Her collaborations with the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana have grown into an especially strong partnership, foundational to her first two books: “The Other Movement: Indian Rights and Civil Rights in the Deep South” and “We Will Always Be Here: Native Peoples on Living and Thriving in the South.”

The first book highlighted Southern Native activist work toward tribal sovereignty and nation-building during the civil rights era, and the second shared more than 40 personal narratives and essays that Bates compiled working closely with Native leaders throughout the region, she said, “to document their historic and contemporary successes and struggles in areas that range from cultural preservation to economic development.”  

The work for those books led to a third, “Basket Diplomacy,” which is a study of a century of Coushatta tribal leadership and is now under contract with the University of Nebraska Press.  

“It grew out of two years of intensive research and 300 hours of interviews on Coushatta agency between 1884 and 1985. It is a history of tribal political and business leaders making really savvy decisions and alliances, with the intent to establish cultural and economic stability for future generations,” Bates said. “I’m especially interested in taking a longitudinal approach, identifying areas of continuity across multiple generations and capturing a cultural and historical understanding of leadership.”

On Feb. 8, Coushatta tribal leader and activist Ernest Sickey, who served as tribal chairman from 1973 to 1985, is presenting a public lecture at ASU titled “Tribal Nation-Building in the U.S. South.” His visit, which Bates coordinated with sponsorship from a number of ASU units, also includes a luncheon discussion hosted by the Indian Legal Program of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. 

“Mr. Sickey is a superstar in the evolution of Indian affairs and the movement promoting Indigenous rights in the Southeast,” Bates said. “Under his strategic leadership the community was the first to be recognized by the state of Louisiana and the tribe was reinstated to a federally acknowledged status after being terminated in 1953. The state’s Inter-tribal Council and Office of Indian Affairs are a direct result of his work. And today the Coushatta Tribe is one of Louisiana’s top private employers.”

She is collaborating with Sickey and other tribal leaders on a number of projects to transform the academic scholarship, governing documents and oral histories into instructional and public history materials that can be readily accessed and used.   

“With the Coushatta Tribe, for example, we’re developing a digital learning platform to encourage civic engagement and leadership among tribal youth,” Bates said.

“I feel very strongly that history belongs to the community,” she reflected. “It’s important that this knowledge not just go in scholarly journals and books. Young people are hungry for access to their own history.

“It’s a joy to help pull it together and make it accessible for all to connect with,” she added, “but I’m just a facilitator.”