Elizabeth Rule

Dr. Elizabeth Rule is Assistant Professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies at American University. She is an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. Rule’s research on Indigenous issues has been featured in the Washington Post, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, The Atlantic, Newsy, and NPR. She is also a published author, releasing scholarly articles in the American Quarterly and in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. Rule has two forthcoming monographs. The first, Reproducing Resistance: Gendered Violence and Indigenous Nationhood, analyzes the intersection of violence against Native women, reproductive justice, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; this work received the Julien Mezey Award from the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities in 2020. Rule’s second monograph, Indigenous DC: Native Peoples and the Nation’s Capital (Georgetown University Press), analyzes historical and contemporary sites of Indigenous importance in Washington and compliments her Guide to Indigenous DC mobile application. Previously, Dr. Rule has held posts as Director of the Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy and Faculty in Residence at George Washington University, Director of the Native American Political Leadership Program and the INSPIRE PreCollege Program, MIT Indigenous Communities Fellow, Postdoctoral Fellow at American University, and Ford Foundation Fellow.

From “Seals, Selfies, and the Settler State: Indigenous Motherhood and Gendered Violence in Canada”

After posting a photograph of her infant child lying next to a dead seal in an act of digital Indigenous activism, the famed Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq experienced months of harassment and threats on her life. Calling her “sick” and a “heartless, mindless, total piece of scum,” abusers operating under settler environmentalism revealed, yet again, the anti-Indigenous sentiment coursing through large swaths of the Canadian citizenry. In defense of a seal, hunted humanely, legally, and in accordance with Inuit subsistence living, the harassers used the occasion to call for legal intervention by the settler state to further divorce Indigenous peoples from their lands and lifeways through the denial of humanity and the targeting of Indigenous women in violence. “Another Inuit tradition we are supposed to be OK [sic] with?,” one such individual rhetorically asked, concluding, “They are savages plain and simple.” 

The interconnectedness of the attacks on Tagaq’s physical well-being, traditions, and motherhood speak to the larger colonialist effort to end the intergenerational reproduction of Indigenous culture, and attempts to do so through campaigns of violence against Indigenous women. In the following analysis, I expose how accusations of unfit Indigenous motherhood exist as contemporary iterations of the enduring, powerful ideologies that once fueled mid-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century residential schools, sterilizations, and adoption and foster care abuses. The attacks leveled against Tagaq and others are specifically gendered to target Indigenous women in their roles as culture bearers and thus use gendered violence to further the colonial push to “the evisceration of Indigenous nations.”

Continue Reading “Seals, Selfies, and the Settler State”


“Native American Teens are Dying at an Alarming Rate. Why?” In the Know, 2021

“How Are Contemporary Native Americans Thriving? with Dr. Elizabeth Rule.” Spotify, October, 2020

“Chickasaw academic atop Native policy, advocacy institution.” Chickasaw Times, July, 2020


Who Are We & Where Are We Coming From? –2022 Lannan Symposium | March 23, 2022