Bilagáanaa niliigo’ dóó Kinyaa’áanii yásh’chíín. Bilagáanaa dabicheii dóó Tsinaajinii dabinálí. Ákót’éego diné asdzáá nilí. Dr. Farina King is Bilagáanaa (English-American), born for Kinyaa’áanii (the Towering House Clan) of the Diné (Navajo). Her mother is of English-American descent from Michigan, and her father is Navajo from the Rehoboth, New Mexico checkerboard region of Diné Bikéyah (Navajo land). Her maternal grandfather was European-American, and her paternal grandfather was Tsinaajinii (Black-streaked Woods People Clan) of the Diné. She is a citizen of the Navajo Nation. King was born in Tó Naneesdizí (Tuba City) and lived in the Navajo Nation as a small child, until her family moved to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area where her father worked for the Indian Health Service.
King is the Horizon Chair in Native American Ecology and Culture and Associate Professor of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, homelands of the Hasinais, or Caddo Nation, and Kirikirʔi:s, or Wichita & Affiliated Tribes (see OU Land Acknowledgement Statement). Previously, between 2016 and 2022, she was an associate professor of History at Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, in the homelands of the Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees. She was also an affiliate of the Cherokee and Indigenous Studies Department and the Director of the NSU Center for Indigenous Community Engagement. She is the President of the Southwest Oral History Association (2021-2022).
During the 2016-2017 academic year, King was The David J. Weber Fellow for the Study of Southwestern America at the Clements Center for Southwest Studies of Southern Methodist University. She earned her Ph.D. in American history with an emphasis in Native American history at Arizona State University in 2016. Her first book, The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century, was published by the University Press of Kansas in October 2018.
She was the Charles Eastman Dissertation Fellow (2015-2016) at Dartmouth College. She received her M.A. in African history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.A. from Brigham Young University with a double major in History and French Studies. She has studied several languages including French, Portuguese, Yoruba, Wolof, and Navajo, and she plans to learn more languages in the future.
Her primary area of research is colonial and post-colonial Indigenous studies, mainly Indigenous experiences in colonizing forms of education, such as at federal American Indian boarding schools. Her research traces the changes in Diné educational experiences through the twentieth century, using a hybrid approach of the Diné Sacred Four Directions. She has facilitated oral histories with Diné boarding school survivors, involving former students of the Intermountain Indian School, Crownpoint Indian Boarding School, Tuba City Boarding School, Leupp Boarding School, and Kayenta Boarding School.
The University of Arizona Press published Returning Home: Diné Creative Works from the Intermountain Indian School, in November 2021, which she co-authored with Drs. Michael Taylor and James Swensen. Returning Home features Diné students’ art, poetry, and writing of the Intermountain Indian Boarding School (1950-1984) from a traveling exhibit that King, Taylor, and Swensen organized as well as some of the oral histories with King and Intermountain alumni.
King has also written and presented about Native American and Indigenous Latter-day Saint experiences in the twentieth century, drawing from some interviews that she conducted for the Latter-day Saint Native American Oral History Project at the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies. She serves on the steering committee of Global Mormon Studies.
Her greatest inspirations are her family, especially her three children. Other than learning different languages and having fun with her family, King loves to sing and travel.
To learn more about King’s time at the Clements Center, see this coverage of the forum, “Why Standing Rock Matters,” that Dr. King helped to organize: Clements Center Spring 2017 Newsletter (click link).