Heather Howard

  • (aka Heather Howard-Bobiwash)
  • Associate Professor
  • Affiliated Faculty, American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program


Twitter: @HeatherA_Howard

College of Social Science Diversity Champion 2021 https://socialscience.msu.edu/news-events/news/2021-11-15-3.html

Research Interests

    Politics of Knowledge Production in Cultural, Heritage, Health, and Social Service Delivery Organizations
    Community-Driven Methodologies

Biographical Info

I study the social relations through which authoritative knowledge – the knowledge that counts – is constructed and applied in cultural, social service, and healthcare organizations, particularly in efforts to address structural inequities. I carry out my research in varied settings ranging from museums to community centers, clinics, and schools. I work primarily with Indigenous peoples for whom my research has significant policy and applied implications, and my work centers on collaborative, community-driven, and participatory approaches to research that promote Indigenous knowledge frameworks to scholarship and research that is meaningful to community.

I am especially interested in how responsibility, choice, identity, and healing are shaped in relation to technological innovations, and the meaning people make from collective memory and engagements of the past in the present. Several of my research projects study the intersection of gender, culture, and perspectives on human/non-human relations in Indigenous women’s work and activism experience in community history, heritage item making, and education. I am currently examining materialities of Indigenous sovereignty in the meaning-making processes engaged by Indigenous peoples with museum objects of social and cultural significance. I have also focused a lot of my research on the pressing health issues which disproportionately impact Indigenous communities as a result of the structural forces of settler colonialism, especially diabetes.

I have held an adjunct faculty appointment at the University of Toronto with the Centre for Indigenous Initiatives since 2009 and was a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford in the School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography in 2016 and 2017.

Current Research Projects

2022-2024: “Nourishing Michigan Indigenous Children with Cultural Health and Equity (N-MICHHE),” co-I (Danielle Gartner, (PI) Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics; Jessica Barnes-Najor (co-I) Public Engagement and Scholarship, Chelsea Wentworth (co-I) Medical Education Research and Development), Michigan Health and Endowment Fund.
2022-2023: "Special Education in Indian Country: Challenges and Insights from Applying Indigenous Models of Disability in Schools," with Livy Drexler, Spencer Foundation.
2021-2023: “Assessing whether Indigenous women of reproductive age have equitable access to and use of health care under the Affordable Care Act” Co-I ( Claire Margerison (PI) and Danielle Gartner (co-I), Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics) Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Public Policy Research to Advance Racial Equity and Racial Justice Program.
2020-2021 (extended through 2022): Public Engagement Fellowship: “Waganakising Quillwork: A Portal to Share Indigenous Knowledge” The Whiting Foundation. https://www.whiting.org/content/heather-howard
Completed Research Projects:
2018-2020: “Widening the Circle: Building a Community Knowledge Sharing Digital Platform with Great Lakes Indigenous Cultural Heritage Research Data” Co-PI, (PI: Heidi Bohaker, University of Toronto/ co-PI Margaret Bruchac, University of Pennsylvania), Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
2017-2018: “Nitaawichige: Skilled at Making Things,” Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures, pilot study funded under a Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development Grant (H. Bohaker, PI)
2013-2017:"Genomics in the Clinic: Identity, Responsibility and Choice," co-I (L. M. Hunt, PI Anthropology, MSU) National Institutes of Health
2013-2017: “Our Health Counts Toronto: Developing A Population-Based Urban Aboriginal Cohort to Assess and Enhance Individual, Family and Community Health and Well-being,” co-I (Janet Smylie, (PI) St. Michael’s Hospital Centre for Research on Inner-City Health, Toronto) Canadian Institutes for Health Research
2013-2015: "Memory, Meaning-Making and Collections,” co-PI (with C. Krmpotich and L. Howarth (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto) and Native Canadian Centre of Toronto) Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development
2012-2013: "Comparative Effectiveness of Primary Care Practice Transformation by Two Insurers," co-I (with R. Malouin, Department of Family Medicine, MSU) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
2012-2013: “Sharing Transformations in Diabetes," PI, Canadian Institutes for Health Research
2012-2013: “Understanding Primary Care Transformation in the Niagara Region of Ontario from the Perspective of Practices and Programs,” co-PI (with R. Malouin (Department of Family Medicine, MSU) Canadian Embassy Faculty Research Grant Program
2010-2011: "Transformations in Diabetes Prevention Education and Support Initiatives by and for Aboriginal People in Toronto," PI, Indigenous Health Research Development Program, Network Environments for Aboriginal Health Research, Canadian Institutes for Health Research
2011: "Aboriginal Diabetes Research Project," co-PI (with L. Lavallee (Ryerson University) and Anishnawbe Health Toronto) Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network


2022: Howard-Bobiwash, Heather. “First Nations, Contagion, and Canada: The Lineages of Pandemic Colonialism.” Syndemic Magazine, April issue https://syndemic.ca/2022/04/25/article-2/
2021: Hunt, Linda, Elizabeth A. Arndt, Hannah S. Bell, and Heather A. Howard, "Are Corporations Re-Defining Illness and Health? The Diabetes Epidemic, Goal Numbers, and Blockbuster Drugs," Journal of Bioethical Inquiry
2021: Howard-Bobiwash, Heather, Jennie R. Joe, and Susan Lobo. “Concrete Lessons: Policies and Practices Affecting the Impact of COVID-19 for Urban Indigenous Communities in the United States and Canada,” Frontiers Medical Sociology.
2020: Burnett, Diana, Megan Carney, Lauren Carruth, Sarah Chard, Maggie Dickinson, Alysha Galvez, Hannah Garth, Jessica Hardin, Adele Hite, Heather Howard, Lenore Manderson, Abril Saldaña-Tejeda, Dana Simmons, Natalie Valdez, Emily Vasquez, Mega Warin, Emily Yates-Doerr. “Anthropologists Respond to The Lancet EAT Commission.” Bionatura: Latin American Journal of Biotechnology and Life Sciences (Vol. 5, No. 1: 1023-1024), simultaneously published in English and Spanish. http://revistabionatura.com/2020.05.01.2.php
2020: Linda M. Hunt, Hannah S. Bell, Anna C. Martinez-Hume, Funmi Odumosu, and Heather A. Howard. “Corporate Logic in Clinical Care: Is Commodification Driving Medical Practice?” Medical Anthropology Quarterly (Vol. 33, No. 4: 463-482).
2019: Howard, Heather A., Marsha MacDowell, Judy Pierzynowski, and Laura E. Smith, “Indigenous Makers and the Animation of Digital Narratives,” in Museums and Communities: Diversity, Dialogue and Collaboration in an Age of Migrations, edited by Viv Golding and Jenny Walklate, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 290-307.
2019: Carruth, Lauren, Sarah Chard, Heather A. Howard, Lenore Manderson, Emily Mendenhall, Emily Vasquez, Emily Yates-Doerr. “Disaggregating Diabetes: New Subtypes, Causes, and Care.” Medicine, Anthropology, Theory (Vol 6, No. 4), doi.org/10.17157/mat.6.4.730 http://www.medanthrotheory.org/read/11519/disaggregating-diabetes
2019: Howard, Heather A. “Comunidades y vida urbana de los pueblos indígenas en Canadá” [Indigenous Peoples’ Urban Lives and Communities in Canada] in Indígenas en las ciudades de las Américas: Condiciones de vida, procesos de discriminación e identificación y lucha por la ciudadanía étnica, edited by Jorge E. Horbath and María Amalia Gracia (Miño y Dávila editores, Argentina)
2019. Bell, Hannah S. Funmi Odumosu, Anna C. Martinez-Hume, Heather A. Howard, and Linda M. Hunt, “Racialized Risk in Clinical Care: Clinician Vigilance and Patient ResponsibilityMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 224-238.
2018. “`Shut the tape off and I will tell you a story’: Women’s Knowledges in Urban Indigenous Community Representations,” in Katrina Srigley, Stacey Zembrzycki, and Franca Iacovetta, eds., Beyond Women’s Words: Feminisms and the Practices of Oral History in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge).
2018. “Healing Research: Relationalism in Urban Indigenous Health Knowledge Production,” In Indigenous Research: Theories, Practices and Relationships, eds. J.P. Restoule, Rochelle Johnston and Deborah McGregor (Canadian Scholars Press).
2018 “Settler Colonialism, Biogovernance, and the Logic of a Surgical Cure for Diabetes,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 120, No.4, 817-822.
2017: Hunt, Linda M., Hannah S. Bell, Allison M. Baker, and Heather A. Howard, “Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and the Disappearing Patient,Medical Anthropology Quarterly. ISSN 0745-5194, online ISSN 1548-1387.  DOI: 10.1111/maq.12375.
2016: Heather A. Howard. “Co-Producing Community and Knowledge: Indigenous Epistemologies of Engaged, Ethical Research in an Urban Context,” Engaged Scholar Journal of Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, v.1, no. 3, pp. 205-224. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15402/esj.v2i1.207.
2016 “Care Managers and Knowledge Shift in Primary Care Patient-Centered Medical Home Transformation,” with Rebecca Malouin and Martha Callow, Human Organization, v. 75, no. 1 (Winter, 2016).
2015 “From Collection to Community to Collections Again: Urban Indigenous Women, Material Culture and Belonging,” with Cara Krmpotich and Emma Knight, Journal of Material Culture.
2014 “Politics of Culture in Urban Indigenous Community-Based Diabetes Programs,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, vol.38, no.1.

2014 (online July 26, 2013) “Canadian Residential Schools and Urban Indigenous Knowledge Production about Diabetes Medical Anthropology, Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, Vol. 33, No. 6: 529-545. DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2013.828722.

2012 "Northfork Mono Women's Agricultural Work and 'Productive Co-Existence' In Indigenous Women and WorkTransnational Perspectives, C. Williams, ed. (University of Illinois Press).
2011 Urban Aboriginal Research Project Report with Lynn Lavallee, Anishnawbe Health Toronto.
2011 Aboriginal Peoples in Canadian Cities: Transformations and Continuities, with Craig Proulx, eds. (Wilfrid Laurier University Press).
2009 Keeping the Campfires Going: Native Women's Activism in Urban Areas, with Susan Applegate Krouse, eds. (University of Nebraska Press).
2003 "Women's Class Strategies as Activism in Native Community Building in Toronto, 1950-1975," American Indian Quarterly, 27(3-4), 566-582.
1999 Feminist Fields: Ethnographic Insights, with Rae Bridgman and Sally Cole, eds. (Broadview Press/UTP Higher Education Press).