Indigenous & Anticolonial Views of Human Activity in Space: Workshop


December 3, 2021
10:30am — 1:00pm ET

The Space Enabled research group hosted a workshop to build on our previous three seminars. Led by Professor Danielle Wood, we hosted Ren Freeman as our opening  keynote speaker and Dan Hawk, Dr. David Lowry, and Dr. Richard Shope as  guest facilitators to further discussion, connect our community, and generate outcomes and continuing questions. The organizing team included Prof Danielle Wood, Seamus Lombardo, Frank Tavares, and Pedro Reynolds-Cuéllar of Team Space Enabled in collaboration with Alvin Harvey of MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This event was co-sponsored by the Aero/Astro Department's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

This was the fourth in a series of events on "Indigenous & Anticolonial Views of Human Activity in Space" hosted by the team. The first event in the series, held on May 14 was called "Panel Discussion with Dr. John Herrington: Indigenous & Anticolonial Views of Human Activity in Space;" the second event on August 13 was entitled, "Indigenous & Anticolonial Views of Human Activity in Space: Panel discussion on near-term issues of lunar exploration"; the third event on October 8th was entitled, "Indigenous & Anticolonial Views of Human Activity in Space: Mars and Beyond." The captioned videos of the previous events are available at the preceding links.

Post Workshop Survey

In reflecting on this seminar series as well as next steps, we kindly ask you to offer your feedback to us via this survey and, if of your interest, sign up for our mailing list to stay in touch and continue the conversation together.

This survey will take take between 5-10 minutes. Only the team organizing this seminar series (Prof. Danielle Wood, Seamus Lombardo, Frank Tavares, Alvin Harvey and Pedro Reynolds-Cuéllar) will have access to the information you share.


All times are in Eastern time

Welcome, Introduction of Organizing Team and Land Acknowledgement - Danielle Wood, Alvin Harvey, Seamus Lombardo, Frank Tavares, Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar and Elena Cirkovic | 1030am

Welcome and Keynote Speaker -  Ren Freeman introduced by Danielle Wood | 10:40 AM

Keynote talk from Ren Freeman

Speed-Networking | 11:10 AM

Multiple short breakout rooms to facilitate meeting other workshop participants

Break | 11:30 AM

Breakout Room Discussions with Guest Facilitators | 11:35 AM

Breakout rooms on different sub-topics facilitated by guest moderators and Space Enabled team members. More information on breakout room is listed below:

Breakout 1: Worldbuilding in Space - Sociopolitical Structures for Other Worlds (facilitated by Dr. Richard Shope and Dr. Natalie Trevino)

Breakout 2: Scientific and Exploratory Practices - Anticolonial Ways to do Science (faciltiated by Dr. Parvathy Prem and Dan Hawk)

Breakout 3: Beyond Inclusion - Engaging Indigenous Epistemologies (facilitated by Dr. David Lowry and Ren Freeman)

Full Group Discussion hosted by Space Enabled Organizers | 12:15 PM

Participants return to the larger group to share the outputs of their breakout rooms

Closing Remarks hosted by Danielle Wood and the Organizing Team | 12:35 PM

Keynote Speaker

Name: Ren Freeman

Affiliation: Director of Indigenous Research Center, Salish Kootenai College

Bio: Ren Freeman, an Eastern Shoshone woman from the Wind River reservation in Wyoming, is a 4-fielded Indigenous Anthropologist who has a thirty-plus year career prior to returning to graduate school to finish her doctorate, at the University of Montana (UM). She is often seen traveling and “in the field" with her faithful companion, her Beagle-boy Foley. Ren is also a professor for UM, teaching a Core Required Anthropology course titled, Culture and Society with an emphasis on effects of Globalization on world cultures—this course has also been articulated within the UM International Development Studies program. Ren also designed and teaches a course for the UM Native Studies Program, from an Indigenous perspective, that surveys Oral and Written Traditions of Indigenous Peoples. She is a Sloan Indigenous Program scholar and her dissertation research seeks to Understand Impacts to Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) from use of remote sensing technologies and GIS within landscape archaeological surveys, and their influences on Indigenous Practitioner use of ITEK and also Tribal Leader decision making regarding cultural heritage and natural resource management. This study utilizes her interest and experience in designing and practicing research through the design and use of Indigenous Research Methodological (IRM) frames, that includes use and design of culture-based methods and also development and use of a congruent analytic tool referred to as Newe’ Reasoning. Through this work she looks at the question, Are Colonial Methodologies Migrating into off-earth Space. This question is related to another topic she explores through her work as Director of the Indigenous Research Center (IRC) for the Salish Kootenai College in Montana, which is: "IRMs and the Science of Being Off-Earth.” Her work with the IRC is funded through a generous grant from the National Science Foundation and enables the creation of a model of learning that situates IRMs in relation with STEM-based subjects and learning. Additionally, Ren is the President and Chair of the intercontinental American Indigenous Research Association (iAIRA) which has a global membership centered around development and use of IRM.


ren freeman

Guest Facilitators

Name: Dr. David Shane Lowry

Affiliation: MIT History Department

Bio: Dr. David Shane Lowry is the Distinguished Fellow in Native American Studies. In this role, David is leading a new conversation at MIT about the responsibilities of MIT (and science/technology education, more generally) in the theft of American Indian land and the dismantling of American Indian health and community. Since 2013, David has lectured across the United States – roles in which he has become well versed in conversations at the intersection of race, (health) science & popular culture. His first book, titled Lumbee Pipelines (under contract with University of Nebraska Press), explores American Indian utilization of colonial conditions to create opportunities that are both uplifting and oppressive. His second book, titled Black Jesus, is an ethnography of Michael Jordan. It began when David realized that he and Jordan shared the same anthropology advisor at UNC … 23 years apart. David was an undergraduate at MIT. During those years, he led AISES (American Indian Science & Engineering Society) and OMESAC (the Office of Minority Education Student Advisory Committee). He is always looking for a pick-up basketball game.


David Shane Lowry

Name: Dan Hawk

Bio:  Born 1960. Native American, Oneida. Enrollment no. 3322. Raised and live on the Oneida Indian Reservation in Wisconsin. While in Army National Guard and the U.S. Navy have extensive experience in electronics (both in repair and testing) and propulsion. While working with Space Grants, worked with high powered rockets, high-altitude balloons, tethered aerostats, and CubeSat satellites. Operated both First Nations Launch and Tethered Aerostat Programs. Have extensive carbon-based research and is an Amazon Black Earth expert. Carbon-based research leads to biofuels such as hemp. Current activity is working with UNCOPUS to ensure Native Americans have a seat at the space table. Working with NASA to create an Office of Tribal Affairs. Started United First Nations Planetary Defense, a Jay 1794 Treaty Company, to slow and or deflect asteroids of less than 300 meters in diameter. Partnered with Johns Hopkins on a Permafrost Prediction Satellite. "Indigenous peoples are going into space, we are, The New Face of Space."


Dan Hawk

Name: Dr. Natalie B. Treviño

Bio:  Dr. Treviño is a space theoretician and award-winning educator who recently graduated from the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at Western University in London, Ontario. Dr. Treviño's research focuses on how the colonial legacy of space exploration limits the vastness of the futures in space.  Dr. Treviño currently hosts an online decolonial reading group with hopes of carving out space for decolonial thinking within the space community.


Dr. Natalie Treviño

Name: Dr. Parvathy Prem 

Affiliation: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Bio: Dr. Parvathy Prem is a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where her research focuses on using computational methods to study the environments of Solar System worlds with very thin (or barely there) atmospheres, and the stories that they have to tell. Current projects include investigating the origins of water on the Moon, and how spacecraft exhaust gases may temporarily change the lunar surface and exosphere. Dr. Prem is a member of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission’s science team, and a co-investigator on two teams of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. Parvathy was born in Kerala, India, and grew up in the UK and India. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.Eng. from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, all in aerospace engineering.


Dr. Parvathy Prem

Name: Dr. Richard Shope

Bio:  As President of the World Space Foundation, Dr. Shope develops collaborative projects and directs tiered mentorships, inquiry science expeditions, and action science theatre productions. World Space programs reach over 5000 K-12 Students each year.

From 1999-2002, Dr. Shope carried out NASA/JPL outreach to Native American communities, including the Diné Nation, which had sought to raise consciousness about including Native American participation in NASA Missions. Specifically, Dr. Shope was tasked by NASA to study the community impact of the Lunar Prospector Mission, which, controversially, had aboard the ashes of the late astronomer Eugene Shoemaker. Results of the study led directly to the establishment of a summer internship program for a cohort of nine Diné youth, three years in a row at JPL, which included a visit to NASA Ames, which operated the Lunar Prospector Mission.

From 1994-2009, Dr. Shope coordinated science education and public outreach programs nationwide for various flight projects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); developed curriculum for flight projects (Pluto, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Europa, the Sun, the Moon, and more); created science highlights for NASA Headquarters; and served as Principal Investigator for NASA-funded education and public outreach projects, known for his abilities to communicate complex science concepts in exciting and expressive ways, especially reaching thousands of urban youth and rural American Indian youth.

From 1971-1994, the MIME Wrighting program reached over one million schoolchildren nationally and throughout Southern California and Mexico. The MIME Approach continues to be applied as an integral part of the World Space Enterprise Expeditions, as students ACT OUT THE SCIENCE STORY!


Dr. Shope

Event Organizers

Dr. Danielle Wood -  Space Enabled research group,  MIT Media Lab

Bio: Professor Danielle Wood serves as an Assistant Professor in the Program in Media Arts & Sciences and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Within the Media Lab, Prof. Wood leads the Space Enabled research group which seeks to advance justice in Earth's complex systems using designs enabled by space. Prof. Wood is a scholar of societal development with a background that includes satellite design, earth science applications, systems engineering, and technology policy. In her research, Prof. Wood applies these skills to design innovative systems that harness space technology to address development challenges around the world. Prior to serving as faculty at MIT, Professor Wood held positions at NASA Headquarters, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Aerospace Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. Prof. Wood studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned a PhD in engineering systems, SM in aeronautics and astronautics, SM in technology policy, and SB in aerospace engineering.


Dr. Danielle Wood

Alvin Harvey - Human Systems Lab,  Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics,  MIT

Bio:  Alvin Donel Harvey is a MIT PhD candidate in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Human Systems Lab and a member of the Navajo Nation. He is of the Tó-baazhni'ázhi (Two Who Came To the Water) clan and born for the Honágháahnii (One-walks-around) clan. His current PhD research focuses on developing virtual reality systems for satellite constellation development, operation, and management; as well as developing methods of analyzing space technology as tool for tribal sovereignty. Prior work of Alvin includes research in partial gravity biomechanics and simulation, applied thermodynamics, and extensive historical research examining cases of conflict between Indigenous Nations and space agencies and entities. His current historical work also includes examining MIT’s ties to Indigenous land and lives through the Morrill Land Grant Acts, MIT’s relationship with its own Indigenous students, and its associations with local Indigenous Nations.

As the president of the MIT Native American Student Association he continues to be an advocate for Indigenous students at MIT, working together with MIT’s chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to have MIT celebrate its first Indigenous Peoples’ Day, create an on-campus space for Indigenous students, and address historical concerns and conflicts between MIT and Indigenous people. He studied mechanical engineering at New Mexico State University (BS), while attaining his private pilot’s license, and Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT in the Human Systems Lab (SM ’20, PhD in progress). As Alvin continues his technical research he also continues to concentrate on advocating for Indigenous view points and space policy throughout the various space exploration fields.


Alvin Harvey

Frank Tavares - Space Enabled research group , MIT Media Lab

Bio:  Frank Tavares is a science writer joining the Space Enabled research group as an Affiliated Researcher, where they are thrilled to conduct research exploring an anti-colonial approach to space exploration, particularly in how to approach interactions with other planetary bodies. They have experience in science communications, astronomy, interactive and prose fiction, playwriting, and more. Working with an interdisciplinary group of scholars, they also were the lead author of “Ethical Exploration and the Role of Planetary Protection in Disrupting Colonial Practices,” a submission to the 2023-2032 Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. Frank grew up in San Diego, CA and graduated from Amherst College in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Astronomy.


Frank Tavares

Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar - Space Enabled research group, MIT Media Lab

Bio:  Pedro is a Doctoral Student based at the Space Enabled group in the MIT Media Lab and the Future Heritage Lab at the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology. He received his Bachelor’s of Sciences in Linguistics from the National University of Colombia, where he worked on articulatory phonetics, and signal processing. He did his masters with the Personal Robots group at the MIT Media Lab, where he focused on designing mechanisms to foster children's socio-emotional skills such as empathy, through interactions with social robots. Currently, he studies and documents ancestral technologies in Colombia, as well as the design practices that led to their existence. He uses insights from this work to propose design practices and philosophies that can lead to the development of more sustainable and just technologies.


Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar

Seamus Lombardo - Space Enabled research group, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT

Bio:  Seamus Lombardo is an AeroAstro PhD student conducting research in Space Enabled. He is working on using remote sensing and integrated complex systems modeling to support sustainable development.

Seamus previously conducted research on spacesuit performance and received his Master's degree in AeroAstro from MIT in May, 2020. He received his BS in Aerospace Engineering from SUNY Buffalo in 2018. He has previously interned throughout the aerospace engineering industry at Millennium Space Systems, SpaceX, and NASA and was a program manager for the University at Buffalo Nanosatellite Lab.

Additionally, Seamus is active in politics and advocacy through his work with MIT Democrats, Bluebonnet Data, MITvote and the MIT Graduate Student Council's External Affairs Board.


Seamus Lombardo

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