Indian Country Today Features New NACC Director and YGNSA Member Kelly Fayard

October 14, 2015

In September, the Indian Country Today Media Network profiled the newest YGSNA member, Dean Kelly Fayard (Poarch Band of Creek Indians). Dr. Fayard is an assistant dean of Yale College and the new Director of the Native American Cultural Center. She moved to New Haven following a year at the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe where she held the Anne Ray Fellowship and continued her ethnographic studies of the Poarch Creek community.

Dr. Fayard earned her BA in cultural anthropology and religion from Duke University, a certificate in museum studies as well as her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan. Before her current position, she was assistant professor of anthropology in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Bowdoin College. 

Dr. Fayard’s research with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians investigates what it means to identify as a member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a federally recognized tribe in the state of Alabama. This research examines the methods and actions the Poarch Creek use to define themselves as Creek, given the stereotypes and assumptions about what it means to claim an Indian identity. The project investigates how race and blood quantum frames Indian identity and relatedness in racial categories and directly contrasts the ways that identity is negotiated by the Poarch Creek themselves; how religion serves as a method for Poarch Creeks to express their Indian identity, whether that be through reclaiming the practice of stomp dance religion or by attending church services on the reservation or where the majority of the participants are native; how social cohesion is promoted through everyday practices (homecomings, family dinners, working together) as well as special occasions (annual pow wow, the annual “Celebration of Survival,” weddings, and funerals) and adds to an individual’s sense of Indianness; and how the public relations campaign for the tribe has been a necessary component of the tribe’s economic and business success.  

Dr. Fayard is currently a member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Society for Applied Anthropology, where she also serves as a member of the Beatrice Medicine Committee that awards a student funding to attend the annual meeting, and is on the ethics committee of the Association of American Anthropologists. 

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