Faculty Publications

Michelle M. Jacob

Yakama Rising


The Yakama Nation of present-day Washington State has responded to more than a century of historical trauma with a resurgence of grassroots activism and cultural revitalization. This path-breaking ethnography shifts the conversation from one of victimhood to one of ongoing resistance and resilience as a means of healing the soul wounds of settler colonialism. Yakama Rising: Indigenous Cultural Revitalization, Activism, and Healing argues that Indigenous communities themselves have the answers to the persistent social problems they face. This book contributes to discourses of Indigenous social change by articulating a Yakama decolonizing praxis that advances the premise that grassroots activism and cultural revitalization are powerful examples of decolonization.

Michelle M. Jacob employs ethnographic case studies to demonstrate the tension between reclaiming traditional cultural practices and adapting to change. Through interviewees’ narratives, she carefully tacks back and forth between the atrocities of colonization and the remarkable actions of individuals committed to sustaining Yakama heritage. Focusing on three domains of Indigenous revitalization—dance, language, and foods—Jacob carefully elucidates the philosophy underlying and unifying each domain while also illustrating the importance of these practices for Indigenous self-determination, healing, and survival.

In the impassioned voice of a member of the Yakama Nation, Jacob presents a volume that is at once intimate and specific to her home community and that also advances theories of Indigenous decolonization, feminism, and cultural revitalization. Jacob’s theoretical and methodological contributions make this work valuable to a range of students, academics, tribal community members, and professionals, and an essential read for anyone interested in the ways that grassroots activism can transform individual lives, communities, and society.


Michelle M. Jacob (Yakama) is an associate professor of ethnic studies and affiliated faculty in sociology at the University of San Diego. She is also the director of the Center for Native Health and Culture at Heritage University on the Yakama Reservation. Jacobs received her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara in Sociology, with an emphasis in Human Development. She received her M.A. at California State University, San Marcos in Sociological Practice.



“There are many ethnographies of Native communities, but relatively few written by members of those communities. Jacob provides a different picture of contemporary Native communities by focusing on what they are doing to organize for a better future within the context of US capitalism.”—Andrea Smith, author of Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances

“Yakama Rising makes a unique contribution to Native/Ethnic Studies, American History, Anthropology and applied scholarship; it is neither a personal platform for polemics and exploration of heritage nor is it a disconnected, naïve analysis of people and their practices. It is an intense and robust examination of decolonization, tradition, and survival. There is no other book like it.” —Barbra A. Meek, author of We Are Our Language: An Ethnography of Language Revitalization in a Northern Athabaskan Community

Contact Information


(619) 260-7742