Adrienne Keene on Native Appropriations and Academics

Adrienne Keene on using your voice “Our voices will not be centered unless we fight for Native voices to be heard.”

Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee) will begin a position at Brown University this fall as a tenure track Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department.

Adrienne Keene

Dr. Adrienne Keene

She also is the author of Native Appropriations, her website that “is a forum for discussing representations of Native peoples including stereotypes, cultural appropriations, news, activism and more.” Each of these accomplishments alone is impressive. The fact that Keene accomplished both in recent years is pretty amazing.

Adrienne Keene’s Journey

I was excited to have Keene on NextGen Native. Given her experience in academia, and her blog often being the first insight many have into Native cultures, she has a unique position in Indian Country. Most of you probably know her work, but I was excited to learn more about Keene as an individual and her personal journey.Keene grew up in Southern California. During the summers, her family would make trips back to visit the Cherokee Nation. It was in high school where she first experienced interactions with people based on their perceptions of what a Native person should be, and not what Native people are. After acceptance into Stanford University, people questioned whether she “deserved” admission into the school or whether she was accepted because of her tribal citizenship.

She dove into academics and the Native community once on campus. Keene thought she was heading towards work in a museum, but she gradually realized that her interests were skewing towards ethnic studies and education. After graduating, she spent some time working in academic admissions. This is where Keene really found her inspiration for her next step.

While working in admissions, Adrienne Keene decided she wanted to pursue her Ph.D in education. She realized while traveling through Indian Country there was a lack of data and information about Native Americans in the education system. She enrolled at Harvard and began her research. It was during a shopping trip that Keene’s second project presented itself to her. It was in a store that she realized she needed to create Native Appropriations.

A trip to Urban Outfitters “inspired” Keene’s first blog post. That was in 2010. That’s a long time in Internet time. She’s built a great following, forced difficult conversations, and provided a voice for Native peoples across the country around an issue that began to find its focus around the same time.


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I’ve constantly wondered how she keeps the energy to write on the topics she covers through Native Appropriations. But in the course of our conversation I realized that her experience is what many of us experience on a regular basis! She endures it through the magnifying lens of the Internet. But she’s not alone in her experience.

Keene recently completed her Ph.D and is beginning her new post later this year. What’s kind of cool is to hear how her blog and her academic work have merged in certain areas, and how the blog will evolve in the future.

No blog post will do this conversation, or Keene’s experience, justice. So, I’m going to to finish by saying you need to listen.  

A few resources discussed in this episode:

College Horizons

Op-Ed Project

Overcoming impostor syndrome

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

Graduate Horizons

Tricks for fancy dinner etiquette

Carina Miller on NextGen Native

Natives in America




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