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Elizabeth Rule’s “Indigenous DC” Wins AES Outstanding Book Award

Association for Ethnic Studies honors professor’s book with highest scholarly award

Smithsonian National Native American Museum, Courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Professor Elizabeth Rule’s latest book, Indigenous DC: Native Peoples and the Nation's Capital (Georgetown University Press 2023), has received the Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Ethnic Studies. Rule (enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation) is an Assistant Professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies (CRGC) in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Association for Ethnic Studies Outstanding Book Award is the highest scholarly award bestowed by the association and recognizes excellence in scholarly and creative works in the field of ethnic studies.

“Dr. Rule’s prize-winning book is innovative in its attention to the centuries-long history of indigenous peoples in urban areas, its commitment to bringing historical research to broad audiences both within and beyond the academy, and its incorporation of digital tools,” says Eileen Findlay, professor and director of AU’s Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies. “The CRGC is very fortunate to have such a gifted, multi-faceted, and energetic scholar/educator on our faculty.”

Award-Winning APP

In Indigenous DC: Native Peoples and the Nation's Capital, Rule chronicles the history and continuing presence of Native Americans in the District of Columbia. Indigenous DC shines a light upon the oft-overlooked contributions of tribal leaders, politicians, artists, and activists to the rich history of the District of Columbia, and their imprint ― at times memorialized in physical representations, and at other times living on only through oral history — upon DC.

The book has received high praise from scholars. Kyle T. Mays (Black/Saginaw Chippewa), assistant professor at University of California―LA, wrote, “Sitting at the intersection of indigenous studies, Critical Geography, and digital humanities, Dr. Rule has written a well-researched and transdisciplinary book, demonstrating how Indigenous peoples have a past, presence, and future in the nation's capital. Indigenous DC will no doubt be the blueprint for future scholars of urban indigenous studies." Daniel M. Cobb, professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote, "Indigenous DC invites readers not only to learn about, but also to engage actively with, the US capital as an Indigenous space. Elizabeth Rule has produced an illuminating and accessible work that uncovers stories long in need of telling."

The book grew out of Rule’s Guide to Indigenous Lands Projects. In July 2019, she created the Guide to Indigenous DC, a mobile app and digital map, which brings users on a guided tour of 17 DC 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. The app 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. 

Building upon the success of the DC app, Rule developed a Guide to Indigenous Baltimore, launching in November 2021. 

Scholar, Educator, Writer

Elizabeth Rule

Rule first came to American University as a postdoctoral fellow, and then joined AU’s faculty full-time in 2022. Her research on issues in her Native American community has been featured in the Washington Post, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, The Atlantic, and NPR. She has published scholarly articles in American and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal.

Beyond the classroom, Rule continues her work as an educator by presenting her research and delivering talks on Native American issues. More than 100 public speaking engagements and interviews have taken her across three continents and to seven countries. Venues for such presentations include the United Nations Association-USA, the Institut des Amériques in Paris, France, the National Congress of American Indians, the Women’s and Gender Studies Intellectual Forum at MIT, the National Gallery of Art, and more.

Previously, Rule has held posts as director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy and faculty in residence at George Washington University, 2020-2021 MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellow, postdoctoral fellow in the Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies Collaborative at American University, Ford Foundation fellow, and predoctoral fellow at MIT. Rule received her PhD and MA in American Studies from Brown University and her BA from Yale University.