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Past Publications

Zappia's work has appeared in numerous journals, books, anthologies, and digital platforms. He is the author of more than two dozen chapters, articles, and reviews. His recent article, "Revolutions in the Grass: Energy and Food Systems in Continental North America," (Environmental History 21: 1 (January, 2016), 30-53) was the winner of the 2017 Wayne D. Rasmussen Award for the best article of the year on agricultural history not published in Agricultural History.

Zappia is the author of three books. His first work, The Many Faces of Edward Sheriff Curtis: Portraits and Stories from Native North America, was co-authored with Steadman Upham and published by the University of Washington Press in 2006. His recent book,Traders and Raiders: The Indigenous World of the Colorado Basin (University of North Carolina Press) was published in 2014 and issued in paperback in 2016. His latest book--co-authored with Ashkan Soltani Stone--was just released by the University of Nebraska Press in October, 2020 and is titled Rez Metal: Inside the Navajo Heavy Metal Scene. Zappia is the recipient of numerous research grants, fellowships, and awards supporting the completion of both books, including from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Huntington Library, New York Public Library, New York Historical Society, American Philosophical Society, Autry National Center, Charles Redd Center for Western History, and the Bancroft Library.

Past Works Include:

Traders and Raiders: The Indigenous World of the Colorado Basin, 1540-1859

Published by University of North Carolina Press

"This compact book is filled to the brim with arguments, insights, and interventions. Natale A. Zappia engages almost every potential historiographical debate on his path, reorienting conventional points of observation and reversing accepted truths. The results are revelatory." --Pekka Hämäläinen, Oxford University

Excerpt from book cover:


The Colorado River region looms large in the history of the American West, vitally important in the designs and dreams of Euro-Americans since the first Spanish journey up the river in the sixteenth century. But as Natale Zappia argues in this expansive study, the Colorado River basin must be understood first as home to a complex Indigenous world. Through three-hundred years of western colonial settlement, Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans all encountered a vast indigenous borderlands peopled by Mojaves, Quechans, Southern Paiutes, Utes, Yokuts, and others, bound together by political, economic, and social networks. 


Examining a vast cultural geography including southern California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, Zappia shows how this interior world pulsated throughout the centuries before and after Spanish contact, solidifying to create an autonomous, interethnic indigenous space that expanded and adapted to an ever-encroaching global market economy. Situating the Colorado River basin firmly within our understanding of Indian country, Traders and Raiders investigates the borders and borderlands created during this period, connecting the coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific worlds with a vast indigenous continent.

The Many Faces of Edward Sheriff Curtis: Portraits and Stories from Native North America 

Published by University of Washington Press

"The accompanying text by Upham and Zappia places the portraits in their social and historical context, characterizing reservation life, compulsory education in boarding schools, and the eradication of native religions. The photos, newly printed from original glass negatives, are arranged from the most recent to the earliest and, in combination with the text, make for a stunning volume that constitutes a vivid and remarkable piece of native history." -- Deborah Donovan, Booklist

Scholars Steadman Upham and Nat Zappia examine eighty of Edward Curtis' portraits within three contexts: the Native American in U.S. history, the history of Native peoples worldwide during the same period, and the individual subjects, whose portraits are arranged from youngest to oldest. Within the larger arena of U.S. and world history, the gravity, determination, humour, and dignity of Curtis' portraits become vitally clear. The people he photographed were, in many cases, suffering degradation and hardship, but their faces speak of purpose and hope. More than seventy years after Curtis created his last photograph, these portraits speak not of the 'vanishing Indian' he believed he was documenting for posterity but of the resilience of entire nations, which persist and even thrive in difficult circumstances.


Rez Metal: Inside the Navajo Heavy Metal Scene

Published by University of Nebraska Press

Rez Metal captures the creative energy of Indigenous youth culture in the twenty-first century. Bridging communities from disparate corners of Indian Country and across generations, heavy metal has touched a collective nerve on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona in particular. Many cultural leaders—including former Navajo president Russell Begaye—have begun to recognize heavy metal’s ability to inspire Navajo communities facing chronic challenges such as poverty, depression, and addiction. Heavy metal music speaks to the frustrations, fears, trials, and hopes of living in Indian Country.

Rez Metal highlights a seminal moment in Indigenous heavy metal: when Kyle Felter, lead singer of the Navajo heavy metal band I Dont Konform, sent a demo tape to Flemming Rasmussen, the Grammy Award–winning producer of several Metallica albums, including Master of Puppets. A few months later, Rasmussen, captivated by the music, flew from Denmark to Window Rock, Arizona, to meet the band. Through a series of vivid images and interviews focused on the venues, bands, and fans of the Navajo Nation metal scene, Rez Metal provides a window into this fascinating world.

“Rez Metal represents the creative genius of contemporary Indigenous popular culture. Set within the heart of the Navajo Nation and including the voices of elders, council members, and metalheads of all ages, Soltani Stone and Zappia demonstrate the importance of metal as a source of hope and inspiration for Indigenous youth and its prominence as an organic Indigenous expressive culture.”—Kyle T. Mays, author of Hip Hop Beats, Indigenous Rhymes: Modernity and Hip Hop in Indigenous North America


Articles, Chapters, and Reviews 

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

2021                “Towards a Rigorous Understanding of Societal Responses to Climate Change,” with Dagomar Degroot, et.                

                         al., Nature, (March, 2021), 539-550


2019                 “Frontiers of Grain: Indigenous Maize, Afroreurasian Wheat, and the

                          Origins of Industrial Food,” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 17:2

                          (Spring, 2019), 215-255


2019                 “Experimenting with New Crops at the Peri-Urban Fringe” (with Cinzia Fissore), Current Investigations in

                         Agriculture and Current Research 6:4 (Spring, 2019)

2018                 “Indigenous Food Frontiers in the Early American West,” Southern California Quarterly 100:4

                         (Winter, 2018), 378-411

2018                 “Global Food Systems and the Age of Revolutions,” World History Connected                   link

2017                “Indigenous Food Sovereignty: An Introduction,” American Indian Culture and

                         Research Journal, Guest editor for special issue                                                                 link                                   

2016                 "Revolutions in the Grass: Politics and Food Systems in Continental North                        link

                          America” Environmental History; Winner of the Rassmussen Award for best Article                                       


2013                 “California Indian Historiography: From the Nadir to the Present”

                          California History Spring, 2013,                                                                                          link

2012                 “Indigenous Borderlands: Livestock and Power in the Native Far West”

                          Pacific Historical Review Spring, 2012                                                                                link


Book Chapters


2021                “Early California Cultural Atlas: Digital History and Indigenous Spaces,” (w/Steven Hackel and Jeannette Zernecke),

                        in Janet Hess, ed., Location, the Sacred, and Indigeneity: Digital and Spiritual Understandings of Native

                        America (Routledge Press, 2021)


2021                “Before the Horse: Food Systems in the Early American Great Plains,1350-1680,” in Kathleen Brosnan and Brian

                         Frehner, eds.,The Greater Plains: Rethinking a Region’s Environmental History of the Great Plains (Lincoln, NE:

                         University of Nebraska Press, 2021)


2020                “In the Land of the Head Hunters: Edward Curtis, Settler Colonialism, and the

                        ‘Documentary’,” in Rebecca Weaver-Hightower and Janne Lahti, eds., Cinematic Settlers: The Settler Colonial World

                         in Film (Routledge Press, 2020)

2017                "Agro-Ethnic Landscapes in Los Angeles,"                                                                           link

                         in Jenny Banh, The Anthropology of Los Angeles: City, Image, Politics 

                         (Forthcoming, Rowman and Littlefield Press)

2015                “Captivity and Economic Landscapes in Native California,”

                         in James Brooks and Bonnie Martin, eds., Uniting the Histories

                         of Slavery (School of Advanced Research Press)                                                               link


2012                “Reclaiming the Soil: Gardens and Communities in South Los Angeles,”  

                          in Josh Sides, ed., Post Ghetto: Reimagining South Los Angeles  

                          (University of California Press)                                                                                            link


2008                 “The United States and the World: A Globalized U.S. History Survey,”

                          (co-author) in Carl Guarneri and James Davis, eds., Teaching American

                          History in a Global Context (M.E. Sharpe)                                                                         link

Selected Book Reviews and Entries


2022                Martin Rizzo-Martinez, We are not Animals: Indigenous Politics of Survival, Rebellion, and Reconstitution in

                        Nineteenth-Century California in California History (forthcoming)


2022                Devon Mihesuah, Recovering Our Ancestors' Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness. Revised                           Edition in New Mexico Historical Review (forthcoming)


2022                Bradley Skopyk, Colonial Cataclysms: Climate, Landscape, and Memory in Mexico's Little Ice Age in New Mexico                               Historical Review (forthcoming)


2022                Douglas H. MacDonald, Before Yellowstone: Native American Archaeology in the National Park in H-

                        Net (forthcoming)


2021                Valerie Sherer Mathes, Charles C. Painter: The Life of an Indian Reform Advocate in Montana History 71:3 (August,

                        2021), 83-86


2021                Rachel B. Herrmann, No Useless Mouth: Waging War and Fighting Hunger in the American Revolution in Early

                        American Literature 56:3 (Spring, 2021), 976-979

2021                Jeffrey Ostler, Surviving Genocide: Native  Nations and the United States from the American

                        Revolution to Bleeding Kansas in Ethnohistory 68:1 (January, 2021), 159-160

2021                Jewel L. Spangler and Frank Towers, eds., Remaking North American Sovereignty: State Transformation in the          

                        1860s in Hispanic American Historical Review, 101:2 (May, 2021), 334-336

2020                Maurice Crandall, These People Have Always Been a Republic: Indigenous Electorates in the

                        U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 1598-1912 in Hispanic American Historical Review 100:4 (November, 2020), 691-692 


2019                Clifford E. Trafzer, Fighting Invisible Enemies: Health and Medical Transitions among

                        Southern California Indians in Pacific Historical Review 89:2 (May, 2020), 301-302

2019                “The Original Farm-to-Table: Native California Cuisine” California History (Winter, 2019)


2018                “California History at the College Level,” California History 95:4 (Winter, 2018)


2018                “The Historian’s Eye,” Southern California Quarterly 100:4 (Winter, 2018), 506-507

2018                Robert McNally, The Modoc War: A Story of Genocide at the Dawn of America’s Gilded

                        Age (Spring, California History)              

2017                 Geoff Cunfer and Bill Waiser, eds., Bison and People on the North American Great Plains: A Deep          

                         Environmental History (Journal of American History)

2017                 Andrae M. Marak and Laura Tuennerman, At the Border of Empires: The Tohono O'odham, Gender, and                                             Assimilation, 1880-1934 (Hispanic American Historical Review)

2016                 Shaylih Muehlmann, Contested Indigeneity in the Mexican Colorado Delta

                          (Hispanic American Historical Review)


2015                 “Monoculture,” in Ken Albala, ed., Food Issues: An Encyclopedia (SAGE Press)


2015                 Craig E. Colten and Geoffrey L. Buckley, eds. North American Odyssey: Historical

                          Geographies for the Twenty-First Century (Journal of Southern History)


2014                 "LA Foodscapes:  Before the 'Desert'" (Winter, California History)                              link


2014                 William E. Unrau, Indians, Alcohol, and the Roads to Taos and Santa Fe

                          (Fall, Pacific Historical Review)                                                                                   link

2012                 George Harwood Phillips, Vineyards and Vaqueros: Indian Labor and

                          the Economic Expansion of Southern California, 1771-1877

                          (Fall, Pacific Historical Review)                                                                                    link


2011                 “Early Modern Connections,” UCLA Clark Center Library                                             link


2007                 Doug Brugge and Timothy Benally, The Navajo People and Uranium Mining 

                          (Fall, Utah Historical Quarterly)    


2007                  Brian Cowan and Markman Ellis, ed., The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence

                           of the British Coffee House and Eighteenth-Century Coffee-House Culture 

                           review essay (December, Huntington Library Quarterly)                                              link




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