Jennifer Nez Denetdale

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Office: Humanities 430

Professor and Chair of American Studies

Education: PhD, Northern Arizona University

Research Interest

Critical Indigenous Studies, Settler Colonialism and Decolonization, Indigenous Feminisms and Gender Studies, Diné Studies, Southwest Studies

As the first-ever Diné/Navajo to earn a Ph.D. in history, Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale is a strong advocate for Indigenous peoples and strives to foster academic excellence in the next generation of students devoted to supporting Indigenous nations and their claims to sovereignty. Denetdale is a Professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico and teaches courses in Critical Indigenous Studies, Indigenous Feminisms & Gender, Indigenous Films, Diné Studies, and Southwest Studies. Her book, Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2007 and set the standard for Diné histories and methodologies. Her book for young adults, The Long Walk: The Forced Exile of the Navajo, was published by Chelsea House in 2007. She was appointed to the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission as a commissioner by the Navajo Nation Council and now serves as the Commission’s chair. As a Diné feminist, she is an advocate for Navajo women and the LGBTQI2S community. She has been recognized for her scholarship and service to her nation and community with several awards, including the Rainbow Naatsiilid True Colors for her support and advocacy on behalf of the Navajo LGBTQI2S and the UNM Faculty of Color Award for her teaching, research and service in the academy. In 2013, she was awarded the UNM Sarah Brown Belle award for service to her community. In the spring of 2015, she was recognized for Excellence in Diné Studies by the Navajo Studies Conference, Inc. In 2017, she was awarded the UNM Presidential Award of Distinction. She is also very proud to have been selected to deliver the inaugural address before the 23rd Navajo Nation Council upon their inauguration in January 2015.

She was recognized for her scholarly achievements and commitment to community service by Northern Arizona University with the Dwight Patterson Alumni of the Year Award and the NAU Cal Seciwa Award, both in 2022.

Currently she is working on several projects: an educational video on Diné perspectives on death, grief and life with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. She is planning a Milton Snow photography exhibition in collaboration with the Navajo Nation Museum and its director, Manuelito Snow. The exhibition is supported by a grant from First Nations Development Institute. She is co-curator for a Milton Snow photography exhibition for the Maxwell Museum at UNM. She was recently awarded a grant from the Navajo Nation to direct the writing and publication of the first ever Diné government textbook for young adults. She continues to work on a memoir about the death of her mother from cancer and a book manuscript about Milton Snow’s photography of Navajo subjects.