Ian Khara Ellasante

Ph.D. Candidate

Ian Khara Ellasante is a doctoral candidate in American Indian Studies with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona. In his scholarship, he engages the Indigenous peoplehood matrix, a core theoretical construct developed by Indigenous scholars and comprised of four interrelated elements: land, language, sacred history, and ceremonial cycle. In his dissertation, “‘We Are This People and We Intend to Endure As Such’: Black and Indigenous Peoplehood and Persistence,” he employs the peoplehood matrix to delineate Indigenous cultural identity and suggests a parallel model of African American peoplehood. He demonstrates that, in both models, the interconnectedness of the elements of peoplehood establishes and maintains persistent cultural identity, particularly within the milieu of settler colonialism.  

In addition to this fulfilling scholarship, Ian also enjoys hiking, making art, and composing poetry. In his poems, which have been shared with audiences around the country and have appeared in several publications, Ian often explores the polyphonic intersection of his identities as a queer- and trans-identified person of African American and Indigenous descent as well as his relationship with his heritage and homelands. 

Ian has worked as a researcher-advocate for unstably-housed LGBTQ and Two Spirit young people in a number of roles, with the goal of increasing access to the kinds of relevant and affirming opportunities for queer and trans People of Color and LGBTQ youth that he could not often find in his hometown of Memphis. Ian began this work in 2008 at Arizona’s first drop-in center for LGBTQ youth before accepting a position with the University of Arizona’s Southwest Institute for Research on Women (UA-SIROW), where he served until 2016. Ian is also a proud recipient of the Point Scholarship, having been awarded in 2016 as a Calamus Point Scholar. Currently, Ian is the Visiting Scholar and Artist in Residence at Washington & Jefferson College, teaching a course he designed titled “Gender in Native American Literature.” 

Ian uses pronouns he/him and they/them.