Center for World Indigenous Studies
A Think Tank of Activist Scholars
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Rudolph Rÿser, PhD

Dr. Rudolph C. Rÿser grew to maturity in the Cowlitz Indian culture on the US Pacific Northwest coast. He is of Cree/Oneida descent on his mother’s side and Swiss descent on his father’s. His mother taught him much about traditional foods and medicine history, techniques and practices about which he teaches his students. He founded the Center for World Indigenous Studies in 1979 and is widely recognized around the world as the principle architect of theories and principles of Fourth World Geopolitics. He is the author of the seminal book Indigenous Nations and Modern States: The Political Emergence of Nations Challenging State Power (2012) and the Fourth World Geopolitical Reader. He has for more than forty-five-years worked in the field of Indian Affairs as a writer/researcher and as Indian Rights advocate.

Dr. Rÿser has contributed to policies and laws affecting American Indians and indigenous peoples internationally, contributing for more than 25 years to the development of the UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and continuing international developments concerning the participation of indigenous nations in international forums. He is among the leading spokesperson for Fourth World political development and governance, tribal/state conflict resolution and international cooperation between indigenous nations.

Dr. Ryser (Rudy) has taught at a variety of universities and colleges and is known as the teacher’s teacher. He also wears a “hat” as a indigenous foods chef specializing in authentic cultural cuisines. He is known for his eloquent speaking and his commitment to mentoring students as future leaders and activist scholars. His PhD is in International Relations.

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Leslie Korn, PhD, MPH

Leslie Korn, PhD, MPH founded the Center for Traditional Medicine in 1977. She is director of research and education at the Center for World Indigenous Studies.

Her career for over 40 years has focused on the practical application of Traditional Medicine and Integrative Medicine in the context of global public health. She specializes in Mind Body medicine with a focus on trauma recovery and mental health nutrition in individuals and communities. She is trained in herbal and culinary medicine, bodywork healing and psychotherapy. She has provided over 50,000 hours of clinical care in both urban and rural indigenous settings and consults and speaks internationally on Integrative and Indigenous Medicine program design and development, indigenous research methods and project evaluation with an indigenous and feminist lens. She lived in indigenous rural Mexico where she ran a traditional medicine health clinic for over 25 years and is formerly as consultant in Ethnomedicine at the Trauma Clinic, in Boston and formerly on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, California Institute of Integral Studies, Lesley University and the National College of Naturopathic Medicine. Leslie’s PhD is in Behavioral Medicine; she has a Masters in Public Health, a Masters in Health Psychology, and was a Clinical Fellow in Psychology and Religion at Harvard Medical School. During 2009-2010 she was Fulbright research scholar in Herbal Medicine and development in Mexico. She is the author of 7 books including The Good Mood Kitchen, (2017) Rhythms of Recovery: Trauma Nature and the Body (Routledge, 2013) and, (with Dr. Rudolph Ryser)  Preventing and Treating Diabetes, Naturally: The Native Way (DayKeeper Press, 2009) “Dr. Leslie” is known as an inspiring educator who mentors up and coming healers and activists who want to forge their own path and make big waves in the world.

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Dina Gilio Whitaker, MA

(Colville Confederated Tribes) is Policy Director, Senior Research Associate, and Faculty at the Center for World Indigenous Studies. She is an award-winning journalist and essayist, and community-based educator.  With a bachelor’s degree in Native American Studies and a master’s in American Studies, Dina’s research interests focus on Indigenous nationalism, self-determination, environmental justice, and education. For the past several years Dina has been involved with Indigenous peoples’ participation in the United Nations arena.  She also works within the field of critical sports studies, examining the intersections of indigineity and the sport of surfing.  Dina is coauthor with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz of Beacon Press’s “All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans.

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Ku Kahakalau, PhD

Dr. Kū Kahakalau is a native Hawaiian educator, researcher, song-writer, and expert in Hawaiian language, history and culture. Dr. Kahakalau, her husband Nālei and their teenage daughters ‘I‘inimaikalani and Polanimakamae, reside in Kukuihaele, a small rural village directly above historic Waipi‘o Valley, on the Island of Hawai‘i. The first person in the world to earn a Ph.D. in Indigenous Education, and is best known in educational circles as the designer of Pedagogy of Aloha, an innovative, values- and place-based, culturally-driven, academically rigorous way of education designed to prepare young Hawaiians for 21st century cultural steward- and global citizenship.

Dr. Kahakalau, has spearheaded the design, implementation and evaluation of Hawaii’s first fully accredited K-12 Hawaiian-focused public charter school, Hawaii’s first community-based Indigenous Institution for Higher Learning and Indigenous Teacher Licensing Program, and an intergenerational, place-based culture and language immersion program. Utilizing techniques that are at once ancient and modern, all of these programs were designed to be grounded in Hawaiian values, and focus on hands-on, place-based, relevant, rigorous, interdisciplinary, performance-based learning.

Dr. Kahakalau is also on the forefront of indigenous research worldwide, chairing the research committee of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, where she has been a board member since 2000. Dr. Kahakalau directs a longitudinal Indigenous Heuristic Action Research project, using a unique mixed research methodology.

As a family of native Hawaiian cultural and religious practitioners, Ku and her family have planted taro and other utilitarian plants in Waipi‘o Valley, teaching young men and women their roles and responsibilities as 21st century Hawaiians, and sharing with thousands of learners from around the world, the value and the importance of aloha ‘āina or love for the land. Ku has received multiple honors inclyding as YWCA O‘ahu Leader Luncheon Honoree, Hawai‘i Charter School Educator of the Year, the Order of Ke Ali‘i Pauahi from the Kamehameha Schools and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Ke Kukui Mālamalama—Excellence in Scholarship in Hawaiian Education Award, and  the prestigious Ho‘okele Community Leadership Award, Ku is a consummate mentor and educator who delights in supporting both personal and professional growth of her students.