Liandra Skenandore has always known the power and complexity of language. She grew up in DePere, Wisconsin, listening to family and friends tell stories around her kitchen table. She is a member of the Oneida Nation and is also Prairie Band Potawatomi, Seminole, and Creek.
She transferred to Northland College in 2017 to study English and Native American studies. “I wanted to attend a school where interdisciplinary thinking and scholarship was encouraged since my mind naturally considers all the relations between things and beings,” she said.
Skenandore has distinguished herself on campus as a leader and an achiever. At Honors Day in April, she received the Native American Studies Award for Academic Excellence and the Sandy & Regina Scott Memorial Award for outstanding participation in Native American and campus activities—notably the Native American Student Association and annual spring powwow.
In the last two years, she has participated in the McNair Scholars Program, presented alongside eminent Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday at the centennial commemoration of the closing of Carlisle Indian Industrial School, helped as an intern with publicizing a short documentary of Yup’ik hunting and food sovereignty, and presented at the Native American Literary Symposium. “Without sounding hyperbolic, Northland has positively changed my life,” she said.
Kyle Bladow, assistant professor of Native American studies, who has served as Skenandore’s mentor for the McNair Scholars Program and as her advisor on her honors thesis, said he has been impressed with the way Skenandore investigates literary depictions of healing, caring, and community then incorporates these academic interests into her life.
“From early on, I was struck by Liandra’s perceptive readings, her skill with scholarly writing, and her holistic approach, one that continually looks for literature’s significance in communities and in the wider world,” Bladow said.
For her honors thesis, “Body and Being: Critical Sovereignties in Native American Women’s Writings,” Skenandore links Louise Erdrich’s novel The Round House with the poetry of Layli Long Soldier, Natalie Diaz, and Roberta Hill, articulating how these authors employ multiple dimensions of sovereignty, a much-discussed concept in Indigenous studies and politics.
Skenandore will next be researching the Haudenosaunee as part of a summer internship with the American Philosophical Society, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Native American Scholars Initiative.
The Haudenosaunee also called the Six Nations, or “people of the longhouse,” include the Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Mohawk, and Tuscarora. Skenandore plans to look at intellectual traditions in the reclamation of their land and sovereignty and how these legacies enlighten and strengthen contemporary Haudenosaunee resurgence.
“I want to research and write about something for my Oneida people,” she said. “I’m always thinking about how my work can come back to my people and help them.”
She is currently applying to graduate schools to study the various forms of sovereignty expressed in Native American literature. “My goal is to help others understand why Indigenous literatures matter,” she said.