Dr. Kristin Dowell specializes in art of Native North America with an emphasis on Indigenous cinema and contemporary art. She is a settler scholar of Irish American heritage deeply committed to a decolonial research and teaching practice that centers and amplifies the work of the Indigenous filmmakers and artists with whom she has collaborated for 20 years. Her single-author book, Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast (2013), is the first ethnographic monograph of the vibrant and dynamic Indigenous media world in Vancouver. Her research investigates the active processes through which Indigenous filmmakers and artists express and enact visual sovereignty through their on-screen aesthetics and off-screen production practices.
Public-facing engagement through film curation, community-driven oral history projects and museum practice is central to her work. She is an active member of the Engaged Art History organization. She has worked at or held research affiliations with a variety of museums including the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Film curation is an integral aspect of her research practice and she has worked for several Native film festivals including those sponsored by NMAI and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. She was a co-founder of the Native Crossroads Film Festival at the University of Oklahoma where she served as a film curator for three years.
Professor Dowell directs the Visual Culture Media Lab—an interactive technology space providing undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to learn media production skills through the creation of their own digital projects documenting cultural heritage. Student films produced for her ethnographic video production course can be viewed here.
For the last three years Professor Dowell has been a collaborative partner on the Miccosukee Oral History Project, engaging community leadership in Miccosukee, FL, a designated Florida Heritage Site, in the collection of their oral histories. This ongoing project documents local traditions including Emancipation Day, African American rural lifeways, agricultural practices, the significant role of churches, and the history of segregation and civil rights activism in this area.
Professor Dowell is completing her second book, Digital Sutures: Family and Cultural Memory in Indigenous Women’s Films, under contract with Wayne State University Press. Her book analyzes how Indigenous women filmmakers re-define film genres, such as stop-motion animation, handmade cinema, and experimental documentary, to recuperate Indigenous family histories, ancestral knowledge and cultural memory. One goal of this project is to bring greater recognition for the long-standing and central role of women within Indigenous media production, a distinctive feature in contrast to male-dominated media worlds elsewhere.
Professor Dowell is a beginner Gaeilgeoir—a speaker of Gaeilge (Irish)—with family ties to Gallach (Castleblakeney) in Contae na Gaillimhe (County Galway). Tá bród uirthi Gaeilge a labhairt. (She is proud to speak Irish).
Digital Sutures: Family and Cultural Memory in Indigenous Women’s Films. Wayne State University Press. Under contract.
Video Production Handbook. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, 2021. Translated into Tibetan and Mandarin, 2021.
“Review: Now Is the Time.” B.C. Studies. 207(Autumn 2020): 130-131.
“Digital Sutures: Experimental Stop-Motion Animation as Future Horizon of Indigenous Cinema.” Cultural Anthropology 33: 2 (May, 2018): 189-201.
“Residential Schools and ‘Reconciliation’ in the Media Art of Skeena Reece and Lisa Jackson.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 29: 1 (2017): 116-138.
“Four Faces of the Moon: Spirit and Memory: Resistance and Resilience.” Exhibition catalogue essay for Four Faces of the Moon: Amanda Strong. Grunt Gallery, 2017.
“Experimental Digital Media on the Cutting Edge.” In Art in Motion: Native American Explorations of Time, Place and Thought. Eds. John Lukavic and Laura Caruso. Denver: Denver Art Museum Press, 2016.
“‘The Future Looks Rad From Where I Stand’: A Review of Claiming Space: Urban Aboriginal Youth Voices at the UBC Museum of Anthropology.” Anthropologica 57:1 (2015): 239-246.
Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast. University of Nebraska Press, 2013.
“Pushing Boundaries, Defying Categories: Aboriginal Filmmaking on Canada’s West Coast” in Native Art on the Northwest Coast: A History of Changing Ideas. Eds. Jennifer Kramer, Charlotte Townsend-Gault and Ki-ke-in. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2013. Book was winner of 2015 Canada Prize in Humanities.
“Performance and ‘Trickster Aesthetics’ in the Work of Mohawk Filmmaker Shelley Niro” in Native American Performance and Representation. Ed. Steve Wilmer. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009.
“Performing Culture: Beauty, Cultural Knowledge, and Womanhood in Miss Navajo.” Transformations 20: 1 (2009): 132-141.
“Indigenous Media Gone Global: Strengthening Identity On- and Offscreen at the First Nations\First Features Film Showcase.” American Anthropologist 108: 2 (2006):376-384.
Circumpolar Indigenous Art
Contemporary Native American Art
Cultural Heritage: Theory and Practice
Global Indigenous Cinema
Contemporary Native American Art
Global Indigenous Cinema
Digital Media for Museums
Diversity & Inclusion Certificate
I acknowledge that Florida State University is located on land that is the ancestral and traditional territory of the Apalachee Nation, the Muscogee Nation, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. I pay respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to their descendants, to the generations yet unborn, and to all Indigenous people.
I recognize that this land remains scarred by the histories and ongoing legacies of settler colonial violence, dispossession, and removal. In spite of all of this, and with tremendous resilience, these Indigenous Nations have remained deeply connected to this territory, to their families, to their communities, and to their cultural ways of life. I recognize their ongoing relationships of care to these lands and waters and extend my gratitude as I live and work as a humble and respectful guest upon their territory.
I invite you to think about the Indigenous Nations whose land you are on and pay respect to those who have gone before and those who have yet to come. I encourage you to move from acknowledgment to action in amplifying and supporting Indigenous sovereignty in all the ways that you can.