Robert E. Walls

Robert E. Walls

Assistant Teaching Professor

1047 Flanner Hall

Research Interests

  • Native American and First Nation Literatures, Oral Traditions and Print Cultures
  • Ethnohistory of the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Western Canada
  • Environmental and Labor History of Forests; Folklore and Material Culture

Robert Walls is an Assistant Teaching Professor of American Studies and Teaching Professor of Native American Studies.  After earning his Ph.D. from Indiana University, Walls taught at Lafayette College and the University of South Carolina, Columbia.  His current teaching, research, and consulting focus on ethnographic and ethnohistorical studies of the Indigenous peoples of North America; specifically, his concentration is on Coast Salish and settler-colonial relationships in the Pacific Northwest.  At Notre Dame, Walls's courses include "Native American Literature" and "The Past and Futures of Indigenous Peoples."  His publications include two books and over 50 articles, notes, reviews, and reference book entries for academic publications in the fields of anthropology, folklore, and history. He has also written articles and editorials for a diverse range of periodicals, from local newspapers to Loggers World and Cowlitz Historical Quarterly.

His most recent research, conference papers, and publications address the use of alphabetic literacy and print culture by early Indigenous authors and communities in western North America, and how this writing was a crucial weapon in the fight against dispossession of lands and resources, and a tool for the prevention of cultural loss. His forthcoming monograph on this topic is scheduled for publication in late 2020:  Resilience Through Writing: A Bibliographic Guide to Indigenous-Authored Publications in the Pacific Northwest Before 1960.  Memoir Series. No. 20.  Journal of Northwest Anthropology. 460+ pp.

Some of his other recent publications include: "Treaties, Coast Salish Literacy, and Thomas G. Bishop: A Republication of An Appeal to the Government to Fulfill Sacred Promises Made 61 Years Ago."  Journal of Northwest Anthropology 51 (Fall 2017): 182-214; and reviews in American Indian Quarterly, Environmental History,  Oregon Historical Quarterly, Journal of Folklore Research Reviews, and Material Culture.

He is currently completing research on a forthcoming book, The New Canoe: Early Native Writing in Salish Country and Beyond, which will be a study of Indigenous literacies and post-contact writing in northwestern North America. The book will focus on the relationship of early Native writing to treaties, culture, place, and the forces of assimilation, and how such practices of inscription enhanced the resilience of Native societies.

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