Skip to main content

Debra K. Barker, Ph.D.

Debra Barker
  • Professor
  • Director of AIS
  • American Indian Studies
  • English

Debra K. S. Barker is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Nation) and Professor of English and American Indian Studies. Her courses include introductory and advanced courses in American Indian Literatures and Applied Indigenous Studies. 

Joining UW-Eau Claire in 1993, she drafted curriculum for the American Indian Studies core courses and chaired the American Indian Studies Committee, later serving as co-director of the fledgling American Indian Studies Program in 1996. In 2011 she returned to American Indian Studies to serve as Program Director.    

Modern American Indian writers (particularly Lakota writers, past and present), the representation of American Indians in Euramerican culture, Decolonial Studies, and the literary production of Ojibwe writer Louise Erdrich run along the spectrum of her research interests. Her publications include articles on the Indian boarding school system, Lakota women's life writings, and the fiction of Louise Erdrich. At present, she is nurturing a book project on Lakota writers from Rosebud.  
Her conference papers have addressed not only literary works by American Indians but also topics that support anti-racist pedagogies and education for social justice. A particular theme of her work has addressed the political and moral necessity of Act 31 compliance to ensure that throughout their public school education Wisconsin youth grow into a broader understanding about the history and cultures of Wisconsin Indians. To a certain extent, she sees her work in the classroom as a type of quiet activism in which she not only relates course content but also seeks to develop within her students their capacity as empathic, culturally-competent citizens of the world.  
Her service in the broader area of Native literary studies includes her term as President of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures, Delegate Assembly Member in the Modern Language Association (MLA) representing Ethnic Studies, member of the MLA committee on Native American Languages, and MLA's Committee on the Literatures of People of Color in the United States and Canada. The UW-Eau Claire American Ethnic Coordinating Office presented her with a Distinguished Service Award in 2001. Ten years later the Office of Multicultural Affairs recognized her work with a Distinguished Service Award. In 2011, she was presented with a University of Wisconsin System “Outstanding Woman of Color in Education” Award.  
Her passions include traveling the world, cooking, and reading with a grateful heart.

Teaching Interests
  • American Indian Literatures
  • Applied Indigenous Studies
  • Decolonial Studies
  • Lakota Literature
Research and Creative Activities
  • Decolonial Studies
  • Lakota Literatures
  • The Literary Production of Louise Erdrich
  • Ph. D. Ball State University (English)
  • M.A. University of Missouri-Columbia (English)
  • B. S. Ball State University (English)