Associate Professor


Phone: (919) 843-7808

Fax: (919) 962-1613

Office: 413B Alumni Bldg.

Area of Interest:

American Indians; tribal sovereignty; tribal nation building and tribal governance; federal-tribal relations and tribal-state relations; bureaucracy and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs


Ph.D. Harvard University, Social Anthropology, 1999

Research & Activities:

I was reared in Oklahoma and am an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.  My book, Choctaw Nation:  A Story of American Indian Resurgence (University of Nebraska Press 2007), is a story of tribal nation building in the modern era, and is the winner of the 2006 North American Indian Prose Award.  In this book, I treat nation-building projects as nothing new to the Choctaws, who have responded to a number of hard-hitting assaults on Choctaw sovereignty and nationhood by rebuilding our tribal nation.  Drawing on field research, oral histories, and archival sources, I explore the struggles and triumphs of our tribe in building a new government and launching an ambitious program of economic development in the late 20th century, achieving a partial restoration of our former glory as a significant political and economic presence in what is now the United States.
The book describes in vivid detail what late-20th-and early-21st-century Choctaw nation building has meant for the Choctaw people and for non-Indians.  Choctaw nation building has strengthened our tribe’s ongoing efforts to defend our sovereignty and protect our rights to land, water, and other natural resources.  It has also helped produce new ways of imagining, constructing, and expressing Choctaw identity.  Yet, as this book also shows, Choctaw sovereignty—the bedrock of Choctaw empowerment—remains under threat, as tribal sovereignty is not only a bundle of inherent rights but also an ongoing, complex consequence of Native initiatives and negotiations on local, state, and national levels.
In addition to exploring and wrestling with the topics of sovereignty, identity, tribal nationalism, and contemporary tribal governance, in this book I give considerable ethnographic attention to large- and small-scale political mobilization, tribal elections, tribal economic development, relationships with non-Indians, urban Indian political participation, and tribal water rights.

My next book will be an ethnography of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Additional Professional Experience and Background

• President-elect, Association of Indigenous Anthropologists, 2008-Present

• Cultural Anthropologist at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Washington, D.C.) during both the Ada Deer and Kevin Gover administrations

• Research and/or project experience in and/or with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Maine, the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the Mescalero Apache Tribe

• Comparative field research (in 2004) in southern Africa on indigenous rights, political mobilization, and land claims among the Nama and Khoi San Tribes

• Post-baccalaureate field research in Taiwan, R.O.C. among one of the country’s several indigenous populations

• High school exchange student to China


American Indian Societies (ANTH 230)
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 102)

In 2003, I won an Edward Kidder Graham Award (for undergraduate teaching)

Graduate Seminars (ANTH 327/328):
Ethnographies of Contemporary American Indian Societies
Power, Politics and Personhood
Representing the State in Contemporary Ethnography
Political Anthropology


“Negotiating American Indian Inclusion: Sovereignty, Same-Sex Marriage, and Sexual Minorities in Indian Country.”  Submitted to American Quarterly, September 2016.

“Rethinking American Indian and Non-Indian Relations in the United States and Exploring Tribal Sovereignty: Perspectives from Indian Country and from Inside the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”  Accepted for publication in Political and Legal Anthropology Review.  Final accepted manuscript submitted in November 2016.

“The Big Black Box of Indian Country: the BIA and the Federal-Indian Relationship.”  American Indian Quarterly 40.4, 2016.

“In the Matter of Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation v. Department of Interior, et al., Case No. CIV-05-1524-W, In the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Expert Opinions of Valerie Lambert, Ph.D.” Single-authored report for the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation c/o Whitten:, Oklahoma City, OK; Nix, Patterson and Roach, LLP, Austin, TX; Bullock Law Firm, PLLC, Tulsa, OK; and Indian and Environmental Law Group, PLLC, Tulsa & Ada, OK, 2015.  Submitted for Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation v. Department of Interior, et al., a case that ended with a settlement, announced on October 6, 2015, to the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations by the U.S. government of $186,000,000.

“Teach Our Children Well: On Addressing Negative Stereotypes in Schools.” With Michael Lambert.  American Indian Quarterly 38:4, 2014.

Choctaw Nation:  A Story of American Indian Resurgence.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. Winner of the 2006 North American Indian Prose Award and Oklahoma Book Award Finalist.

“Political Protest, Conflict and Tribal Nationalism:  The Oklahoma Choctaws and the Termination Crisis of 1959-1970.”  American Indian Quarterly 31:2, 2007.

“Choctaw Tribal Sovereignty at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century.” In Indigenous Experience Today, Ed.s. Starn, Orin and Marisol de la Cadena. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2007.

“Choctaws in Oklahoma: Government.” In Choctaw Language and Culture by Marcia Haag and Henry Willis. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001.

“Contemporary Ritual Life.” In Choctaw Language and Culture by Marcia Haag and Henry Willis. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001.

“Native Spiritual Traditions and the Tribal State: The Oklahoma Choctaws in the Late Twentieth Century.” In Niezen, Ronald. Spirit Wars: Native North American Religions in the Age of Nation-Building. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.