Biographies of Indigenous Historians

Jean O’Brien

(White Earth Ojibwe) is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota. O’Brien’s scholarship on Indigenous survival and self-determination within the settler state stands at the forefront of a new global approach to Indigenous Studies. In 2007, O’Brien was a co-founding member and later the second president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), the premier association for global Indigenous studies.

O’Brien is the author of several books.  Most recently, she co-wrote Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit with Lisa Blee (2019), a book that characterizes her careful approach an close analysis.  The book contextualizes the creation, then spread and reproduction of a popular statue throughout the US in ways that retells the history of colonization in the US and then its own distancing from the more violent aspects of that history.  Her book Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of Existence in New England (2010), and Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1650-1790 (1997) are equally poignant analyses of significant US histories that have now become among the standard readings for students of history and Indigenous Studies. Over the years O’Brien’s scholarship has overturned conventional accounts of Indigenous history in the northeastern U.S., challenging national narratives that have written Indigenous peoples out of existence.

Currently, O’Brien is working on an edited volume with Daniel Heath Justice, titled Allotment Stories: Indigenous Land Relations Under Settler Siege (forthcoming 2022).  This work highlights how Indigenous peoples have consistently used creativity to sustain collective ties, kinship relations, and cultural commitments in the face of privatization. O’Brien is also in the beginning stages of a research project that will tell the story of her family and White Earth, combining archival information with journal entries penned by her grandmother.

Contact Information:

obrie002@umn.edu

• 612-624-5794

Select Publications (2010-2021):

Blee, Lisa and Jean M. O’Brien. Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019.

O’Brien, Jean M. “Memory and Mobility: Grandma’s Mahnomen, White Earth.” Ethnohistory 64, no. 3 (2017): 345–77.

Andersen, Chris, and Jean O’Brien, ed. Sources and Methods in Indigenous Studies. London: Routledge, 2017.

Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Juliana Barr, Jean M. O’Brien, Nancy Shoemaker, Scott Manning Stevens, eds. Why You Can’t Teach U.S. History without Indians. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 2015. O’Brien, Jean M. Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of Existence in New England. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 201