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; Indigenous Martial Arts; Native American Literature and Theory; Native and African American Relations; Race and Yoga; Creative Writing

Bio & Research Interests

Tria Blu Wakpa—an academic, artist, and athlete—is a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Dance at UC Riverside and will be an Assistant Professor of Dance Studies in the World Arts and Cultures/Dance Department at UC Los Angeles in Fall 2018. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. Her research and artistic interests include: Native American education, incarceration, and embodied practice; Indigenous contemporary dance; Indigenous martial arts; Native American literature and theory; Native and African American relations; race and yoga; and creative writing.

Tria’s book project, titled Native American Embodiment: Fixing, Eclipsing, and Liberating in Educational and Carceral Contexts, examines the continuities and contradictions among Native education, incarceration, and performance. She has published articles in The American Indian Culture and Research Journal and Dance Research Journal and served as a guest editor for special issue journals that feature writing by people who are imprisoned. Tria has received major fellowships from: the Ford Foundation, Fulbright, and Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues and supplementary fellowships and grants from numerous sources. Atamira Dance Collective and Dancing Earth Creations have recognized her embodied work, and in 2014, the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame inducted her the first year that she was eligible for her accolades and innovations in women’s wrestling. Tria holds two national wrestling championships (in collegiate and freestyle wrestling), a third-degree black belt in her family's style of the martial arts, and is certified as a massage therapist and yoga and Filipino stick fighting instructor.

Tria has taught a wide range of interdisciplinary and community-engaged courses at public, private, tribal, and carceral institutions. She is the founder of Race and Yoga Working Group and a co-founder of Race and Yoga journal and Race and Yoga Conference. She serves on the Board of Directors for All Relations United--an organization, composed of Native people who are incarcerated and their allies, which advocates for the rights of Indigenous prisoners and mother earth--and is the Vender/Press Exhibit Coordinator for the Native American Literature Symposium. In 2017-2018, Tria will facilitate the "Indigenous Interventions: Dance Studies Working Group," formed as a result of the first UC Humanities Research Institute Multicampus Working Group on "Indigenous Dance and the Academy." She performs her poetry in a variety of venues and is completing a creative collection titled, Dead Center of the Heart.


Shari Huhndorf, Keith Feldman, SanSan Kwan (Theater, Dance and Performance Studies)
Thomas Biolsi

Courses Taught or Assisted

University of California, Berkeley: Teaching Assistant

2017    “Big Ideas: Prison,” Department of Ethnic Studies, Spring

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

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

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

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.