Talia Dixon’s major in modern dance and minor in American Indian studies came together to inspire her University of Utah honors thesis on indigenous representations in dance studies and honoring the knowledge of indigenous nations, specifically the Luiseño Peoples in Southern California. “Coming to college to study dance, I didn’t know I would get involved in something like this,” Dixon said. “Native studies and representation in dance and arts has been a way for me to combine the two paths.”
Dixon said this research path has been life-changing. She had never been asked to think critically of the history she was taught in public school when it came to ethnic studies. “It’s such a rich and inspiring history to know,” she said. Dixon is also a member of the Pauma Band of Luiseño Mission Indians tribal community in Southern California.
Aside from her honors thesis, Dixon creates conversations surrounding indigenous representations in the arts within the broader Salt Lake community. In November 2020 when “Dancing Earth: Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations” presented a virtual performance facilitated by UtahPresents, Talia wrote a review of the show for a local Salt Lake City dance and performance journal called LoveDanceMore.
Going home to California for her senior year has allowed Dixon to reflect on how what she is doing has an impact on her tribal community. With encouragement from mentors such as Kate Mattingly at the School of Dance, Laurence Parker, associate dean of the Honors College, and Elizabeth Archuleta, associate chair of Ethnic Studies at the U, Dixon has decided to continue her research in graduate school next year.
Find this article and a lot more in the 2021 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.