Autumn Asher BlackDeer

Autumn Asher BlackDeer, MSW, PhD Candidate at Washington University in St. Louis


Abstract: American Indian and Alaska Native communities contend with substantial mental health disparities due to high levels of economic and social disadvantage, acculturation, and stress; however, these issues cannot be understood without the larger context of historical and ongoing trauma. Education has long been used as a tool for assimilation, resulting in less than one-fourth of the Native population holding a college degree. Current critiques of these issues are remiss to address the role of Native data in resolving these disparities. This presentation will illuminate the role of colonialism across Indigenous mental health and higher education, demonstrate the lack of Native data as a social justice issue, and conclude with decolonization as a pathway towards Indigenous data sovereignty and governance.

Bio: Autumn Asher BlackDeer is a queer decolonial scholar from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation whose work seeks to illuminate the impact of structural violence on American Indian and Alaska Native communities. BlackDeer centers Indigenous voices throughout her research by using quantitative approaches and big data as tools for responsible storytelling. Her dissertation investigates manifestations of structural violence through Alaska Native mothers’ experiences of interpersonal violence, including family, partner, and community levels of violence, in addition to mental health, substance use, and maternal-child health outcomes. Autumn is a strong proponent for American Indian higher education, advocate for survivors of sexual violence, and is committed to decolonizing the academy and achieving equity across Indian Country.