Faculty and Staff

Heather Cahoon

Heather Cahoon

Tribal Governance and Policy

Office: NAC 203B
Email: heather.cahoon@mso.umt.edu

Current Position

Assistant Professor & Director of the American Indian Governance and Policy Institute

Education

Ph.D., Interdisciplinary Studies (History, Anthropology & Native American Studies), University of Montana (2005)

M.F.A., Poetry, University of Montana (2001)

 

Research Interests

Tribal sovereignty and reservation socioeconomic health, Indigenous governments/governing structures and policy, individual tribal member social and civil justice issues, American Indian poetry and literary expression including oral traditions

Projects

Heather recently launched the American Indian Governance and Policy Institute (AIGPI), a Native-led research entity and think tank that will provide tribal nations in Montana with credible, in-depth research and analysis of tribal-level policies that impact the full range of social determinants of health in Indian Country.  This includes policies related to internal governing structures and functions, social and health issues, and revenue generation and economic development.  Recognizing that many tribal governments lack access to the type of policy research, analysis and related legal expertise that is supplied in-house to state legislators and federal policymakers, AIGPI helps fill this void by offering expert as well as student-produced, faculty-guided research and analysis of tribal policies and associated legal documents with the goal of furthering tribal leaders’ efforts to strengthen reservation economies, and build sound governance and individual and community health and prosperity.  Likewise, these analyses also help educate local, state and federal policymakers and the broader public on an array of complex policy matters relating to American Indians that have real quality of life implications on reservations across the country.  A secondary goal is, through an active learning environment, for tribal community members and student leaders to gain a comprehensive understanding of the tribal policymaking process, how various levels of policy interact, and how outdated, unresponsive and harmful public policies can be reengineered to encourage systems that support socioeconomic health and tribal sovereignty. 

AIGPI is housed within the Native American Studies Department at the University of Montana under the leadership of Heather Cahoon and in partnership with UM's nationally-recognized Alexander Blewett III School of Law Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic and the Department of Public Administration and Policy's Master of Public Administration program.  Experts in other College of Humanities and Science fields, as well experts from within the broader Montana University System (MUS) are enlisted according to their particular area of expertise and the policy topic at hand.  All materials developed by AIGPI are stored in a free online database accessible to tribal leaders and the general public. 

AIGPI in the News

UM Creates Native Think Tank, Policy Institute for Montana Tribes

University of Montana launches tribal policy institute

'Becoming a forefront’ in Indian Country

Selected Publications

Poetry Books

Horsefly Dress. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2020.

Poetry Chapbooks

Elk Thirst. Missoula, MT: University of Montana Merriam-Frontier Award for publication, 2005. 

Poems

“Baby Out of Cut-Open Woman.” American Poets: The Journal of the Academy of American Poets, Vol. 60, Spring-Summer 2021.

“Rescue” and “Łx̣ʷɫó Spq’niʔs.” Poetry Northwest. Winter & Spring, 2020.  

“From Trees.” Poet Lore. Vol. 114, No. 3/4, Fall/Winter, 2019.

“Sharp.” Burnside Review. Vol. 15, No. 1, 2019.

"Łčíčšeʔ.Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, November 5, 2019.

“Meditations on Blue,” “To Forge Meaning” and “Unéxʷ.” Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art & Thought, guest edited by Angela Trudell Vasquez and Mellissa Kingbird. Spring, 2019.

“The Origin of Death,” “Perilous” and “Orb Weavers.” South Dakota Review, Vol. 54, Nos. 3 and 4 (2019).

“Peregrine,” “Shelter” and “Ode to Pulia.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal42:1 (2018).

“Baby Out of Cut Open Woman,” “Č̓atnaɫqs,” “Remnant Naɫisqélixʷtn,” “Dream Series in Three Parts” (“A Dream of Crows,” “A Dream of Wolves,” “A Dream of a Darling Boy”). basalt, Vol. 12, no. 2, 2018.

“Coyote and the Cross” and “Meta.”basalt online, September 19, 2018.

“Rebirth and the Almost Moon” and “Nunxʷé.” LitHub, August 15, 2018.

“Horsefly Dress.” Camas: The Nature of the West. University of Montana, Summer 2018.

“Death as a Lens.” Carve MagazineSummer 2018.

“WASP” and "Moth Series in Four Parts." Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, 23, Spring 2018.

“A Recurring Dream” and “The Salish Root Word for Water.” Hanging Loose, Spring 2018.

“Red OsierSpiders.” Verde Que Te Quiero: Poems after Federico Garcia Lorca, edited by Natalie Peeterse. Open Country Press, 2017.

“Red Osier Spiders.” Southern Humanities Review online. 

Anthologized Poems

“Baby Out of Cut-Open Woman.” Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, W.W. Norton & Co., 2021. 

"Blonde." In When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Throughedited by Joy Harjo, LeAnne Howe and Jennifer Foerster. W.W. Norton, 2020.

“Escape Routes” and “Magpies” (published as “Revision”). Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing, edited by Natalie Peeterse. Open Country Press, 2018.

“Méstm̓/Lˀéw” and “Geography of Coyote.” Poems Across the Big Sky II. Many Voices Press, 2016. 

"Blonde," "Elk Thirst," and "Missions." Birthright: Born to Poetry: A Collection of Montana Indian Poetry, Montana Office of Public Instruction Indian, 2012.

Research

“Key Social Factors Influencing American Indian/Alaska Native Health in Indian Country.” (work in progress funded by the Montana Healthcare Foundation).

"Revenue Competitions Between Sovereigns: State and Tribal Taxation in Montana." American Indian Culture and Research Journal 42:1 (2018).

"Medicaid Expansion in Indian Country: Improving the Health of Individuals and Communities." Montana Budget and Policy Center, November 1, 2018.

"Breaking the Cycle: Reducing Recidivism by Improving Defense and Reentry Systems." Montana Budget and Policy Center, October 1, 2018.

“Jurisdiction, Justice Systems, and American Indians in Montana.” Montana Budget and Policy Center, August 1, 2018.

“Criminal Justice Reinvestment in Montana: Improving Outcomes for American Indians.” Montana Budget and Policy Center, July 5, 2018.

"Policy Basics: Taxes in Indian Country: Part 2 - Tribal Governments." Montana Budget and Policy Center, November 1, 2017.

"Policy Basics: Taxes in Indian Country: Part 1- Individual Tribal Members." Montana Budget and Policy Center, July 1, 2017.

“Tourism Could Be an Economic Driver in Indian Country with Focus and Investment.” Montana Budget and Policy Center, March 22, 2017.

“Medicaid Expansion in Indian Country: Effective Strategies for Outreach and Enrollment.” Montana Budget and Policy Center, September 16, 2017.

Notable Contributions to Publications

“The Indian Reorganization Act on the Flathead Reservation.” America’s Indian Reservations and Alaska Native Communities: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic, ed. Veronica E. Velarde Tiller. CA: ABC-CLIO publishing (work in progress).

"Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians" 2019 revised edition. Montana Office of Public Instruction Indian Education Division, 2019.

Interviews

All That’s Wrapped into a Name: A Conversation with Heather Cahoon.” Poetry Northwest, 4 February 2021.

Lessons in Transformation: A Conversation with Heather Cahoon.” Cutbank Literary Journal 93, University of Montana, 1 December 2020.

Heather Cahoon on Suffering, Danger and Transformation.” The Write Question, Montana Public Radio, 14 January 2021. 

Humanities Happy Hour: Horsefly Dress.” Humanities Montana online reading and Q&A, 18 November 2020. 

Heather Cahoon: Indigenous Advocacy and Art.” Montana Racial Equity Project, Indigenous Heritage Month, 17 November 2020.

Celebration and Reading with Heather Cahoon.” University of Arizona Press, 1 October 2020. 

Q & A with Heather Cahoon Offers Deeper Look at Horsefly Dress.” University of Arizona Press, July 2020.

Q & A With Poetry Contributor Heather Cahoon.” Carve Magazine, 28 June 2018. 

Other

“Baby Out of Cut-Open Woman.” Living Nations, Living Words: A Map of First Peoples Poetry, U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo's 2021 signature project for the Library of Congress's permanent collection.

“Dear Forced North.” From Indian Country Conversations – Love Letters to the MAM (Missoula Art Museum), basalt, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2021.  

"Love letter from Heather Cahoon to Molly Murphy Adams (Oglala, Lakota), Forced North, beadwork and ribbon on hand dyed wool, 2008, 54 x 40”." Missoula Art Museum Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, purchased in part with a gift from John Fletcher, 2008.09.

“Orb Weavers” and “The Hawk Who Wears and Owl’s Face.” “The Poetry Moment,” Spokane Public Radio. August 17 and 21, 2020. Radio.

"Traditional Tobacco, Commercial Tobacco and I-185." Montana Budget and Policy Center, October 9, 2018. Blog.

"Federal Indian Tax Law: The Supreme Court Writes Policy When Congress Won't." Montana Budget and Policy Center, July 10, 2018. Blog.

"American Indians and Montana's Criminal Justice Reinvestment Initiative." Montana Budget and Policy Center, July 6, 2018. Blog.

"Timeline of Meaningful Developements in the State-Tribal Relationship." Montana Budget and Policy Center, February 1, 2017. Blog

“Devolution: Another Reason Tribes and States Should Work Together.” Montana Budget and Policy Center, January 10, 2017.  Blog.

"MBPC's Montana Indian Country Index." Montana Budget and Policy Center, August 29, 2016. Blog.

Seliš Sm̓im̓iʔ 2: A Beginning Course in Salish & Pend d’ Oreille Dialect, Stories 1-16 by Heather CahoonTrans. Pat Pierre. Illus. Alyssa Nenemay. Flathead Reservation, MT: Salish-Pend d’ Oreille Culture Committee, Salish Kootenai College, The Salish Institute and Nk̓ʷusm, 2016.

Seliš Sm̓im̓iʔ 1: A Beginning Course in Salish & Pend d’ Oreille Dialect, Stories 1-16 by Heather CahoonTrans. Pat Pierre. Illus. Alyssa Nenemay. Flathead Reservation, MT: Salish-Pend d’ Oreille Culture Committee, Salish Kootenai College, The Salish Institute and Nk̓ʷusm, 2012. 

“Heather Cahoon on Landscape and Salish-Pend d’ Oreille Culture.” Reflections West. Montana Public Radio. 2012, Episode 32. Radio.

Affiliations

Member, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Member, National Congress of American Indians

Member, Academy of American Poets