Native American activist Adrienne Keene to speak on racism, cultural appropriation Nov. 10

Scholar, writer, blogger and activist Adrienne Keene will speak at Colorado State University about indigenous peoples in social media, responding to racism on college campuses and cultural appropriation.

She will be speaking at the Lory Student Center in Center Ballroom D on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. as part of Native American Heritage month. The event is free and doors open at 6:30 p.m.


Keene is a member of the Cherokee Nation and has dedicated herself to changing the way people view Native American cultures.

Adrienne Keene holds a Ph.D. in culture, communities and education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is an assistant professor in the American studies department at Brown University. Her studies include college access for Native American students and representations of native peoples in popular culture.

“Cultural appropriation is not about a simple ‘borrowing’ of cultural elements or an equal cultural exchange — it’s a much more insidious, harmful act that reinforces existing systems of power,” Keene said in a New York Times article.

According to Keene, when items from Native American cultures are used by non-native popular culture their meanings becomes erased and disrespected. An example are headdresses, which in Native American cultures, have to be earned and given to well-respected and trusted leaders. She believes the headdresses have become a cheap commodity.

“(The) headdress has been ‘borrowed’ so many times and in so many ways that its original power and sacred meaning have been all but lost to the non-native public,” Keene said in the article.

Keene is also the author of the website of, which is a forum for discussing cultural representations of Native peoples, including stereotypes, cultural appropriation, news, activism and more according to the website description. She was nominated for the Women’s Media Center Social Media Award in 2011 and has been featured in many mainstream media outlets.

In 2012, Keene wrote an open letter to newly admitted Native American college students. In her letter, she talked about how students face judgement about whether or not they get admitted because of their intellectual capability, or because they are native. She told them they were qualified for school and that college is a way to give back to native communities.

Keene presents at colleges, universities and conferences all over the United States. She was the keynote speaker at the 2015 National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education.

Native American Heritage Month at CSU also contains numerous other events throughout the month.

The Duhesa art gallery opening reception, called #Handsoffmyheritage, will occur from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the LSC. The gallery will feature 10 Native American artists who address native cultural appropriation.


On Nov. 30, the 24th annual American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s Pow Wow will be occurring throughout the day in the LSC grand ballrooms. It is an effort to increase awareness of native cultures at CSU.

For a full list of events and more information visit the CSU Native American Cultural Center’s website at

Collegian reporter MQ Borocz can be reached at or on Twitter @MQBorocz22.