Reflection: Engaging Outside the Academy


Documenting Women at Iowa

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Oral History



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University of Iowa


Dr. Michelene Pesantubbee holds an appointment in Religious Studies and a complementary appointment in American Indian Native Studies here at the University of Iowa. Professor Pesantubbee’s work focuses broadly on the religious changes Native Americans experienced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More specifically, Professor Pensantubbee seeks to understand how Native American religious practices affected Native women’s lives post-contact. From her own experience growing up as a Choctaw in Oklahoma, she shared that she consistently saw a discrepancy between what was written in textbooks and what she observed. Professor Pesantubbee discusses how advising Native American students coping with the legacies of colonialism inspired her to research Native American religions, conduct oral histories and share her work outside the academy.

Reflection: Engaging Outside the Academy

In this clip, Professor Pesantubee discusses how she became interested in her work on Native American religions. Focusing on American Indian women, Professor Pesantubee talks at length about how she conducted oral history interviews, often bringing her mother along. This dramatically affected the quality and value of her interviews.

Religions and Colonialism

Professor Pesantubbee spoke at length about her personal experiences with Native American Christian churches that were part of the colonial history of the United States. For example, when Professor Pesantubbee’s mother was present during interviews her mother's friends would often speak about shared boarding school experiences and suppression of Choctaw language. These conversations dramatically inspired Professor Pesantubbee's work.

Suggested Reading

  • Shoemaker, Nancy, ed. Negotiators of Change: Historical Perspectives on Native American Women (New York: Psychology Press, 1995).
  • Díaz, Mónica. "Native American Women and Religion in the American Colonies: Textual and Visual Traces of an Imagined Community." Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers 28, no. 2 (2011): 205-231.


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