Makana Kushi
Allyson LaForge
Anthony Trujillo
Dylan Nelson
Balraj Gill

The Seeding Relations Conference Committee is comprised of five doctoral candidates in American Studies at Harvard University and Brown University. Grounded in the methods and commitments of Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS), each of us bridge distinct disciplinary, geographic, and artistic boundaries. We bring training and relationships in Ethnic Studies, Religious Studies, Public Humanities, History, and Ecology, and are committed to further and unexpected interdisciplinary collaboration. Our range of research interests include Indigenous engagements with racialized laborers, ecclesial and educational institutions, the settler carceral state, and Indigenous ways of relating through material culture, cultural landscapes, and foodways. Our collaboration is representative of what we hope to provide at a larger scale for participants: opportunities for graduate students to explore how our work within, across, and beyond universities contributes to reimagining relations beyond settler colonial and racialized ecologies. 

Makana Kushi is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Brown University who studies land-based relationality among Kānaka ʻŌiwi and plantation-working migrants in early 20th century Hawaiʻi, particularly in the Hāmakua coastline of Hawaiʻi Island. As a historian working in Native American and Indigenous Studies and Ethnic Studies, she uses Hawaiian language newspapers, sugar plantation records, and small community institution archives. She also serves as the Program Coordinator of Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Brown University, working on events logistics and undergraduate and graduate student support. She holds a BA in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration from Yale University.

Allyson LaForge is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Brown University whose research engages Native American and Indigenous Studies, settler colonial studies, and histories of the Native Northeast. Her dissertation project, Materializing Futurity: Networks of Native Organizing in the Northeast, examines the role Indigenous material culture played during transnational Native Northeast movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, led by coalitions of Native leaders, activists, artists, craftspeople, and writers who worked to resist settler colonialism and ensure Indigenous futurity. She holds a BA in History and French from Mount Holyoke College and an MA in Public Humanities from Brown University, and completed her MA practicum as a curatorial assistant at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Anthony Trujillo is a member of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, one of the six Tewa speaking pueblos located in the upper Rio Grande Valley. He is a PhD student in American Studies at Harvard University with a MDiv from Yale Divinity School. His research sits at the confluence of Native American and Indigenous Studies, Religious Studies, and Environmental History. He focuses on Indigenous engagements with–and resistance to–colonial/imperial religious and political systems in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while seeking to draw connections with the efforts of contemporary Native nations and descendent communities to maintain political, spiritual, and territorial sovereignty. He is the coordinator of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Working Group at Harvard.

Dylan Nelson is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Harvard University who studies the making and unmaking of place in the central American Midwest. His research reckons with the violent transformation of Indigenous homelands in that region in the nineteenth century and the (im)possibility of sacred geographies amidst the industrialization of agriculture, the ascendance of cultures of consumption, and the haunting of Indigenous removal and erasure. He is co-chair of the Native Cultures of the Americas seminar at the Mahindra Humanities Center and an admirer of public historians, academic staff, farmers, and social workers. He holds a BA in History, BS in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and a minor in Native American Studies from the University of Michigan.

Balraj Gill is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Harvard University who studies Očhéthi Šakówiŋ history and carceral state formation in North America. Her dissertation asks how histories of Indigenous confinement and incarceration broaden our understanding of what scholars have called the Age of Mass Incarceration. Through an examination of the biopolitics of settler colonialism and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ relationality, resistance, and survivance, she shows how processes of geographic and bodily confinement and the persistence of Indigenous agency and sovereignty have shaped the political landscape of the midcontinent, a place Indigenous peoples call the Deep North. She holds a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MA in History from Harvard University.