2022–2024 Postdoctoral Fellow, History
PhD in History, Yale University
Naomi Sussman joins the USC Society of Fellows from Yale University, where she received her Ph.D. in Indigenous and Latin American History in 2022. Naomi works across disciplines to narrate the Indigenous histories of California and the Southwest. Her current book project, Between the River and the Sea: The History of California’s Native heartland, 1781-1931, reimagines the California interior as a Native heartland by tracing Cahuilla, Cupeño, Kumeyaay, and Luiseño diplomacy and statehood over the longue durée. These four Nations’ savvy diplomacy reveals that Native people, not missionaries or miners, shaped the region’s destiny between 1781 and 1931. This inheritance of power and resistance animates contemporary Native resurgences in California and North America more broadly. Her work has been published in Ethnohistory, and she has garnered the support of the Western History Association, Huntington Library, Newberry Library, John Carter Brown Library, and Beinecke Library for her research.
Naomi also seeks to translate histories of Indigenous power into formats that serve contemporary Native sovereignty work. As a researcher with the NYU-Yale American Indian Sovereignty Project, she has partnered with Indigenous and non-Indigenous historians and law students to craft an amicus brief demonstrating a long history of state and federal involvement in Native child removal. The amicus brief aims to buttress the Indian Child Welfare Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of the Brackeen v. Haaland case throws into jeopardy. Naomi has also collaborated with the San Pasqual Band of the Kumeyaay Nation to develop a prototype digital exhibit elaborating Native Californians’ “Toolkit of Resistance.” This toolkit spans generations and offers a foundation for contemporary resistance. She plans to deepen these partnerships with Native scholars and leadership while at USC.