D. Isabel Lockhart was welcomed as returning family.

In perhaps the high point of an evening composed entirely of celebrations and reunions, Rivett and Ellis asked Lockhart to stand, and with her, two PAIISWG colleagues and successors, English doctoral candidate Brandi Bushman (Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians of California) and history doctoral candidate Keely Smith, and invited the three to speak about the positions they've accepted.

Brandi Bushman joins the American studies faculty at Brown, initially as a two-year Mellon Gateway Postdoctoral Fellow in Native American and Indigenous Studies, followed by a tenure-track appointment as assistant professor of American studies.

“My position's focus is on Native American expressive culture,” Bushman said. “I’ll be teaching courses on Native American literature and Indigenous studies.”

Currently finishing a 2022-24 Mellon postdoctoral fellowship in Indigenous studies at Sarah Lawrence College, Isabel Lockhart joins NYU in the fall with a tenure-track appointment as assistant professor of English.

Keely Smith joins Tulane University as a School of Liberal Arts faculty fellow for her first year, and the year after automatically transitions into the role of assistant professor of U.S. Native American history.

As a historian of the Native South and new resident of New Orleans, Smith said, “I’m excited to focus my teaching, research, and community engagement on the local Gulf South region. I plan to teach courses on the Native South, Native American languages and language revitalization, Native American dispossession and removals, and early New Orleans. I am also excited to continue my research on the history of the Muscogee language and sovereignty in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

“We have an unprecedented job placement year,” Rivett noted.

With past and future mingling in long goodbyes, the party gradually dispersed.


Brandi Bushman

The NAISIP community has provided a home for me throughout my time at Princeton and supported me through every step of my Ph.D. journey. It can feel incredibly isolating being a Native student at a university like Princeton, but NAISIP has ensured that I have a family here. My research and writing have only been possible because of this beautiful community we've made together, and we have accomplished so much as a community. Faculty, postdocs, grad students, and undergraduates in Indigenous studies at Princeton are producing innovative, paradigm shifting scholarship, and are motivating and inspiring each other to change the terms of the field and of institutions like Princeton. It's such a challenging time right now, but it was amazing to take a moment to celebrate one another and be in community on Thursday evening. We as Native people know that colonialism and its hardships are ongoing, but we live our lives and make meaning of those lives, we find joy and celebration, at the same time. It's been so incredible to be a part of this community, and I am excited to see it continue growing.

Keely Smith

The NAISIP celebration was one of the highlights of my semester. It meant so much to spend an evening celebrating with a community that has offered me so much guidance and friendship over the past six years.