Program    Registration    Common Reading Initiative    Blog     Contact

Blog: Twelfth Biennial SEA Conference, March 3-7, 2021
The Many Pasts, Presents, & Futures of Early America

Welcome to the SEA 2021 Biennial Conference Blog!



Native American and Indigenous Studies Panel Stream Blog Posts

Betty Donohue & Kelly Wisecup, co-chairs

Part I

Betty Donohue

This year’s SEA conference is expanding a movement begun some years earlier when the Society’s leadership deliberately began to include Indigenous speakers and panelists in their biennial programs.  Of course, from its inception the Society has always included papers dealing with Indigenous subject matter.  It could not do otherwise because Natives were interacting with European settlers regularly and Europeans were frequently detailing these encounters.  Because Natives were not publishing in ways Europeans could recognize,  settler accounts have ruled the day and our nation’s historical and social perceptions have therefore been skewed. For a while the SEA accepted this condition simply as the nature of Colonial literature; however, by the time of the 2007 Purdue conference it was obvious that a new approach was taking shape.  Under Kristina Bross’s leadership, Richard West (Cheyenne- Arapaho), founder of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, appeared as the keynote speaker and several Natives were featured on various panels.  Among them were Karen Dushane (Eastern Shawnee), Karen Kaniatobe (Absentee Shawnee), Joshua Sutterfield, (Miami), Andres Marsh (Absentee Shawnee), Pebelope Kelsey (Seneca descent), Lynne Harlan (Eastern Cherokee) jessie little doe (Wampanoag), Johnny Flynn (Pottawattamie), and myself.

The 2017 Tulsa conference continued the robust Native inclusion trajectory established by the Purdue example.  Laura Stevens stressed the fact that the site of the Tulsa Conference was located within the Creek Nation which was bordered by Cherokee and Osage.  She therefore asked the chiefs of these tribes to greet the attendees in an official welcome. Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn (Osage), Former Principal Chief Ross Swimmer, (Cherokee), and Principal Chief James Floyd (Mvskogee) happily complied.  Also in attendance at that reception were Princesses (Public relations personnel) from four of the five tribes who discussed displayed traditional dress and discussed their cultures and traditions with attendees.   The women participating in this portion of the reception were Princess Nancy Deere-Turney (Creek);  Princess Mary Hartley  (Chickasaw)  Junior Princess Princess-Keilyn Factor (Chickasaw); Junior Princess Alissa Hamilton (Osage) and Jula Harjo (Choctaw) .

Among the Natives presenting papers at the conference  were Jerry Thompson, Candessa Teehee, Roy Boney, Jeff Edwards, and Betty Donohue (Cherokees); Chadwick Allen (Chickasaw);  Mason Whitehorn Powell, Joanna Shadlow, Abagail Mashunkashey  (Osages); Ben Barnes (Second Chief Shawnee); and  Julie Olds (Miami)

The 2021 conference will again include a stream of panels centered on Native topics that will highlight American Indian and First Nations presenters.  There will be a Colloquy with Lisa Brooks on Our Beloved Kin chaired by Dennis Moore; a roundtable on Indigenizing the Past: Remembering the First Thanksgiving chaired by Alexis Bunten; a panel looking into Mayhew’s Indian Converts; a panel examining Early American Treaties Then and Now; and a plenary keynote roundtable entitled Centering the Native South-Native Pasts and Futures featuring three Indigenous scholars of the Native South, to be chaired by Kelly Wisecup and Betty Donohue. Also on the docket are a panel on Natives, Missions, and Martyrs in the Seventeenth Century Southeast chaired by Thomas Hallock; a panel on Finding the Native Students at the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls chaired by Laura Stevens; an Eighteenth-Century Studies Roundtable dealing with the Academy’s anti-Native antipathies chaired by Eugenia Zuroski; ; as well as a panel concerning Indigenous Lands: Misreferenced, Misunderstood, Mispositioned, and Mis-taken chaired by Kelly Wisecup.  Scattered throughout the 2021 conference’s panels are papers dealing with other fascinating Indigenous topics such as Greek into Creek by Len von Morzé.

Natives participating in the 2021 conference will include Elizabeth Bailey (Cherokee/Choctaw); Alexandria Tafoya (Cherokee Nation); Mason Powell (Osage); Diane Dellinger (Mvskogee); Brooke Bauer (Catawba); Malinda Lowery (Lumbee); Julie Reed (Cherokee Nation); Betty Donohue (Cherokee Nation); Megan Peiser(Choctaw Nation); and (Robbie Richardson (Pabineau First Nation-Mi’kmaw). This confluence of Native scholars with Native topics is exciting and enriching.    The Native offerings in this year’s conference are substantial, and the Society of Early Americanists can take pride in their efforts.


Kelly Wisecup

The 2021 SEA conference was originally to take place in Atlanta, on Emory University’s campus.  We would have gathered together on the homelands of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation, a place transformed into a university and a settler city through the forced removals of Mvskoke and Cherokee people from Georgia and the Southeast (see Emory University’s land acknowledgement here. Here is a good map for researching the Indigenous lands on which your institution sits, and here is a good article on universities’ reliance on Indigenous lands).  Atlanta is a place that holds the rich histories and homelands of Indigenous nations who devised ways of protecting and defining their nations against colonial encroachment in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, practices that resonate into the present.  That present, as we all know, is one in which COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Indigenous, Black, and Latinx communities.  It is also a present of white supremacist violence and insurrection, and mass protests for racial justice, a time when the work of attending to the echoes between the past, present, and future and the ways those echoes might orient or reorient our work with our students, colleagues, and in our communities more broadly is both baldly visible and all the more urgent.  As we worked together to assemble the Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) panel stream and to plan the NAIS roundtable, we saw these echoes reflected in panels’ and papers’ attention to treaties and missions, to archives and their afterlives, and to the ways that a focus on place, material culture, and mapping might allow us to read the Indigenous narratives and presences in the colonial archive.

The March 4 roundtable, entitled “Centering the Native South: A Roundtable on Native Pasts and Futures,” explicitly takes up the relations between past, present, and future by featuring the work of three Indigenous scholars whose research helps readers to understand the relationships between “early” Native histories and present contexts and challenges.  The roundtable features three Indigenous scholars of the Native South, Brooke Bauer (Catawba Indian Nation), Malinda Maynor Lowery (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina), and Julie Reed (Cherokee Nation), who collectively consider material culture, educational and welfare systems, foodways, and music as they trace the histories of Native nations from the sixteenth century to the present.

The NAIS roundtable locates us in the Native South, and the panels in the NAIS panel stream maintain this focus on the south while also expanding to other places and histories.  We observed several threads emerging from the NAIS panel stream: papers focus on printed and manuscript texts, as well as material culture objects, digital archives, and textiles, attending to the range of literacies that Indigenous people possessed and the material texts they made and circulated.  Another thread within the panel stream focuses on the spaces and documents where treaties were negotiated and colonized spaces remade and contested.  And, finally, papers originally proposed for the Plymouth, England conference “What Does it Mean to Remember?” (postponed from summer 2020) are included on the 2021 schedule; these papers examine the production of public memory about the Wampanoag homelands of Patuxet, on which English colonists settled in 1620.

We were also delighted to observe a good number of individual papers about Native writers and histories included on panels not necessarily focused around NAIS.  We see this as indicative of the ways that conversations about Indigenous literatures are taking place both within the dedicated panel stream and broadly across the conference.  While the panel stream helps make NAIS papers visible—certainly important for galvanizing shared conversations across the conference—we also see the importance of these conversations about Indigenous people, literatures, and histories happening across SEA, in conversation with early African American studies, textual studies, studies of religion, and other fields. As Betty Donohue’s section of this post points out, the move to dedicate space for papers on Native literatures and histories has been paralleled by similar efforts to make SEA more welcoming to Indigenous scholars.  These are necessarily related efforts, and we look forward to helping to continue the outreach of prior and present SEA leadership to Native nations, communities, and scholars, and to working to make SEA a welcoming place for Indigenous scholars.


NAIS Panel Stream

Thursday, March 4 (all times EST)

9 AM Colloquy with Lisa Brooks on Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War

1:45 PM Experiential Textiles Past, Present, and Future: Twining, Spinning, and Stitching


Friday, March 5

9 AM Early American Treaties Then and Now

10:45 AM New Approaches to the Occom Circle

2 PM Material Culture and Social Structure in 18th-century Louisiana

3: 45 PM Natives, Missions and Martyrs in the Seventeenth-Century Southeast

5:30 PM Roundtable: Centering the Native South: A Roundtable on Native Pasts and Futures


Saturday, March 6

10:45 AM Finding the Native Students at the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls: A Public Scholarship Project at the University of Tulsa



Dear early Americanist colleagues:

The 2021 Biennial SEA Conference—our first ever virtual conference—is less than a week away (March 3-7), and I wanted to share with you some essential information about the conference, whether you are just interested what we’re up to, would like to attend, or are a presenter!

It is easy, during this pandemic, to think of everything as vastly diminished. Indeed, it has not been our first choice to meet only virtually, though I think we can combine in the future the best of both in-person and virtual conferencing. So, our conference will be a great experiment, and I would like to offer some reasons why this moment and this conference can move us forward and enrich us.  Here’s an overview of what we have been planning and what will be on the program:

  • the online format, to begin, offers the advantage of affordability and accessibility for many scholars and students who, for reasons of cost and geography, would not otherwise be able to join our conference. The SEA buttressed access and inclusion by offering membership grants to underrepresented groups and free conference registration to any SEA members who are first-time participants, students, contingent faculty, or independent scholars.
  • Moreover, our first Common Reading Initiative vastly expands the scope of our activities to undergraduate students who studied, with circa 30 of our colleagues, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis, a brilliant poetic exploration of Phillis Wheatley Peters—especially of the many lacunae and distortions in our understanding of her life and work. Students who studied Jeffers and Wheatley Peters will exhibit their work—both scholarly and poetic—on our conference platform; they will meet in live book club discussions, and they will converse on a colloquy panel with Jeffers after her plenary keynote reading from The Age of Phillis. We have even expanded our understanding of who our students are and where they learn by including—through the facilitation of our colleague Elizabeth Ferszt—students from MDOC (Michigan Department of Corrections), who have studied Wheatley Peters and Jeffers while incarcerated. For launching and developing the Common Read, I particularly thank our colleagues Cassie Smith, Brigitte Fielder, and Tara Bynum for their tireless work, as well as Michelle Robinson Bachelor at Spelman College, who established our collaboration with the Atlanta University Center’s HBCUs.
  • Our focus on early African American studies, moreover, will flourish at the conference in a dedicated panel stream as well as a keynote address by Joycelyn Moody, one of the foremost scholars of early African American literature, on African American women’s autobiography!
  • Our conference will further highlight Native American and Indigenous Studies as well as LatinX Studies—both fields with immense significance, promise, and growth in early American scholarship. With great panache and endless work, Betty Donohue and Kelly Wisecup have put together a dedicated panel series on NAIS as well as a plenary keynote roundtable, “Centering the Native South: A Roundtable on Native Pasts and Futures” with Brooke Bauer (Catawba), Malinda Maynor Lowery (Lumbee), and Julie L. Reed (Cherokee), who will harness our original conference location (Atlanta) to discuss the history of Indigenous women in the early Southeast. Generously sponsored by Georgia Humanities and the Omohundro Institute, this roundtable will be free and open to the public via a Zoom Webinar, thus sharing with a larger public the importance of vibrant humanities scholarship. To register for the Zoom Webinar, please go to:

All other keynotes, panels, and events take place via our conference platform (live via Webex Events here:

  • In Latinx Studies, Rodrigo Lazo and Kirsten Silva Gruesz organized a dedicated panel, and Rodrigo will give a LatinX Studies keynote entitled “Yesterplace” to round out what I believe will be a stellar line-up of plenary keynote experiences!

We will begin our conference on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 3, with two plenary archival workshops: archivists of the Stuart Rose Special Collections and Manuscript Library will focus on their marquis early African American collection, especially a little-known Phillis Wheatley manuscript notebook and W.E.B. Du Bois’s personally annotated copy of David Walker’s Appeal. Then, we will receive an introduction to the Newberry Library collection in Chicago, facilitated by our former SEA president Kris Bross and Lia Markey at the Newberry.

We hope that workshops and keynotes—along with a myriad of intriguing panels and roundtables across four days—will provide shared experiences and intellectual stimulation for everyone at the conference.

Please find attached here the latest (and last!) DRAFT schedule for the conference. A full program will be posted on our website shortly before the conference starts next week:

To join the conference in any function (attending/presenting), please do the following:

1)     Register for the conference.  Since we have a membership requirement for attendance, all current SEA members have already been sent the registration link. If you’re not yet a SEA member, please join here ( and then email your membership receipt to to receive the registration link.

2)     Download Webex Events (which is similar to Zoom and will be the exclusive video conferencing app for our conference) here: Download Link. It is important, when you’re prompted during the conference to log into Webex, that you use the same email address and login in that you used to register for the conference.

3)     Please check out the conference platform itself, which is the portal for all content (live/synchronous and on-demand/asynchronous) during the conference:

The conference platform will be a bit under construction until the conference starts, but there will be highlights featured in the “Discover” section to guide you through your conference experience!

A note of clarification about ExOrdo vis-à-vis Webex Events:

The conference platform itself is created by ExOrdo, a virtual conference platform provider from Ireland; ExOrdo has a dedicated contract with Webex, so it is important that you access all live conference panels by finding and opening each panel in the “Live” menu on the conference website provided by Ex Ordo and launch the Webex Events app from there in order to participate in your panel or to attend others.

For additional information on how to access the conference and how live panels will run, please see the attached conference “Primer!” 

I will offer the following REHEARSALS for participants (especially, to get used to the Webex Events functions). I will send out links (via the ExOrdo email function) to join the rehearsals separately on each day of the rehearsal to keep them distinct and to avoid confusion; in order to participate in the rehearsals, you have to be registered, have Webex Events installed (see above), and follow the links. Please familiarize yourself with the ExOrdo training resources provided in the Primer before you join a rehearsal (yes, it’s homework…):

General Rehearsal times for all attendees and panelists (all times EST):

  • Tuesday, March 2, 10:00am-11:00am
  • Tuesday, March 2, 2:00pm-3:00pm
  • Wednesday, March 3, 7:15-8:00pm

Panel Chair Rehearsals:

  • Friday, February 26, 11:00am-12:00pm
  • Monday, March 1, 11:00am-12pm
  • Monday, March 1,  4:00pm-5:00pm

All best, and I look forward to “seeing” you all virtually next week (and personally again hopefully soon!).

Patrick Erben

SEA President and Conference Program Chair

February 27, 2021

PS: One final word–some things at our first ever virtual conference (as at most virtual conferences!) will inevitably go wrong, especially with technology. I ask for your understanding and patience, and let’s be kind to one another!

Return to the main Twelfth Biennial SEA Conference page: SEA 2021 Biennial

What's New/Announcements

2024 EAL Book Prize Nominations Sought February 16, 2024

The editors of Early American Literature are pleased to announce the annual Early American Literature Book Pri...

SEA Featured Scholar, January 2024: Aaron Brown January 30, 2024

SEA Featured Scholar, January 2024: Aaron Brown How did you become interested in studying early American li...

Junior Scholars’ Caucus Virtual Roundtable: “The ‘Ins and Outs’ of Job Documents,” 11 November 2023 October 17, 2023

The Society of Early Americanists’ Junior Scholars’ Caucus is excited to announce “The ‘Ins and Outs...