Candidate Elections 2020: NAAS Steering Committee

The following candidates are running in the 2020 Native American Archives Section election. Three positions are open this year:

  • One Vice Chair/Chair-Elect (three-year term)
  • Two Steering Committee members (two-year terms)

Please take some time to review the candidates' statements. Voting will begin during the last week of June. SAA staff will send out ballots via Survey Monkey, so please keep an eye on your inbox.

Thanks to all of our candidates for standing in this year's election, and thanks to all of our members for voting!

Vice Chair/Chair-Elect

Diana Marsh

Postdoctoral Fellow, National Anthropological Archives, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Bio: At the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives, Diana leads a three-year NSF-funded project to research and improve the accessibility and discoverability of the NAA's collections. From 2015–2017, Diana was an Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow at the American Philosophical Society where she researched and curated exhibitions drawing primarily on archival collections (e.g. Gathering Voices: Thomas Jefferson and Native America, April–December 2016). There, she also worked with the APS’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research to collect stories about the uses and impacts of digitizing collections for Native American (United States) and First Nations (Canada) communities. Diana holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology (Museum Anthropology) from the University of British Columbia, an MPhil in Social Anthropology with a Museums and Heritage focus from the University of Cambridge, and a BFA in Visual Arts and Photography from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. In August, Diana will join the faculty of the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies as an assistant professor of archives and digital curation.

Statement: As a scholar and practitioner in archives, museums, and libraries, and as an ally to Indigenous communities, I am eager to continue serving the Native American Archives Section (NAAS). As Vice Chair, I hope to strategize how to use our digital spaces and collective passion for decolonizing efforts to make a difference. In the wake of long-overdue public recognition of systemic racism and white supremacy, the NAAS has unprecedented potential to inspire institutional and professional change.

During my time as a Steering Committee member, I have witnessed the successful release of the first case studies on institutional approaches to embracing the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials (PNAAM), and have helped to promote NAAS’s associated webinar series. Through its efforts, NAAS continues to effect a sea change in archival institutions by facilitating a professional shift towards more ethical and culturally-responsive practice. In the past five years of working in colonial repositories, I have seen how much of an impact the PNAAM and their promotion through NAAS can make. Small efforts by individual staff can spur wider policies over time, and even small steps can make a difference by increasing access and improving experiences for Native community leaders who, in turn, are using these collections in the vital work of cultural and linguistic revitalization, as well as political and legal sovereignty work.

As Vice Chair, I hope to increase our connections with Indigenous communities, and to support Indigenous archivists and archives. Our NAAS Steering Committee has recently drafted a proposal for the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Council that would fund scholarships for community-based archivists for membership and meeting attendance. I hope to bring that proposal to fruition and to consider ways to further reduce barriers for community participation in SAA. I also hope to strategize new ways to use the collective NAAS networks to expand our impact through online platforms and virtual meetings. Social isolation need not equate with professional or research isolation. Our successful webinar series, and the current plan for a virtual session at this year’s SAA meeting, are wonderful prototypes to assess and expand the accessibility of NAAS.

Beyond such programmatic initiatives, it is difficult to envision what the future holds, especially in the midst of such challenging times, which are impacting Indigenous communities disproportionately through the continuation of systemic colonial-settler racialized violence. Yet, perhaps now is the time to test more creative approaches and community-initiated outreach, to pilot experimental digital education, to advocate for greater digital access and physical repatriation, and to use the wave of public awareness to make radical change. I hope to continue the longtime work of this section and its members in encouraging dialogue and collaboration with Indigenous and allied community archivists, activists, and scholars as we envision new paths forward, together.

Steering Committee (Two Openings)

Rachel Menyuk

Processing Archivist, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution

Bio: Rachel Menyuk is the Processing Archivist at the National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center, where she has worked since 2010. She has a B.A. in Anthropology and Theater from the University of Maryland and a Master's degree in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University. At NMAI she has been instrumental in processing the records of the Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation as well as many additional photograph and manuscript collections such as the Grace Thorpe collection. Rachel has been deeply involved in NMAI's efforts to provide greater access to its archival collections, through description and online presentations, direct reference with researchers and artists, and collaborative projects with Native community members.

Statement: As a member of the Steering Committee, I would like to continue the work of sharing and implementing the Protocols for Native American Archival materials across the archival profession. As an archivist at the National Museum of the American Indian, we have implemented the Protocols since their inception and have been working over the last several years to expand our community outreach programs.

Additionally, I think the NAAS would be a great place to discuss the implementation of NMAI's Culture Term thesaurus, which has just received an LOC Subject Source Code.

Nathan Sowry

Reference Archivist, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution

Bio: Nathan Sowry is the Reference Archivist for the Archives Center at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. He works primarily with Native and non-Native researchers, scholars, and community groups interested in utilizing the NMAI's archival collections. Nathan received his BA in Anthropology and Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, MA in History from Washington State University, MLIS in Archives and Records Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and PhD in History from American University.

Nathan has worked professionally as an archivist and records officer with the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Park Service, Washington State University, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and more recently with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Statement: As archivists and stewards of Native American and Indigenous archival materials, many of us daily strive to build sustainable, collaborative relationships with Native communities, learning how to better describe and make accessible the archival collections in our care. Importantly, we simultaneously learn from Native partners and constituents how best to address or restrict those materials which community members designate as culturally sensitive or not intended for public consumption.

If elected to serve with this body, I would work to broaden our knowledge of the Native American and Indigenous cultural heritage materials in our collective stewardship. While working to increase our collaborative relationships and partnerships with Native communities, we also need to increase our collaborative relationships amongst cultural heritage professionals working in museums, universities, and tribal archives across the country and around the world. As archivists, we regularly guide Native and non-Native researchers in what can be a very daunting and challenging search to locate cultural heritage items. By working with fellow archivists to be aware of and share knowledge about Native and Indigenous archival materials in other cultural heritage repositories, we ourselves can be better informed, and thus can better serve our constituencies.