Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Faculty Experts

Ken Mello

Associate Professor of Religion


Areas of expertise

I am a specialist in Native American religious studies, and am particularly interested in narrative/folklore, identity, and the active role of place in native religious activity.  I also teach courses on Sacred Space, Gender and Sexuality, Myth and Narrative, and other non-textual religious traditions.


My approach to the study of Religion can be termed an 'integrated approach,' which is a cornerstone for the study of all indigenous, non-textual traditions.  The integrated approach requires interdisciplinary expertise and the use of cultural context, and therefore requires the integration of areas such as history, gender studies, anthropology, sociology, and government to fully understand the ways in which religious activity wholly permeates the lives of people.  It also requires direct contact and interaction with religious communities, and I try to integrate what I learn from community interaction as much as possible into the classroom experience for students.

My courses are designed around the notion that most students know very little about contemporary indigenous religious communities, and my goal is to get students to move outside of stereotypical ideas and try to understand religious traditions and concepts within their own internal frameworks and contexts.  I ask students to rethink linear, temporal religious orientation and to begin to understand a circular, spatial religious orientation.  My goal is to offer courses which will introduce students to indigenous, non-textual traditions at both the philosophical and practical level.

I also cross-list courses with multiple other disciplines, including Environmental Studies, Feminist Studies, Race and Ethnicity Studies, and English. This creates a more diverse body of students in my classes, and also allows students to see and think about connections across disciplinary boundaries.


PhD,The University of California, Santa Barbara 2003
M.A.,The University of Arizona 1996
M.A.,Colgate University 1994
B.A.,Colgate University 1992


Assistant Professor of Religion
University of Vermont
August 01, 2004 - June 01, 2009

Assistant Professor of Native Studies
The University of Minnesota, Duluth
August 01, 2002 - June 01, 2004

Doctoral Fellow in Native American Studies
The University of Maine, Orono
August 01, 2000 - June 01, 2002


My current research focuses on contemporary Native American religious identity, particularly among native people and communities located in urban settings.  I am also interested in the intersection between Native American religion and "place".  My future work will focus on religious revival through material culture production, contemporary Native American music, and the connection between religion and sports.

Specific subjects or issues you can knowledgeably discuss:
Contemporary Native American religions, identity issues, religion and animals, religion and healing, sacred space and the environment

I am willing to talk to the media: yes

I am willing to talk to community groups about my area of expertise: yes

Can you do interviews in Spanish? no

Other languages you are fluent in: None

Experience with the news media (especially electronic media): I have provided phone and in-person interviews with members of the media, on various topics related to the study and practice of religion.  I have also presente

Contact Details:
(512) 863-1964(office)
Office: Kyle E. White 111