Chickasaw academic atop Native policy, advocacy institution
September 4, 2020
WASHINGTON - Chickasaw citizen Elizabeth Rule, Ph.D., has recently been appointed director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy in Washington, D.C.
The Center is a George Washington University research and advocacy center. Its work focuses on strengthening indigenous self-governance through research and strategic community engagement. The Center advises tribal leaders and promotes public awareness on issues of national significance to indigenous communities, including public health, housing, economic security, justice systems and education.
"I've always been dedicated to directing my career toward serving Indian Country," Dr. Rule said. "Growing up, I was very inspired by my dad who is an attorney representing tribes. I saw the good work that he was doing for Native people and I was very interested in pursuing that path myself."
Dr. Rule previously served as Center assistant director. In her new position, she will be directly involved with the Native American Political Leadership Program, a scholarship program that brings Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students to Washington for hands-on tribal policy coursework and professional internships. She is also involved with the INSPIRE Pre-College Program, a summer immersion program serving Indigenous high school students.
"The position at the Center is a great balance for me because it allows me to do academic style research, writing and public speaking at conferences while also having direct relationships with Indian Country through consultation," Dr. Rule said.
Working with Native American students from across the country, she will be spearheading research efforts regarding several Native American issues. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women issue will be a focus.
"One of the main issues that I'm interested in is the Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women issue," Dr. Rule said. "I'm actually working on a book about Native women and gender violence and reproductive justice, so it's going to be one of my main tasks to bring that issue to the forefront. The combination of research, education initiative, and public awareness raising around the MMIW issue."
Dr. Rule is keeping busy with her role as director for the Center and assistant professor of professional studies and faculty at George Washington University. That hasn't stopped her from finding time to actively work on publishing her two non-fiction manuscripts.
"The first one is called 'Reproducing Resistance: Gendered Violence and Indigenous Nationhood,' and that's about Native women, gender violence, and reproductive justice issues," she said. "The second book is about sites of Indigenous importance in Washington, D.C. The tentative title for that book is 'Indigenous D.C.'"
Her second book was inspired by the application she had a hand in creating titled "Guide to Indigenous D.C." The app shares a digital map of Indigenous sites of importance in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Rule was first inspired to create the app when some of her Native American students were coming to the city and saying they felt homesick. They felt isolated and out-of-place as Native students in the nation's capital.
"I really created that app to show them there's a huge network of Native people here," she said. "And by becoming ambassadors for your tribe, you're actually following in the footsteps of your ancestors who did the same thing for hundreds of years."
The creation and implementation of the app eventually sparked one of Dr. Rule's best memories.
"One of my favorite memories from working at the Center was actually taking my Nation-to-Nation class out into the city and walking around these sites of indigenous importance," she said. "Allowing the students to recognize that not only does D.C. have a Native American history but also a Native American presence."
At one time, Dr. Rule was just like the students she teaches, coming to Washington with the hope of doing something bigger than she could imagine and giving a voice to Native Americans.
Two summers working in the Chickasaw Internship Program in Washington piqued her interest in living and working there.
"I'm extremely grateful for the experience the Chickasaw Nation offered through the internship program and the inspiration it provided me as an emerging professional," she said. "That experience was central to my decision to move to D.C. full time and to continue working for Indian Country in the nation's capital."
Along with her summer internships, Dr. Rule was able to utilize scholarships through the Chickasaw Nation while earning her degrees in higher education. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in American Studies from Brown University, and her B.A. from Yale University.
"I was able to pursue my higher education because of the scholarship support I received from the Chickasaw Nation," Dr. Rule said. "I received scholarships all through my undergrad, all through my master's and all through my Ph.D. I cannot say enough how much having that support contributed to my overall success, well-being and ability to do my work. I think that also contributes to my feeling of giving back."
Dr. Rule holds lifelong goals of working toward bettering Native Americans lives in whatever capacity she can.
"Being Chickasaw has always been a huge part of who I am and everything that I do," she said. "It was growing up with that identity and sense of place and purpose in the world that inspired me to dedicate my life to working for Indian Country. That's something that I plan to continue for my entire life, to maintain those connections, maintain cultural connectedness and serve Native people."