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Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Professor, Director of American Indian Studies and History

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Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is Professor and Director of American Indian Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Munqapi in northeastern Arizona. Centering his research and teaching on Native American history and the history of the American West, he examines the history of American Indian education, the Indian boarding school experience, and American Indians and sport.  In addition to publishing articles on Hopi history and producing a documentary film -- Beyond the Mesas -- on the Hopi boarding school experience, he has authored a book entitled Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010). Furthermore, he is co-editor (with Clifford E. Trafzer and Lorene Sisquoc) of the anthology The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images from Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012).

His first book, Education beyond the Mesas, examines the Hopi experience at Sherman Institute, an off-reservation Indian boarding school in Riverside, California.  Advancing the contributions of other scholars in the fields of history, education, and indigenous studies, Gilbert uncovers the complex ways that Hopi history and culture intersected with U.S. government policies. In addition to providing a historical narrative, the book challenges the notion that a study on the Indian boarding school experience must be understood primarily through a defined framework of Indian education policies.  Highlighting Native agency, the book also explores the many ways that Indian pupils -- Zunis, Navajos, Apaches and other Indian people -- brought their identities to school and how they responded to their boarding school experience as people from indigenous communities.

In his second monograph, Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American  (University Press of Kansas, 2018), he examines the ways Hopi marathon runners navigated between tribal dynamics, school loyalties, and a country that closely associated sport with U.S. nationalism.  He calls attention to Hopi philosophies of running that connected the runners to their village communities and to the internal and external forces that supported and strained these cultural ties when Hopis competed in U.S. marathons. He argues that between 1908 and 1936, the cultural identity of Hopi runners challenged white American perceptions of modernity and placed them in a context that had national and international dimensions. This broad perspective linked Hopi runners to athletes from around the world, including runners from Japan and Ireland, and caused non-Natives to reevaluate their understandings of sport, nationhood, and the cultures of indigenous people.

His work and expertise on Hopi running has been featured in a ESPN documentary film entitled "Run Hopi" by Scott Harves (click here for the 15 minute version) and various news outlets, including the University of Illinois News Bureau and The News-Gazette

Professor Gilbert is currently writing a third book entitled Modern Encounters of the Hopi Past.

In addition to his research and writing, he is co-editor of the Indigenous Education series with the University of Nebraska Press, and serves on the Faculty Advisory Board of the University of Illinois Press, and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Sport and Social Issues.

Prior to his current post, he served as an Associate Professor in the Department of History and the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also taught as an adjunct faculty in history at the University of Redlands, Azusa Pacific University, San Bernardino Valley Community College, and The Master’s College.

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • American Indian Studies
  • Native American History
  • 20th Century U.S. History
  • History of the American West
  • Southwest Indian History


  • Ph.D. History, University of California, Riverside
  • M.A. History, University of California, Riverside
  • M.A. Theology, Talbot School of Theology
  • B.A. History, The Master's College

Distinctions / Awards

  • Conrad Humanities Scholar Award, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015-2020
  • Dean's Fellowship, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015-2018
  • Helen Corley Petit Scholar Award, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013-2014. Award given to junior faculty with tenure and promotion cases of "outstanding merit."
  • Spur Award for "Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912" (Western Historical Quarterly), Best Western Short Nonfiction, Western Writers of America (2013)


  • HIST 200: Intro to Historical Interpretations
  • HIST 277: Encounters in Native America
  • HIST 278: Native American History Since 1850
  • HIST 390: Sport and Society
  • HIST 476: History of the American West
  • HIST 498: Research and Writing Seminar
  • AIS 101: Intro to American Indian Studies
  • AIS 140: Native Religious Traditions
  • AIS 481: History of Indian Education
  • AIS 490: Special Topic, American Indians and Sports

LLS Titles & Affiliations

  • Affiliate Faculty in the American Indian Studies Program, 2016-2018
  • Dean's Fellow in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2015-2018
  • Conrad Humanities Scholar, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2015-2020



Book Contributions

  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "Foreword." Foreword. Native Students at Work: American Indian Labor and Sherman Institute's Outing Program, 1900-1945. . Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016.

  • Publication Photo
    Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "A New Foreword to the Second Edition." Foreword. Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian. . New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "Fort Apache." Seeing Red - Hollywood Pixled Skins: American Indians and Film. . East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. 22-24.

  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "Dark Days: American Presidents and Native Sovereignty, 1880-1930." American Indians / American Presidents: A History . . New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. 109-143.

  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "'I Learned to Preach Pretty Well, and to Cuss, Too': Hopi Acceptance and Rejection of Christianity at Sherman Institute, 1906-1929." Eating Fire, Tasting Blood: An Anthology of the American Indian Holocaust. . New York : Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006. 78-95.

Edited Books

Journal Articles

  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew . "Revisiting the Hopi Boarding School Experience at Sherman Institute and the Process of Making Research Meaningful to Community." Journal of American Indian Education 57.1 (2018): 101-121.
  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "A Second Wave of Hopi Migration." History of Education Quarterly 54.3 (2014): 356-361.
  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912." Western Historical Quarterly 43.3 (2012): 324-346.
  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930." American Quarterly 62.1 (2010): 77-101.
  • Sakiestewa Gilbert, Matthew. "'The Hopi Followers': Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909." Journal of American Indian Education 44.02 (2005): 1-23.