May 2019: 2019 Cobell Summer Graduate Research Fellowship Recipients Announced

Indigenous Education, Inc. is pleased to announce the 2019 recipients of the distinguished Cobell Graduate Summer Research Fellowship administered on behalf of the Cobell Board of Trustees. Each year, Indigenous Education, Inc. will solicit applications for highly competitive research projects to be conducted during the summer at institutions across the country. The aim of the program is to select American Indian and Alaska Native student researchers who might not otherwise have access to funds to conduct research and related activities during the summer months. Each of the five researchers will receive a cash stipend to defray costs associated with summer research, a faculty mentor on their campus, unparalleled academic attention from the Director of Research and Student Success at Indigenous Education, Inc. and opportunities to network with the other Cobell Summer Graduate Research Fellows. We are excited to work with this diverse group of Native scholars researching across the country at high profile research institutions, representing a variety of tribes while working to indigenize higher education in their respective fields of interest. Selected from a highly qualified pool of over 120 graduate students, we believe you will be inspired with our newest members of the Cobell Fellowship family.

Shining Examples of American Indian Graduate Student Success:
Announcing the 2019 Cobell Graduate Summer Research Fellows

The overarching mission and vision of Indigenous Education, Inc. is to support American Indian and Alaska Native student success. The Cobell Graduate Summer Research Fellowship was developed to help support graduate students during their summer months – a critical yet often overlooked period of a graduate student’s academic year. As we begin the funding cycle for our 2019 Summer Fellowship we wanted to share with you highlights of our five outstanding Summer Fellows and their incredible research projects. We hope their stories help to inspire you as much as they have us.


megan-baker Cobell Fellow:    Megan Baker

Tribal Affiliation: Choctaw

Institution: University of California Los Angeles

Degree: Doctorate – Anthropology

Research Project Overview
“This summer research project will examine the historical rise of Choctaw economic development as a political-economic phenomenon through archival study of land status and restrictions in Choctaw territory. Once holding complete control over the region, Choctaw Nation became increasingly restrained in its ability to govern their lands over time. Such a study will contextualize Choctaw Nation’s major achievement and contributions in transforming southeastern Oklahoma. As legal scholars and economists have argued, land status restrictions and federal policies like allotment constrain American Indian nations from effective self-governance – which recent Choctaw economic development has brought into greater relief. Taking a historical route to understanding the origins of “Choctaw poverty” discourse that dominated prior to Choctaw economic development, I investigate the ways that land dispossession and restrictions laid the foundation for poverty as well as limiting Choctaw sovereignty over time. Through archival research, I will examine how federal/state/private land and resource development projects enabled and effectuated Choctaw land dispossession and alienation. By examining land deeds and resource development company records in Choctaw treaty/jurisdictional territory, I will see how Choctaw lands moved into fee simple states and out of Choctaw jurisdiction, particularly the lands set aside for mineral leases. In doing this, this project will track the specific policies and mechanisms by which Choctaw Nation lost control over their own lands, further illustrating how the implementation and practice of American law materially affects the life conditions in which Choctaw live. This archival project examines how non-Choctaw interference over the use of Choctaw lands contributed to limitations on Choctaw sovereignty and the quality of Choctaw life.”

natasha-myhal_web Cobell Fellow: Natasha Myhal

Tribal Affiliation: Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Institution: University of Colorado Boulder

Degree: Doctorate – Natural Resources Management & Policy

Research Project Overview
“My people, the Anishinaabe, reside throughout the Great Lakes region of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada. Today, tribal natural resource departments manage and protect the resources within their communities to ensure sustainability for future use. My project focuses on Anishinaabe tribal natural resource departments and their crucial role for the sustainability of Indigenous cultural landscapes. This research project seeks to understand the extent to which Anishinaabe resource managers are able to incorporate gikendaasowin “knowledge” into their programs. To this end, in 2018 I established relationships and conducted preliminary fieldwork with Anishinaabe resource managers in Michigan. This fieldwork helped me achieve a cursory understanding of the dynamics of contemporary management practices and policies, while generating data and best practice strategies for use by the communities for cultural revitalization. For my summer 2019 fieldwork, I aim to continue community outreach in order to account for the diverse perspectives of tribal land use and management held by tribal communities.”

deondre-smiles_web Cobell Fellow: Deondre Smiles

Tribal Affiliation: Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Institution:     The Ohio State University

Degree: Doctorate – Geography

Research Project Overview
“This project examines quotidian settler colonial violence and indigenous resistance, and draws a distinction between “spectacular” moments of settler-indigenous relations/contestations, and the more every day, banal instances of violence against indigenous bodies. Building upon previous work that I have done on this topic, I continue to analyze how the indigenous deceased body and associated remains are incorporated into the settler state through being transformed into a site of knowledge production for use by settler structures through archival and historical research. I expand upon my previous work in new and novel ways by contrasting the vital importance of acts such as autopsy to settler knowledge to the importance of indigenous ontologies regarding death, and contemplating the impacts quotidian indigenous resistance and ontologies surrounding death can influence future instances of contention surrounding the treatment of deceased indigenous bodies.

As this project is being conducted in cooperation with Ojibwe sovereign nations, this work seeks to make the following broader impacts: (1) Provide Ojibwe citizens and tribal governments with a resource of literatures to draw upon in future instances of contention over autopsy/treatment of remains (2) Indigenize studies on settler colonial studies and indigenous resistance by placing Ojibwe ontologies at the forefront of my work and (3) Provide a point of intervention and potential training for medical and scientific professionals who conduct work with indigenous dead, in order for them to respect tribal religious wishes in an ethical and respectful manner. Additionally, my training as an indigenous geographer through the completion of this dissertation project constitutes another broader impact. Indigenous geographers make up a relatively small group of academics within the discipline of geography.”

william-toledo_web Cobell Fellow: William Toledo

Tribal Affiliation: Navajo Nation

Institution:     New Mexico State University Las Cruces

Degree: Doctorate – Civil Engineering

Research Project Overview
“This project will build off the success of my previous project completed in November 2018. My previous project assessed the potential of using a locally produced ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) as an overlay of concrete bridge decks. This project was conducted during the completion of my Master of Science in Civil Engineering degree and contributed to my Master’s Thesis. My current doctoral project which I am requesting financial support for summer 2019 is to implement the locally produced UHPC overlay on an existing concrete bridge deck located in Socorro, New Mexico by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and the Transportation Consortium of South-Central States (Tran-SET). There will be three parts related to my project which includes preparation, implementation, and monitoring of the overlay.

The success of this project will verify that locally produced UHPC developed at NMSU can be used as an overlay on existing concrete bridge decks. The findings of this project will also be discussed in a detailed project report at the end of the project period. Along with the project report, a file for educational outreach will be created to educate high school and undergraduate students about the STEM field. My ultimate goal upon completing my doctorate is to teach at an institution that caters to Native American students such as tribal colleges and universities. Therefore, the educational outreach allows me to utilize the teaching aspect of my studies to ensure undergraduates and high school students understand the graduate level topics that my doctoral studies will cover.”

sierra-watt_web Cobell Fellow:    Sierra Watt

Tribal Affiliation: Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians

Institution: University of Kansas

Degree: Doctorate – Political Science & Government

Research Project Overview
“My dissertation takes the first national look at women and the gender gap within the 567 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2017, women constituted over 25% of tribal executive leaders. This rate is high compared to the number of women in state executive government for the same time frame. Despite the growing number of women elected to tribal political office and the growing research in the areas of women in politics and tribal governance separately, there is little research on gender within tribal politics specifically. To address this gap in scholarship, my dissertation addresses the descriptive representation of women within tribal governments. Descriptive representation, or where we see women elected to political office, constitutes the first step in researching gender within tribal governments.”

“This study offers important information on the way that traditional political science gender theory explains—and fails to explain—the politics of Native American women in contemporary tribal governments. This project, by contributing to the multiple fields of political science, indigenous studies, and feminist theory, fills a unique gap in interdisciplinary scholarship. Finally, the study shows the political work women are currently doing within their tribes and will perhaps encourage future women to enter tribal government. This project will increase the visibility of strong Native American women in politics across the country.”

About Indigenous Education, Inc.
Created in 2016 for the express purpose to administer the Cobell Scholarship Program, Indigenous Education, Inc. provides elevated opportunities for Native college students through empowering them with an impactful scholarship experience designed to support their success in higher education. Since the program’s beginning, it has supported over 2100 students with nearly $14 Million dollars in scholarships. To learn more about IEI and the Cobell Scholarship, visit

Our 2020 Cobell Summer Graduate Research Fellowship application cycle opens September 1, 2019 and we hope you or someone you know may be interested in this unique opportunity to shine!