021: Tiya Alicia Miles, 36


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

21: Tiya Alicia Miles, 6-5-06

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Department of American Studies, Program in American Culture, Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, Native American Studies Program University of Michigan
Area of Research: Ethnic studies, gender and slavery, western history, African American and Native American history in the the nineteenth century.
Education: Ph.D. American Studies, 2000, University of Minnesota
Major Publications: Miles is the author of Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom (University of California Press, 2005). Tiya Alicia Miles JPG Miles is the co-editor with Sharon P. Holland of Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country, essay collection (Duke University Press, Forthcoming fall 2006).
Awards: Faculty Cornerstone Award (for commitment to undergraduate students), Black Celebratory Graduation Event, University of Michigan, 2006
Frederick Jackson Turner Award (for a first book in American history), Organization of American Historians, 2006
Rackham School of Graduate Studies Fellowship and Research Grant, University of Michigan, 2006
Center for Research, Learning and Teaching, Faculty Associate for Multicultural Innovations Grant, University of Michigan, 2005
Outstanding Teaching Award, Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council, University of Michigan, 2005
Arts of Citizenship Faculty Grant, University of Michigan, 2004
Finalist, Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize, American Studies Association, 2001
Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for Minorities, 2001-2002
D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History Summer Institute Fellow, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL, 2001
Allen and Joan Bildner Endowment for Human and Intergroup Relations Grant, 2000
Dartmouth College Hewlett Foundation Grant, 2000
Dartmouth College Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellowship, 1999-2000
Dartmouth College Shabazz African American Center Residency, 1998-2000
Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for Minorities, 1998-1999
U. C. Santa Barbara Center for Black Studies Dissertation Fellowship, 1998-1999 (Declined)
Newberry Library Short-term Research Fellowship, Chicago, IL, August 1998
The Loft Literary Center Mentor Series Award in Fiction, Minneapolis, MN, 1997-1998
Committee on Institutional Cooperation Fellowship (Big Ten Universities) 1995-1996, 1997-1998
Additional Info:
Formerly Assistant Professor Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 2000-2002.

Personal Anecdote

After two years of master’s course work at Emory University and three years of doctoral course work at the University of Minnesota, I set out for Hanover, New Hampshire to begin a two year residency as a Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellow (in tandem with a one year Ford Dissertation Fellowship). This incredible residency at Dartmouth College included a stipend, a research account, no teaching responsibilities, and a small cottage on a campus lane that I shared with my husband, who had received the Charles Eastman Dissertation Fellowship, and our peppy Beagle pup, named Shunka.

I found Hanover to be a lovely town nestled in a dreamlike landscape of lush hills, pebbled streams, and reedy ponds. The town even had a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop and a caf? (Rosey’s) that sold the best chocolate chip cookies I had ever encountered. In short, this was the writing location of my wildest dreams – beautiful, quiet (except for the predictable weekend frat parties, which, I must admit, were a disturbing phenomenon), naturally restorative, and well-stocked with exquisite sweet treats.

There was just one problem that I could not get around regarding my fellowship at Dartmouth: I was not writing. Before my arrival I had spent months reading secondary materials, weeks buried in documents in the Newberry Library in Chicago, and days in archives and at historic sites in the state of Georgia. I had plenty of material to work with, but as the sun-ripened summer melted into a glorious fall, I had yet to put pen to paper. There was no excuse for my inaction — except that I was terrified. Despite the wise advice given to my graduate school cohort by a Minnesota faculty member – that the dissertation was only the first major work we would undertake, not the last, nor necessarily the most important, I felt as though my future career and fledgling intellectual identity were wrapped in and riding on this behemoth of a research project that I had no idea how to tame.

September stretched into October. I spent long hours in the library finding and reading more secondary sources. I catalogued and filed journal articles, creating a color-coded system in pastel high-lighter hues. I toured the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont with a fabulous circle of African American Studies faculty members and dissertation fellows and learned that a pint is not, in fact, a single serving of ice cream. I took lazy walks around Occum Pond with our dog, Shunka. And it wasn’t uncommon for me to hop into my grandfather’s fifteen-year-old Plymouth Horizon on a sunny afternoon and drive down the country roads with Shunka in the passenger seat, his long silken ears riding the breeze. That autumn was a lovely season that struck terror in my heart. I still had not typed a single word of my dissertation. Would I ever?

Then the annual conference of Ford Fellows roused me out of my petrified daze. I attended a panel on writing the dissertation and heard words that echoed all the way home: Stop reading. Start writing. Stop reading. Start writing. When I left the tiny West Lebanon airport upon my return to New England, I stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts and ordered my first ever cup of coffee. That very day, with a tall one in hand, I began to write. The words came; the thoughts came; the dissertation became.

Now at the start of each new project, in the face of each blank page, I feel the steady rising of that same old tide of fear. Only now I know that with a little faith and a lot of java, I can begin.


By Tiya Alicia Miles

  • “In a process whereby historical narratives are shaped, not found, constructing a story line for the Ties That Bind JPGhistory of an Afro-Cherokee family in the contexts of colonialism, slavery, and nation-building was a special challenge. While putting bits of evidence into coherent order, I found myself in a quandary. How could I tell the story of a black slave woman and the story of her Cherokee master and husband? How could I articulate the Cherokee enslavement of black people and the colonization of Cherokees by white people? And as an African American woman and a descendant of slaves, what biases would I bring to the story? It seemed that to capture the multiplicity and contradictory nature of this past, I would have to tell at least two stories – sketch two histories, enter two worlds, enlist two purposes, and sound two calls for justice – at once. — Tiya Alicia Miles in “Ties That Bind : The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom”

About Tiya Alicia Miles

  • “In this lyrical narrative about Shoeboots, Doll, and their descendants, Tiya Miles explores the constant push and tug between family connections and racial divides. Building on meticulous and inspired historical detective work, Miles shows what it might have felt like to be a slave and reassesses the convoluted ideas about race that slavery generated and left as a legacy.” — Nancy Shoemaker, author of A Strange Likeness: Becoming Red and White in Eighteenth-Century North America reviewing “Ties That Bind”
  • “Ties That Bind is a haunting and innovative book. Tiya Miles refuses to avoid or cover over the most painful aspects of the shared stories of Indians and African Americans. Instead, Miles passionately defends the need to explore history, even when the facts provided by history are not those that contemporary people want to hear.” — Peggy Pascoe, author of Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874-1939 reviewing “Ties That Bind”
  • “Tiya is very nice, but more importantly, extremely knowledgeable. You can tell she really understands and is passionate about the topic (in my class it was women of color) and wants the students to be as well. Presents the info in an interesting way.”…
    “Tiya is one of the nicest teachers ever. Her class “Blacks, Indians and the Making of America” is one of the best I’ve taken in four years. She is very knowledgeable in her areas.” — Anonymous students

Posted on Sunday, June 4, 2006 at 1:45 PM

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: