Graduate Students

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Current MA Students (as of Fall 2019)

LeeAna Acfalle

LeeAna Acfalle is a MA student in the Political Science program with a current focus on Indigenous Politics. She is a Chamorro from Guam in the Mariana Islands. Her current academic work focuses on understanding contemporary Chamorro identity through re-thinking the imposed American legal framework in Guam and re-evaluating how Chamorro conceptions of land and self have been renegotiated throughout its colonization. She is also interested in Chamorro decolonization and Guam’s place in the Mariana archipelago, the entity known as Micronesia, and connections to the larger Pacific. These connections are not only important to her in understanding hegemony, but to remember the issues and struggles of Kanaka Maoli to be conscious of the place where she is studying. 

Kaʻiminaʻauao Cambern

Kaylene Iñuuraq Evans

Paglaġipsi. Uŋa Iñuuraq Kaylene Evans. Sitnasuagamuiruŋa. Iñupiaqguruŋa. Kigitagamui-lu Katyaakamui-lu ilutkaa. My name is Iñuuraq Kaylene Evans. I was born and raised in Sitnasuak (Nome), Alaska. I have roots in Kigitaq (Shishmaref), through my maternal grandmother, and Katyaak (Kiana), through my mother. I am Iñupiaq Inuit and passionate about healing, strengthening, and recreating indigenous communities and sustaining our ways of life. I am a poet, seamstress, and beadworker. I am a first year student of the Indigenous Politics MA program. Themes I am interested in developing are indigenous nation building, decolonization, elevation (and study) of spirituality for the reinforcement and assertion of Native identity, and the importance of women. 

Valerie Grey

Valerie Grey is a first year MA student with a dual concentration in Indigenous Politics and Law and Politics. Her research interests focus on the disparate impact of criminal law and criminal justice policy on Native Americans. She is especially interested in criminal justice reforms that expand the jurisdiction and recognize the sovereignty and autonomy of tribal courts. Valerie holds a BA in Journalism, an MA in International Relations and a JD, all from the University of Oklahoma.

Cameron Grimm

Serena Simmons

Serena Ngaio Simmons (Ngāti Porou, Indigenous Politics), graduate degree fellow, is an MA student in the Political Science Department. She holds a BA in English from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. Serena’s focus is on the various ways Indigenous folks maintain global solidarity through networks of affinity, with special attention being paid to love and joy being shared through these connections. After graduating, she intends to return to her communities to continue strengthening these cross-cultural/regional relationships.

Garrett Thompson


Current Ph.D. Students (as of Fall 2019)

Donna Kona Au

Aloha mai kākou! ʻO Kona Au koʻu inoa. No Māeaea, ma Waialua, ma Oʻahu mai au, a he kamaʻāina o ka ʻehu kai. I graduated from Waialua High and Intermediate School in 2012, and received my undergraduate degree in political science from UH Mānoa in 2016. I am currently a third-year Ph.D. student, with interests in issues surrounding identity and solidarity. For my dissertation, I am researching ancestral Hawaiian understandings of kinship, as well as the effects that colonialism and imperialism have had on these relational practices and beliefs. Specifically, I am analyzing the various ways Indigeneity has been theorized, investigating how those theorizations are utilized, either to create solidarity, or enforce and reproduce imperial modes of power. 

Samantha Barnett

Kisha Ann Borja-Quichocho-Calvo

Håfa Adai. Guåhu si Kisha Borja-Quichocho-Calvo. Ginen i sengsong Mangilao gi islan Guåhan (“Guam”). I am a second-year Ph.D. student in the Indigenous Politics program. I am a learner, teacher, activist, poet, mother, and wife. Each of these parts of my life nurture me in different and similar ways, and I always enjoy seeing how they are all connected. In terms of my research, I am currently interested in the impacts of colonialism on education for Chamorus and how such education has impacted Chamoru identity. I am also interested in how contemporary Chamoru mothers engage in “everyday acts of resurgence” (Jeff Corntassel; Leanne Simpson) in order to counter or supplement the American curriculum taught in local public schools. Ultimately, there are disconnects between what is being taught at school and Chamoru identities, so I consider: How have Chamorus been impacted by colonial education? How are our identities shaped by or erased from school curricula? What would it look like if we were to control our narratives by telling our own stories? What would our education look like if we created our own schools? Moreover, I am also looking at tåno` (land). While Chamorus have always been closely connected to tåno`, our relationship with tåno` has been negatively impacted by colonialism. What would place-based, land-based learning look like in a Chamoru context? How would this impact the ways Chamorus learn and the ways we see and know ourselves and where we come from? My main goal is to return home to Guåhan and contribute to my communities, putting my degree to use, particularly in the realms of education, activism, and writing.    

Michelle Lee Brown

Kaixo!  Michelle Lee Brown naiz ni; Euskaldun eta Sächsisch naiz ni.

Aloha mai, I am Michelle Lee Brown and I am Basque (Iparralde side) and Saxon-German. I grew up on Wampanoag territories - nourished by the land and waters there, I also want to extend a grateful eskerrik asko to the Kānaka Maoli, whose territories I am on as I study here and whose brilliant scholars, community leaders, and artists nourish me as well.

My dissertation focuses on Indigenous political praxis and futures through Indigenous designers’ video games, graphic novels, and machinima. I have published peer-reviewed work on the Never Alone video game, a methods chapter on Indigenous political theory approaches to video game research, and “Liminal” – a comic in the forthcoming Relational Constellation collection from MSU Press and Native Realities Press. I am also currently working on a VR project on water and relationality, and a comic based on multiple levels of impostor syndrome. 

Donna Ann Kameha‘iku Camvel

Kameha‘iku Camvel comes from the ‘ili of ‘Ioleka‘a in the He‘e‘ia Ahupua‘a located in the moku of Ko‘olaupoko, O‘ahu island. She and her family, the Līhu‘e, Kahanu, Pāoa, Kea, Lono ‘Ohana, maintain a kuleana that has been in their family for over one hundred and seventy four years. As a mother, wife, tūtū , practitioner of oli, composer of mele, wahine mahi‘ai, and student, ‘Ioleka‘a has played a foundational role in her life. Her master’s thesis, “Land and Genealogy of ‘Ioleka‘a: Mapping An Indigenous Identity,” served as take-off point for her current doctoral research; a dissertation that will examine and analyze the term Mo‘o as a function of ‘ōiwi land management, particularly associated with wai. Using Papakū Makawalu as both a theoretical and methodological authority with which to interpret mo‘ōlelo, pule, oli, and mele, the connection of mo‘o to wai becomes intriguingly complex and integrated with ‘āina. Her research is backdrops the mokus of Ko‘olaupoko and Ko‘olauloa, but is specific to Ha‘iku, ‘Ioleka‘a and Pa‘auiki, all ‘ilis of He‘e‘ia.

Lianne Charlie

Lianne Marie Leda Charlie is a descendant of the Tagé Cho Hudän (Big River People), Northern Tutchone speaking people of the Yukon. She was raised by her mom, a second generation Canadian of Danish and Icelandic ancestry on the unceded territories of the Lekwugen speaking people in what is commonly known as Victoria, British Columbia. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa and developing a theory of Indigenous collage. 

Sra Manpo Ciwidian

Aaron Cornelison

he kanaka ʻōiwi au. The name above was given as a form of _christian heteropatriarchy. The sands of my birth, or my beloved native soil, is Waiʻanae. This is the home of my mother, her father, and his father, all of whom cultivated kalo deep in the valley, near Kaʻala. I was taken from this place, though, at a very young age and forced into the diaspora. Alienated from the stories, histories, and memories of my ancestors, I came of age within Midwestern America. It has been about ten years since I returned home. My political stance is that of presence: an enduring, physical presence of indigeneity on ancestral lands. At the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo I received my BA in philosophy, and then was granted admission into the PhD program here in the Political Science Department at Mānoa. My dissertation research examines the ethical and political implications of _christianity and its influence on this place, Hawaiʻi nei, where it has become a particularly strong article of faith. At the intersection of _christianity and kanaka maoli lifeworlds, I examine philosophically the radical difference and unbridgeable chasms between the two. Through a genealogical method I trace the origins of that form of _christianity which colonized this place to Enlightenment and Platonic principles of rational discourse. Not only is the doctrine of _christianity in clear contradiction to indigenous kanaka ideologies; but moreover, I argue that, like a disease which has spread over time, our believing in it has made us – as a people – quite ill. That _christiantiy has caused the weakening of our physical bodies and has made our thinking dogmatic and complacent; that it is a force against genealogy, the ancestor, and all things sacred to this place; and that we ought to rid ourselves of this poison as a way of anti-colonial resistance for the sake of our future: these are the aspects of my project. This is my polemic: On the Genealogy of Hawaiian Morality. 

Mechelins Kora Iechad-Remoket

Mechelins Kora Iechad-Remoket is from Smongesong, Irrai in the Republic of Belau. Mechelins passion is to contribute to the preservation and continuity of indigenous knowledge and practices. During a time of climate change and insecurity, her work focuses on the ways Belauan women and leaders in the Belauan women’s group Mechesiil Belau are using traditional knowledge and practices to address issues of climate change, food security, and migration within their islands. Although a lot of research and media attention have focused on the ocean and marine environment, Mechelins argues that little attention has been given to the experience of women, the land (a women’s domain), and women’s mitigation strategies. As a matrilineal society, she finds this gender imbalance problematic because the core principles of Belau’s socio-political society is based on harmony and balance among genders and environment to preserve Belau’s culture and nation. In line with the native feminist writings of Mishuana Geoman and Jennifer New Denetdale, Mechelins hopes that her work helps to open up spaces where generations of colonialism have silenced Belauans about the status of their women and the intersections of power and domination that have shaped the nation and gender relations, aiding in the restructuring of the Belauan nation according to their cultural values and contemporary needs. 

Kahala Johnson

Kahala Johnson is a student in the Political Science doctorate program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Concentrating in Indigenous Politics, Futures Studies, and Political Theory, his academic work is concerned with native relational governances beyond the nation-state, capitalism, and juridical constructs. Currently, he is working on decolonizing image-nations through the genres of horror, fantasy, and speculative fiction as well as examining queer(ed) aesthetic performance as a fecund grounds for anarcha-indigenous governmentality modules.

Cody Lestelle

Cheng-Cheng Li

Mr. Cheng Cheng Li holds an MA degree in International Studies and is pursuing a PhD in Political Science. Before arriving at UH Mānoa, Li worked as filmmaker. He is conducting community-engaged scholarship for the filmmaking process. As a collaborative filmmaker, he offers a convening point for communities to come together with each other, with issue leaders, to build solutions. His research in the Indigenous Program will continue the investigation, and preservation of Indigenous groups, the access to land rights, and cross-cultural understanding in the policy making process. Area of interests: Indigenous Politics, Participatory Filmmaking, Public Policy.

Kerry Kamakaoka‘ilima Long

Aloha mai. O wau nō ʻo Kerry Kamakaoka'ilima Long. In Hilo are my birth sands. The ʻāina that raised me is the greater Seattle area, territories of the Duwamish and Snohomish people. I returned to Hilo in 2003. While living with my grandmother, enrolling in Hawaiian Studies at Hawaiʻi Community College and dancing hula, I learned that what I previously saw as progressive or even radical politics were actually just normal principles of society and governance in Hawaiʻi during the times of my kūpuna. I received both my Bachelors and Masters degree from Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies. My Masters thesis, completed in the Spring of 2014, looked at the interconnectedness of ancestral and national identity prior to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893 and how a eugenics movement in early US-occupied Hawaiʻi aimed to unravel both in service of white supremacy, Americanization and laizze-fair capitalism. I am currently a PhD student in the Indigenous Politics track of Political Science here at UH Mānoa and my research interests include the politics of ʻŌiwi women in relation to law, land and power in Hawaiʻi, political and legal tensions between the state and the growing Hawaiian independence movement, and the relationship between direct action and law in land-based sovereignty struggles in Hawaiʻi. True to the region I was raised, I enjoy any coffee, good beer and loud music.

Daniel Kauwila Mahi

Aloha mai nō kākou e nā hoa makamaka mai ka piʻina a ka lā i Haʻehaʻe a i ka nāpoʻo akula ʻana ʻo ka lā i Lehua. Daniel Kauwila Mahi is a student in the Indigenous Politics program in the Political Science Department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is a Hawaiʻi from Maunalua, Waimānalo, Oʻahuakākuhihewa whose primary focus is on Traditional Governance and Contested Governance in Hawaiʻi through play and games. He is a game developer, programming language developer, rapper, professional Hawaiian Language Translator, and father. His M.A. thesis “Hawaiian Perspectives on Video Games: Oppression, Trauma, and Pedagogy” documents the colonial imaginary in Hawaiʻi through pāʻani wikiō (video games) featuring Hawaiʻi while making decolonial interventions. His research interests also include: Traditional Hawaiian Religion, Kanikau, Lāhui Hawaiʻi Kūʻokoʻa Specific Laws and Licensures, Contemporary Indigenous Technologies, Decolonial Potentialities, Ea, and Aloha ʻĀina methodologies.

Ernest Kalikoaloha Martin

James Kāwika Riley

Aloha mai kākou! I was born in North Kohala, raised in Kona, and lived in Colorado and Washington DC before returning home, this time to Kaimukī, Oʻahu. I’m a dual-emphasis Ph.D. Candidate specializing in Indigenous Politics and Public Policy. I joined the department after a decade of working in state and federal government, largely on issues related to Native Hawaiian wellbeing. While in DC, I also earned my M.A. in Political Management at the George Washington University, and lectured there for several years.  

My dissertation examines how Native Hawaiians have navigated the federal public policy process to shape Congressional policy, especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s. When not working or Ph.D.-ing, I can be found chasing my keiki with my better half, Lorinda, preferably at the beach but more often at whatever organized sport currently captures the kids’ attention. 

Mahina Tuteur

Mahina is from Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu, and is concentrating her graduate studies in Indigenous Politics. She is also a Post-Juris Doctor Research and Teaching Fellow at the Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, where she organizes legal trainings for government decision-makers, facilitates water law workshops for ʻŌiwi communities, and works on various scholarship projects aimed at evolving the law and advancing justice for Kānaka Maoli and other Indigenous peoples. Her research interests include environmental justice, community-based social and political movements, and the emerging reassertion of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination through environmental governance in response to climate change.

Chantrelle Waiʻalae

Chantrelle Waiʻalae calls ʻEwa and Waiʻanae her home. She is passionate about her community and its people, where much of her work is centered in. She is a Ph.D. student with a focus in indigenous politics and public policy and a recent graduate of William S. Richardson School of Law where she completed a Native Hawaiian Law Certificate. Chantrelle enjoys going to the beach with her daughters, paddling, and being outdoors. Her research interests include community-based mobilization, identity politics, public policy, blood quantum, federal Indian law, family law, resurgence and place-based research. She is currently involved in community work at Puʻuhonua o Waiʻanae and advocates for survivors of domestic violence and policies to better address violence against women.

Kalaniakea Wilson

Aloha kakou, O Kalaniakea kou inoa.  He elele au no Ko Hawaii Pae Aina a e hoolaha ana i ka moolelo no ka hookumu ana o ka Hae Hawaii i ka makahiki 1816.  He mea nui keia makahiki 2016, He hoolaulea elua haneli makahiki no ka Hae Hawaii.  I’m a kanaka maoli in the Hawaiian Kingdom trying to share and celebrate Hawaiian traditions and practices at the highest public educational institution in the Hawaiian Kingdom.  I placed three flag poles on Queen Liliuokalani’s birthday September 2, 2015 at three ahu on the UH Manoa campus in a student collaboration and free education events held at UH Manoa and UH Hilo.  My flags to honor and inspire the 200th anniversary of Kamehameha I’s creation of the Hae Hawaii were stolen.