Vicente M Diaz

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Contact Me

American Indian Studies .
19 Scott Hall

72 Pleasant St SE

I am the founder and director of The Native Canoe Program, housed in the Department of American Indian Studies. This program uses traditional Indigenous watercraft and Indigenous water-based ecological knowledge and technology from across Oceania and the Native Great Lakes and Mississippi River to advance community-engaged research, teaching, and service. This program also mixes hands-on, experiential learning and teaching with advanced visualization technologies of Virtual and Augmented Realities, through collaboration with UMN's Interactive Visualization Lab, headed by Prof. Daniel Keefe of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D: History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, 1992.
  • M.A: Political Science, University of Hawai'i, Manoa, 1984.
  • Graduate Certificate: Urban and Regional Planning, University of Hawai'i, Manoa, 1984.
  • B.A.: Political Science, University of Hawai'i, Manoa, 1982.

Curriculum Vitae


  • I am an interdisciplinary scholar (History, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Comparative and Global Indigenous Studies) who specializes in critical indigenous studies in North America and the Pacific Ocean region. I have researched and published in topics such as Indigenous Critical Theory; Traditional Outrigger Canoe Voyaging in Micronesia; Coloniality and Indigenous Christianity in Micronesia; Indigenous Masculinity and Sports in the Pacific; and Trans-Indigenous Theory and Practice.
Courses Taught
  • AMIN 1001 American Indian Peoples
  • AMIN 1002 Global Indigeneities
  • AMIN 3312 American Indian Environmental Issues/Perspectives
  • AMIN 3304 Indigenous Filmmakers
  • AMIN 3920 Topics in American Indian Studies (Sports and Indigeneity)
  • AMIN 5920/ANTH 4993 Fieldwork and Archival Work
  • AMIN 8301 Critical Indigenous Theory
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Member, Series Editorial Board, Critical Issues in Indigenous Studies, Arizona Press Series: Since 2013
  • Member, Board of Correspondents, The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs (University of Hawai’i): Since 2001
  • Member, Editorial Board, American Studies Asia (De La Salle University, Philippines): Since 2010
  • Member, Board of Reviewers, Silliman Journal (Silliman University, Philippines): Since 2009
  • Member, Editorial Board, Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal : 2015 - 2018
  • Member, Editorial Board, AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples (Nga Pae o te Maramatanga/the National Institute of Research Excellence for Maori Development and Advancement, New Zealand, Auckland University) : 2012 - 2015
  • Member, US Rep, Board of the Pacific History Association: Since 2016
  • Member (elected), Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) Council: 2010 - 2013


  • Back to Indigenous Futures: Cultural Revitalization and Sustainability through Trans-Indigenous Partnerships, Participatory Design, and Embodied Computing. (Co-PI). UMN Grand Challenge Grant.: “In a field of tall grass, with only the wind for company, there is a language that transcends the differences between scientific and traditional understandings, the data or the prayer.” --Robin Kimmerer, Potawatomi botanist, in Braiding Sweetgrass (2014). Back to Indigenous Futures heeds Kimmerer’s plea for alternative ways of apprehending the world around us, modes that can recognize and go beyond the violent histories that favor systems that know only in terms of data over deeper and older indigenous knowledge systems that are often also expressed through prayer. Addressing two Grand Challenge goals -- enhancing individual and community capacity for a changing world and fostering just & equitable societies – the project partners with Upper and Lower Sioux Dakota communities as they themselves partner with migrant Pacific islanders from Micronesia, now residing in rural west MniSota, in a shared effort to revitalize their respective cultural traditions and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) about watercraft and water-related ceremonies, rituals, and practices. Centering indigenous and decolonial values and principles, and deploying participatory action research methods, Back to Indigenous Futures integrates the work of humanities and humanistic social and applied sciences in American Indian and Global Indigenous studies with participatory action for TEK preservation, teaching, and research in both Architecture and Computer Science to design mixed reality experiences that integrate physical architecture with virtual embodied simulations of canoes in water, waves, and wind while also assisting in community-identified needs. Sensing the potential impact on teaching, practice, and research within these disciplines as just as important as the products, we ask, how might TEK-integrated teaching and research lead to more socially conscious and equitable designers, technologies, engineers, scientists, and scholars, and also make our work beneficial for indigenous community? This project has potential to cast the University of Minnesota into the winds of national and international leadership in research through indigenous community-based partnership at the interphase of computer science, design, humanities, indigenous environmentalism and community and nation-building. For Team Profiles, see, 2019 - 2021
  • Environmental Stewardship, Place, and Community Initiative (Faculty Leader). Institute for Advanced Studies Mellon Grant. : (Faculty Leader) This is a three year Mellon funded collaboration between faculty, staff, and students on the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Morris campuses, and community partners across Minnesota. The Initiative centers critical Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Relationalities along with other forms of knowing to advance culturally informed community engagement and place-based knowledge to promote responses to environmental challenges and new learning rooted in the unique local conditions, history, environment, culture, economy, literature and art; to develop new curricula that integrate diverse ways of knowing and inclusion of Indigenous research methodologies and concepts of environmental stewardship within the humanities; to encourage Indigenous and other underrepresented students to see themselves included in the academy, demonstrating the value of studying the humanities and arts for their own aspirations; to address critical environmental challenges facing our local and global communities through collective response at the intersection of place, community, and stewardship. By incorporating local community-based participatory research and Indigenous epistemologies, the Initiative seeka to expand the methods of the humanities and create greater intellectual diversity in the academy and to amplify efforts to decolonize our university and serve as a national model in the humanities by establishing a systematic approach for integrating Indigenous ways of knowing and research methodologies in humanities scholarship. For more information and team members, see, 2019 - 2022
  • “Indigenous Art and Activism in Changing Climates: The Mississippi River Valley, Colonialism, and Environmental Change” Mellon Humanities without Walls Consortium Research Challenge Grant: Co-Principal Investigator, with Kelly Wisecup (Project Leader, Department of English, Northwestern University) and Coordinator: Chris Pexa, (Project Coordinator, Department of English, University of Minnesota, and Caroline Wigginton, (Project Coordinator, University of Mississippi). A three-year collaborative grant involving faculty and graduate students at 5 institutions to study Indigenous art and activism responsive to the Mississippi River Valley and its changing climates. We view the Mississippi as a bellwether of changing climates and generative space for Indigenous art and activism. The River and its tributaries have long constituted rich ecological, cultural, and textual spaces. The rivers support Indigenous transnational communication networks going back millennia even as they constitute contested boundaries and resources among tribal nations and on settler colonial maps, 2018 - 2020
  • “The Canoe Virtual: Fusing Advanced Visualization Technology (AVT) and Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) for Advancing Academic Innovation.” UMN College of Liberal Arts and Technology Innovation Services (LATIS): (Principal Investigator) The Canoe Virtual fuses specific forms of Advanced Visualization Technologies (AVT) to facilitate the teaching and learning of specific cultural skill sets that are associated with Indigenous watercraft and water-related traditional knowledge from the Pacific Islands and Great Lakes region. It calls for data capture of activities for Virtual Reality (VR) simulation and game design of two of the course’s components, namely 1) the building of a traditional birch bark canoe, and 2) the teaching and learning of how to “shunt” a Pacific islands outrigger sailing canoe, along with the “hot mapping” of a third component that is already in Augmented Reality (AR) with an eye for what can be unleashed in the juxtaposition and interphase between AVT and TEK, 2018 - 2020
  • Building Dakota Wata (Dugouts), University of Minnesota Extension South West Regional Sustainable Development Program Grant. : Building Dakota Wata (Dugouts), University of Minnesota Extension South West Regional Sustainable Developmentco-PI, in partnership with Mat Pendleton, Lower Sioux Community, Adam Savariego, Upper Sioux Dakota Community, and Bob Ryan, Angechu Community Master Development Plan. This grant provides financial support for carving two Dakota dugout canoes in conjunction with the ongoing Back to Indigenous Futures Grand Challenge Grant (above), 2019 - 2020


  • “Why Canoes? Capacious Vessels and Indigenous Futures for Minnesota’s Peoples and Places.” : Curatorial Team and Advisor. Canoe Exhibit to be installed at Northrop, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Exhibit advisor and co-curator, with Greg Donofrio, Jacob Bernier and Chrissy Pettit., 2019 - 2021
  • Sacred Vessels: Navigating Tradition and Identity in Micronesia. 29 mins. NTCS video documentary. : Co-Producer/Director/Writer. Aired on PBS Pacific and US Westcoast regions, 1997
  • See my Curriculum Vita under "Educational Background and Specialty" (above)
  • Winner, 2016 Most Thought Provoking Article, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. for Diaz, Vicente M. 2016. “In the Wake of Matapang’s Canoe,” Critical Indigenous Studies: Engagements in First World Locations, Aileen Moreton-Robinson ed. Arizona Press. 119-137.