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Editor's Commentary

This issue makes a significant contribution to the discipline of American Indian studies (AIS). It contains information about the thirteenth annual conference of the American Indian Studies Association (AISA) and the association president's address, a special commentary about Arizona's assault on ethnic studies controversy, an installment of the State of Indigenous America Series, and four articles that address a range of important issues.

Over a hundred academics, graduate students, undergraduate students, and others from across the nation came to Arizona State University (ASU) on February 2-3 to participate in the annual AISA gathering. As usual, the doctoral students from the University of California, Davis, made an impressive showing. Participants selected Carol Lujan to replace Duane Champaign as the AISA president. Professor Lujan is an outstanding and deserving choice. In addition to having taken a key role in the development of the AIS at ASU, she is a founding member of AISA. Annette L. Reed, the director of Native American Studies at California State University, Sacramento; Steve Crum, a professor of Native American studies at University of California, Davis; and James Riding In, an associate professor of AIS at ASU, were selected to join the AISA board, joining John Tippeconnic, Simon Ortiz, Leo Killsback, and Duane Champagne. Additionally, the graduate students elected Royce Freeman, an Arapaho and master's [End Page 5] student in Native American studies at the University of Oklahoma, as their student representative.

In keeping with the conference's theme, Professor Champagne delivered a president's address about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Published here in its entirety, it provides an insightful assessment of the strengths and shortcomings of the UNDRIP. His premise is that, although the UNDRIP may provide solutions for correcting human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples by nation-states, it will not end the contention that exists between them. He asserts that indigenous peoples will continue to contest the exertions of nation-state power over their life, land, and institutions.

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriquez's special commentary offers a revealing discussion about the ways that Arizona's repressive ethnic studies ban, HB 2281, threatens the study of indigeneity in the state's pre-K-12 schools. He draws comparisons between the infamous SB 1070, an anti-immigrant law that legalizes racial profiling against brown-skinned peoples, and HB 2281, finding that the former attacks the body while latter attacks the mind. With the banning of the Mexican American studies (MAS) program in Tucson, HB 2281 outlawed the teaching of the indigenous base—the Aztec calendar and maíz-based philosophy—of the MAS curriculum.

Before proceeding, I want to briefly share my view regarding why this issue is important to all scholars. Arizona has a knack for creating public attention because of its controversial laws and policies pertaining to brown-skinned peoples. This time around, its state legislators have fired a broadside volley at the principles of intellectual freedom and freedom of expression by declaring war on ethnic studies programs within its public school system. Enacted in May 2011 and taking effect on December 31 of that year, HB 2281 empowers state and school officials to close those programs that either promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of one ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity over the individuality of the student. Those school districts that refuse to comply with the law face the loss of state funding.

It is possible that those defenders of intellectual suppression may turn their attention to institutions of higher learning, where many of us engage in critical thinking. AIS faculty in postsecondary institutions across the nation must remain vigilant and concerned about what is happening in Arizona because it has implications for our ability to assess the historical and ongoing effect of colonization on Indian sovereignty, landholdings, lives, and religious freedoms without fear of repercussions. [End Page 6]

In this State of Indigenous America Series installment, Melanie K. Yazzie questions the good judgment of the Navajo Nation's endorsement of the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Settlement...