Department of Ethnic Studies - College of Letters and Science - University of California, Berkeley

People / Graduate Students


Tria Blu Wakpa

Native American Education, Incarceration, and Embodied Practice; Indigenous Contemporary Dance; Native American Literature and Theory; Native and African American Relations; Race and Yoga; Creative Writing

Bio & Research Interests

Tria Blu Wakpa (formerly Tria Andrews) is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley and a graduate of the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing at San Diego State University. Her dissertation, Native American Embodiment in Educational and Carceral Settings: Fixing, Eclipsing, and Liberating, investigates the relationships among educational and embodied programming at two institutions located on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota: St. Francis Mission School, a former on-reservation boarding school (1886-1972), and Wanbli Wiconi Tipi (Eagle Life Home), the tribal juvenile hall founded in 2005. Conducting close readings of boarding school newspaper articles, photographs, short films, and in-depth interviews with educators, students, and incarcerated youth, Tria demonstrates how the mission school and the detention center have articulated almost identical goals: to produce loyal, productive citizens of high character through educational programming. She shows how educators and students at St. Francis Mission School created and contested ideas about “Indianness” and the assimilative processes intended to “fix” and “eclipse” Lakota bodies. In the context of historical and ongoing human rights violations committed against Native youth related to various methods of confinement, Tria argues that Wanbli Wiconi Tipi administrators and staff seek to intervene by maneuvering against the curricula and methods employed by assimilative and punitive institutions. 

Tria has published peer-reviewed articles in The American Indian Culture and Research Journal and Dance Research Journal and served as a guest-editor for As Us Journal and The American Indian Culture and Research Journal in issues that feature writing by people who are incarcerated. She has taught courses for a range of universities and institutions, including UC Berkeley, University of San Francisco, San Diego State University, Sinte Gleska University (the tribal college on the Rosebud Reservation), San Quentin, and Vallejo County Unified School District and received an Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award from UC Berkeley. Tria is a founder of the Race and Yoga Working Group, Race and Yoga Conference, and Race and Yoga journal. She is also completing a poetry collection, titled, Dead Center of the Heart, which focuses on the familial, historical, and contemporary experiences of Native Americans and Filipinos under U.S. occupation and its legacies. Tria is grateful to have received support and recognition from numerous sources for her scholarly, creative, and embodied work, including: Ford Foundation, Fulbright, Phillips Fund for Native American Research, Abigail Reynolds Hodgen Publication Funds, University of California Human Rights Center, Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies, Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, and Dancing Earth: Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations. 


Shari Huhndorf, Keith Feldman, SanSan Kwan (Theater, Dance and Performance Studies), Luana Ross (Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Washington)
Thomas Biolsi

Courses Taught or Assisted

University of California, Berkeley: Acting Instructor

2016    “Native American Embodiment,” Department of Ethnic Studies, Spring

2015    “Native American Incarceration,” Department of Ethnic Studies, Fall

2012    “Race and Erasure: Native American Literature and Film,” Department of Ethnic Studies, Summer

2012    “Basketball on the Reservation,” Department of Ethnic Studies, Spring

2011    “Native American Representations in Literature and Film,” Department of Ethnic Studies, Fall

2011    “Multiethnic Literature and Theory,” Department of Ethnic Studies, Summer

University of California, Berkeley: Chancellor’s Public Fellow

2013    “Introduction to Archeology,” Anthropology Department, Fall

University of California, Berkeley: Teaching Assistant

2014    “Poetry for the People,” Department of African American Studies, Spring

2011    “Asian Americans in Literature and Film,” Department of Ethnic Studies, Spring

Sinte Gleska University: Co-Instructor

2014    “Literature of the Rosebud,” Department of English, Summer

University of San Francisco: Instructor

2014    “Colonization and Confinement,” Department of English, Spring

Prison University Project (San Quentin State Prison): Co-Instructor

2014    “Perceptions of Home,” Spring

2013    “Race and Gender in Literature,” Fall

San Diego State University, Imperial Valley Campus: Instructor

2010    “Identity and Belonging,” Department of English and Comparative Literature, Spring

Select publications

Peer-Reviewed Articles

2015    Blu Wakpa, Tria. “Culture Creators and Interconnected Individualism: Rulan Tangen and Anne Pesata’s             Basket Weaving Dance,” Dance Research Journal, 48, Special Issue 01 (Indigenous Dance Today) (April 2016): 107-125.

2015    Blu Wakpa, Tria. “A Constellation of Confinement: The Jailing of Cecelia Capture and the Deaths of Sarah Lee Circle Bear and Sandra Bland, 1895-2015," American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 40, no. 1 (2016): 161-183.

Peer-Reviewed Chapters

2016    Blu Wakpa, Tria. “The Body, The System, The Disconnect” (forthcoming in Yoga and Body Image 2).