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Letter from the Chair

Kyle T Mays


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Kyle is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Being of both Black and Saginaw Chippewa heritage, he is interested in questions regarding race and community, Indigeneity in the urban place, and the construction of race and gender in Indigenous Hip Hop culture. Kyle, though, is more broadly interested in construction of gender and race in urban places, illustrating how Indigenous peoples were not immigrants to cities, but rather important co-constructors of the urban place in places such as modern Detroit.

Kyle Mays is a managing editor for the new Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal, published by the University of Minnesota Press with editors Jean M. O'Brien (White Earth Ojibwa) and Robert A. Warrior (Osage).

Kyle is currently conducting dissertation research in Detroit for the 2013-2014 Academic year.

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • Urban Indigenous Histories
  • Afro-Indigenous Studies
  • Modern U.S. History
  • Comparative Race and Ethnicity
  • Indigenous Hip Hop
  • Global Indigenous Studies, with an emphasis on Indigenous feminism and masculinity

Research Description

  • Although trained as ahistorian, I am a transdisciplinary scholar who seeks to fully explore thelived realities of Indigenous Peoples, both past and present. Usingsocio-cultural approaches to history and Indigenous Studies methodologies(e.g., Indigenous feminism), my research interrogates the experiences of IndigenousPeoples in urban contexts, in order to contribute to urban studies, IndigenousStudies, and comparative studies of race and ethnicity.

    My main research interests include:

    Understandingthe relationship between Black and Indigenous Peoples to contribute toAfro-Indigenous Studies, comparative studies of race and ethnicity, andcritical studies of whiteness.Usingsocio-cultural approaches to history, gender theory, and Indigenous methodologiesto illuminate the experiences of Indigenous Peoples in urban spaces. Usingcomparative and transnational Indigenous studies to explore the production ofIndigenous gender and sexuality formations, historically and today. Theconstruction and production of Indigeneity and masculinity within Indigenous HipHop culture. 

    His dissertation, "Indigenous Detroit: Indigeneity, Modernity, and Racialization in a Modern American City, 1871-1994," examines the experience of Indigenous peoples in modern Detroit. He was awarded a Newberry Consortium on American Indian Studies Graduate Student Fellowship for the Summer 2013 and a Department of History fellowship for the 2013-2014 Academic Year. He will be finishing up his dissertation during the 2014-2015 Academic Year. 


  • B.A., Social Relations and Policy, James Madison College, Michigan State University
  • M.A., History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Distinctions / Awards

  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Graduate College Fellowship Recipient; HASTAC Scholar; Summer Pre-Doctoral Institute participant (received exemplary attitude toward scholarship award); Newberry Consortium in American Indian Studies Graduate Student Seminar participant (2010); Michigan State University McNair Scholars program (2007-2008); Summer Research Opportunities Programs (2007 and 2008)
  • IPRH-Nicholson Fellowship


Journal Articles

  • "Transnational Progressivism: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Universal Races Congress of 1911." American Indian Quarterly and SAIL 25.2 (2013): 243-261.

Newspaper Articles

  • "How Obama‚Äôs Acting White Blunder Erased Indigenous Concerns." Indian Country Today Media Network. 28 Jul. 2014. < >.


  • "Review." Rev. of Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American ExperienceNative American and Indigenous Studies Journal 1.2 (2014):
  • Rev. of Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S., by H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman. Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men 1.2 (2013): 114-116.