Kyle T. Mays


Kyle T. Mays is an historian of modern US, Afro-Indigenous, and Indigenous studies, with a particular focus on how various actors construct indigeneity and other social meanings in modern US cities. During his time as a postdoctoral fellow, he will be working to transform his dissertation into a book. A cultural and social history, the book will tentatively analyze how indigeneity functioned in Detroit’s modern development. An idea central to the project is that we cannot comprehend the development of modern US cities without also understanding how indigeneity was central to their development. Dr. Mays also has an interest in contemporary popular culture, especially how Native artists construct indigeneity within Hip Hop.


Reclaiming Waawayeyaattnong (Detroit): Indigeneity, Hip Hop, and Settler Colonialism in the Motor City

Detroit is a place rooted in contradiction. Once known as the “arsenal democracy” during World War II, it has now become the epitome of urban blight and, according to popular opinion, an illustration of the incompetency of Black governance, following the election of the city’s first Black Mayor Coleman A. Young in 1974, and the recent, spectacular collapse of the “Hip Hop Mayor,” Kwame Kilpatrick. Now, Detroit is a place for opportunity.

Detroit is a “new frontier,” a place where one can settle on “empty” lands and create a business. While venture capitalists and hipsters are staking their claim in the city, Indigenous people are using creative arts and activism, namely Hip Hop, as an anthem, a means to challenge white supremacy and settler colonialism in the city. This essay analyzes how Indigenous Hip Hop creates new possibilities and potential for resistance, and brings visible the city’s most invisible population: Indigenous people.

Talk Date: April 27, 1:15 – 3:15 Panel III (closed): Settler Politics and Creative Labour

Venue: University Senate Chamber

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