J. Kolopenuk & K. TallBear (May 2014)

A bit overdue, I want to express a happy thank you to the membership of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) for recognizing the importance of science and technology related topics in our field that promotes scholarship supportive of indigenous sovereignty and self-governance.

My colleague Jessica Kolopenuk (Nehiyaw, Cree), Ph.D. student in Political Science at University of Victoria, British Columbia won the NAISA Best Student Paper prize at our Sixth Annual meeting in Austin, Texas, May 29-31, 2014. Her paper, “Becoming Native American: Facializing Indigeneity in Canada through Genetic Signification and Subjection,” is an important contribution to the growing literature on the implications for indigenous peoples of human genome research. Kolopenuk expands our field’s analyses of genomic narratives and research ethics to understand how these play out in a Canadian indigenous governance context. Expect great work from Kolopenuk. She is at the beginning of her career as an indigenous scholar who is committed to doing intellectual work in support of indigenous self-determination. Kolopenuk is usually a very theoretical writer. She takes work to read! However, you can read something a bit more accessible in her recent publication in the journal Aboriginal Policy Studies, where Kolopenuk has a commentary in which she addresses the implications of the Indian Act in Canada, which legislates indigenous identity as “Indian.” In My Girl, a letter to her hypothetical future daughter, Kolopenuk addresses the emotional and personal fallout for indigenous families and communities of the Indian Act legislation. It is the potential use of DNA testing for indigenous identity that has lead Kolopenuk to become interested in human genome research and commercial activities involving indigenous communities. Kolopenuk is also a past participant in the Summer Internship for Native Americans in Genomics (SING). She is now an inspiring mentor to new SING participants.

And I am pleased to say I won the NAISA Best First Book prize for a book published in 2013. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). I am honored.