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Elizabeth Rule Creates Award-Winning Guide to Indigenous DC

App showcases Native American history in nation’s capital

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open metal circle sculpture among treesNational Native American Veterans Memorial, photo by Alan Karchmer for the National Museum of the American Indian

Thanks to the new Guide to Indigenous DC app (Apple/iOS), visitors to the nation’s capital can now experience the city in a whole new way. The app brings them on a guided tour of 17 local sites that are filled with Indigenous history and importance, from the Marine Corps’ Iwo Jima Memorial to the Department of the Interior’s New Deal murals, to the National Native American Veterans Memorial. 

Guide to Indigenous DC was developed by Elizabeth Rule, an American University assistant professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies and an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. The app has received the 2021 Library Company of Philadelphia’s Biennial Innovation Award, which is presented to a project that critically and creatively expands the possibilities of humanistic scholarship. 

For Rule, it’s been a rewarding project. “By highlighting sites of importance to Native peoples within, and contributions to, Washington, DC,” she says, “Guide to Indigenous DC showcases empowering stories of how this prominent city is a place of tribal gathering, presence, and advocacy with a long, rich history.”

statue of men struggling to raise American flag
Iwo Jima Marine Corps War Memorial

CAS Interim Dean Max Paul Friedman says that Guide to Indigenous DC is just one example of the far-ranging impact of Rule’s scholarship. “Elizabeth Rule is an internationally respected voice on Native American issues whose pathbreaking research into gendered violence and resistance in Indigenous communities is making a significant impact," he says. "Her work helps to turn memorial sites into living engagements promoting social justice. We are fortunate to have a scholar of her caliber and creativity in the College."

Commemorative Installations and 40 Under 40

The Library Company of Philadelphia is just one of several prestigious organizations that have recently recognized Rule’s work. In November, Rule was appointed to the steering committee of the federal Beyond Granite Project, tasked with bringing a series of commemorative installations to the National Mall and DC neighborhoods. It is all supported by a multimillion-dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and organized by the National Capital Planning Commission, National Park Service, and Trust for the National Mall.

Last month Rule also became part of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s 2021 class of Native American 40 Under 40 award recipients. The awards represent the best and brightest emerging Indian Country leaders, presented in recognition of their leadership, initiative, and dedication, and for making significant contributions in their community. 

“Every year we recognize 40 young Indian Country leaders who are paving new paths and opening new possibilities for their communities,” said National Center President and CEO Chris James. “The 2021 40 Under 40 class is showing future generations of Native leaders how hard work, perseverance, and dedication to your community and profession can pay dividends…We hope this award continues to inspire generations of young American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian leaders to continue to dream big.”

A Guide for Every City, State, and More  

Guide to Indigenous DC walking tour mapRule first came to American University as a postdoctoral fellow, and then joined AU’s faculty full-time this year. Her research on Indigenous issues has been featured in the Washington Post, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, The Atlantic, and NPR. Rule has published scholarly articles in the American Quarterly and in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. She has two forthcoming monographs. The first, Reproducing Resistance: Gendered Violence and Indigenous Nationhood, analyzes the intersection of violence against Native women, reproductive justice, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; this work received the Julien Mezey Award from the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities in 2020. Rule’s second monograph, Indigenous DC: Native Peoples and the Nation’s Capital (Georgetown University Press), analyzes sites of Indigenous importance in Washington and complements the Guide to Indigenous DC

When asked what’s next, Rule says her goal is to create a guide for every city, state, tribe, university, and community that wants to highlight local Indigenous sites. “I launched the Guide to Indigenous Baltimore in November 2021 in honor of Native American Heritage Month and have partnered with the Prince George's County Memorial Library System and Maryland State Library to release a Guide to Indigenous Maryland in Spring 2022."