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Brian Twenter

Visiting Assistant Professor

Headshot of Brian Twenter

Contact Information

Salem Campus

Eaton 213
900 State Street
Salem  Oregon  97301


  • PhD English, University of South Dakota, 2016
  • MA English, University of Missouri, Kansas City, 2000
  • BA English, Truman State University, 1996

Awards, Grants, & Fellowships

  • National Endowment for the Humanities and Class of 1959 Visiting Fellowship, Willamette U
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Visiting Fellowship, Fort Lewis College
  • Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution Post-Doctoral Fellowship, U of Minnesota Morris
  • International Curriculum Development Grant – NAIS: Oceti Sakowin Cultural Landscapes
  • Faculty Research Enhancement Funds – The Indian Episode: A Collection of Essays
  • Global Programs and Strategy Alliance International Travel Grant
  • Sustainability Fellowship for Environmental Research by Faculty Members at WWU
  • John W. Carlson Research Grant in the College of Arts and Sciences, USD
  • ASAIL Emerging Scholars Professional Development Fellowship
  • Axel and Dorothy Nepstad Graduate Scholarship
  • Betty Beasom Crew Scholarship for Graduate Study in English
  • West Virginia University Seminar in Literary and Cultural Studies Graduate Scholarship
  • Dorothy Baisch Selz Memorial Fellowship for Graduate Study in English

Courses Taught

  • CINE 399: Indigenous Film and Media
  • ENGL 101: Native American Literatures and Cultures
  • ENGL 299: Indigenous Literatures of Native North America

Teaching Interests

Native American and Indigenous Literatures, American Ethnic and Multicultural Literatures, 20th-21st Century American Literature, Trans-Indigenous Literatures, Environmental Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies, Popular Culture—Television and Film, New Media and Visual Arts.

Selected Conference Presentations

“Čhaŋkpé Ópi as Palimpsest: A History of Engaged Resistance at Wounded Knee” Annual Conference of the Western Literature Association

“The Comic Book ‘Indian Episode’: Indigenous Images in Legion and Stumptown” Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Annual Meeting

“waúnspéunkhiyapi / waúŋspeuŋkič'ičhiyapi: Indigenizing Pedagogies” Native American Literature Symposium

“‘Dogs, Horses, and Indians’: Blood Quantum, Casinos, and Sovereignty in the ‘Indian Episode’” Sovereignty and/in Indigenous Film. Indigenous Literatures of the United States and Canada and Screen Arts and Culture. Modern Language Association Annual Convention

“Of Course the Ghost Nation Speaks Lakota: Indigenous Stereotypes in \W/estworld” NAISA Association Annual Meeting. University of Waikato, Aotearoa, New Zealand

“The ‘Indian Episode’ comes to the BBC: Playing Indian on Doctor Who and Downton Abbey” American Indian Workshop. Goldsmiths College, London, England

“Seeking Solutions to Climate Change in the Boundaries: The Influence of Global Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge” Changing World: Indigenous Narrative Boundaries Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures. MLA Annual Convention

“Indigenous Populations and Global Climate Injustice: A Roundtable” American Conference for Irish Studies Western Regional Conference

“Literary Field Work: Approaches to Teaching Indigenous Landscapes.” Honoring Indigenous Homelands: Place-based Learning in Native American Literature and History Courses Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures. MLA Annual Convention

“The Western ‘Indian Episode’: The Vanishing Indians of Deadwood” Spectacular Indigeneity: The New and Not-So-New Indians in Contemporary Stories by and about Indians Annual Conference of the Western Literature Association

“A Red Reading: The Murals of Parks & Rec – Indigenous Stereotypes on Television”   Native American Literature Symposium

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Because my pedagogy is informed by Indigenous values and practices, I focus on community within the classroom. In an advanced Native American Literatures course I taught at Fort Lewis College, an invited author and tribal elder was surprised when students began class with woyaksape, words of encouragement, and then used proper Lakota kinship terms to greet each other, “Híŋhaŋni laȟči.” I explained that we thought of our class as a tiyospaye, a community; as such, we observed proper Lakota protocols. As the students began a group discussion about the texts we read during the semester, their conversations focused on the protection of languages, landscapes, food and water sovereignty, while discussing literature, humor, survivance, gender, politics, history, engaged resistance to colonization, and issues affecting Indian Country and cultural lifeways. What was of real interest was the manner in which they express their views—students were using academic language to passionately express common interests that touched each of them and related to their school and home communities. Though unprompted, the students were expressing Indigenous topics academically, melding their voices, and indigenizing the academy. This conversation exemplifies the goal I strive for in any class I teach—that all students feel empowered to read, think, and write critically, that all students learn how to construct their own ideas and discover an ability to express themselves within the tiyospaye. I believe that a professor of Native American Literatures and Indigenous Studies must strive to educate students about Indigenous issues and local communities while challenging students to interact with each other and think outside of ideological concepts that they have brought to the classroom.

I have written in my dissertation that Indigenous Literary Studies is unique to other disciplines because of the necessity of consultation with local communities. I envision students in multi-cultural literature courses thinking about the class as a tiyospaye. Teaching is a learning experience, and I have learned to be flexible in my methodology and approach, to work with “non-traditional” students and learning strategies, and to communicate better every time I teach. In my classes, I inspire students to create and communicate with clarity,integrity, and conviction. Through a variety of Indigenous activities, such as choosing texts for a course, sharing critical readings, participating in language activities, creating exams as a community, experiential learning, and sharing local knowledge from tribal elders, I attempt to create opportunities for members of the tiyospaye to take on the roles of both student and teacher, learning from their peers and sharing their own expertise. I find that such dispersal of classroom authority, not only gives students a greater stake in their own education, but also creates a more interactive classroom environment, as students turn to each other for knowledge and assistance—these Indigenous ways of learning have been practiced since time immemorial.

Fundamental to a successful classroom, then, are both an interactive community of students and a strong collection of multinational texts. Students choose “readings” which invariably reflect their interests and are complimented by my research into global Indigenous environmental issues and Native American popular culture, creating a tiyospaye. I encourage Indigenous practices within the classroom, local, and university communities, fostering respect by teaching diverse texts and genres. I often attempt to engage students by relating course material to local, national, and global current events. In this way, I suggest to my students that by understanding and interpreting Indigenous works they may become better interpreters of the world.

Statement of Commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

At the beginning of my academic career, I had the goal of teaching and educating myself not only on Indigenous Literatures but learned life experiences in Indigenous communities. I firmly believe that teaching diverse methodologies in the classroom can enable students to view the world from varied ideological perspectives and my principles of community are rooted in my teaching and research. Having designed and taught courses related to Indigenous issues at multiple state institutions including both federal tuition waiver schools, I believe I have gained diverse teaching experiences and am committed to using Indigenous practices in my classroom. Having written and published articles on teaching Indigenous Literatures in the classroom and having taken courses at the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies and attended Native Studies Summer Workshops for Educators, I strive to Indigenize my pedagogy, integrating Indigenous methodologies into every course I teach. Further, I have spoken at the Native American Literature Symposium, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Annual Meeting, Annual Conference of Western Literature Association, and Modern Language Association Annual Convention on teaching Indigenous Literatures and Lifeways. During my post-doctoral fellowship at Morris, I was asked to give a lecture and corresponding workshop on “Indigenizing the Classroom” sponsored by a Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution Post-Doctoral Fellowship. I also coordinated a “Reading and Writing with Indigenous Students” Workshop for an English Department Retreat and was approached to lead the “Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment” session during a Faculty Retreat. In all my endeavors I teach diverse pedagogies and continue to strive to educate myself and peers about Indigenous educational paradigms.

I firmly believe that Indigenous literary methodologies and pedagogies are unique to other literary disciplines because of the necessity of consultation with Indigenous communities. Studying Indigenous Literatures alone is not enough—one must interact with local communities, on and off campus, and give back to those communities. Public service should reflect the passion for critical inquiry, debate, discovery, and innovation of the institution in service to the students and community. While working in service to the community, I have had the privilege of advising students, working closely with Cultural Centers, attending readings, scholarly lectures, totem pole blessings, reconciliation ceremonies, language reading tables, powwows, round dances, among other cultural events. I have arranged for elders, artists, poets, cooks, comedians, filmmakers, and writers to visit classrooms and speak on campus. Along with leading Equity and Diversity Workshops, attending the Leading Equity-Minded Reform of Academic Workloads Professional Development Session and teaching Multicultural Literature for a Gateway program has afforded me the opportunity to fully prepare myself to teach Indigenous Studies while adapting courses to local Indigenous communities. Additionally, I was able to make my classrooms more digital accessible particularly for students from rural Indigenous Communities by creating online courses based on a Canvas Designing for Impact in Distance Education course and participating in the Facilitating Intercultural Learning in Online Globally Diverse Classrooms program. I strive to continue these diverse practices of equity and inclusion while adopting and sustaining a safe, caring, and humane classroom, campus, and community environment in which these values can thrive at Willamette.

Willamette University


Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.