Nyssa Komorowski

PhD Candidate (she/her)


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Indigenous art
  • Haudenosaunee epistemologies and history
  • Indigenous clothing and self-fashioning
  • Ethnographic collections and categorizations in museums
  • 19th c. ‘Indian’ stereotypes in media
  • Settler geographies
  • Environmental consciousness
  • Literary performance and book history
  • E. Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake

Working Dissertation


On the Land Imaginary of a Layered Cosmos: Land Relations, Wampum, and Haudenosaunee Performance on Turtle Island and British North America


Elizabeth Legge


The ‘land imaginary’ is the collective vision of land remade as an image, summoned in poetic or tactile expressions, and/or performed in time and space. Individuals and their social groups in Northeastern North America have long related to land, media, and each other through this land imaginary. I am interested in both Haudenosaunee and settler ways of forming relationships with land through art, and in the exchanges of images, materials, and culture made between these two groups over time since the late-eighteenth century in the process of forming or maintaining land relations. How are these relationships facilitated by creative means? How have ever-changing relationships between Haudenosaunee nations and the imperial powers that have occupied North America been mediated by the land imaginary? I will explore these queries while looking at a variety of different media from Turtle Island / British North America, a place that exists in layers comprised of distinct peoples and cultures, with points of contact and exchange throughout. Philosophical groundwork I use to explore the land imaginary of this layered place stems from Indigenous methodologies and philosophical thought, combined with environmental humanities approaches and a specialization in book history and print culture. I orient crafted ‘belongings’,  printed texts, and both theatrical and diplomatic performances as strategies by which settler and Haudenosaunee artists, writers, orators, and travellers have articulated creative relationships to places and re-presented those places to audiences.


Nyssa Komorowski (member of Oneida Nation of the Thames) is a SSHRC-funded PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto in Art History and Book History and Print Culture. Her doctoral dissertation research investigates women working at the intersections of images, performances and texts, with a focus on colonial/Indigenous land relations in the Northeastern Woodlands of North America. Currently, she is researching wampum, and the fraught relationships between museums that hold wampum and the Indigenous communities where the wampum originated. Her MA projects focussed on how images of the stereotypical ‘Indian’ were used by settler-colonials in the nineteenth century to create a ‘land imaginary’ relating to the westward sweeping movement of the frontier, and on Indigenous land relations, ancestral relationships with the earth, and animacy of the land. She completed her MA specialization in Book History and Print Culture by curating an exhibition for the Robertson Davies Library located in Massey College, titled Native Nature: Longfellow's Wild America, which critiqued notions of wilderness and the perception of the Native American Indian as 'wild'. She is also a visual artist who makes illustrations that draw from her personal experiences, the traditions of her Onyotaʼa:ka culture, and her Polish and British heritage. Her BFA was completed at OCAD University, and she completed a certificate program specializing in dark room photography processes at Haliburton School of the Arts, and an advanced degree in art at Fanshawe College. Today she seeks ways to incorporate creative praxis into her academic projects, to make opportunities for visually-engaged and tactile learning.

Selected Publications

  • Book chapter: “Haudenosaunee Creation as Ecocritical Method in Shelley Niro’s La Pieta Series” in Ecocritical Methods in Art History. Manchester University Press. Forthcoming.
  • Conference review: “New Directions in Indigenous Book History.” Early American Literature. 2024.
  • Article: “‘Understand Your Historical Value’: It’s Time to Remap Art at University College.” University College Alumni Magazine. 2023.
  • Book review: “Sky on Watson, ‘Making Muskoka: Tourism, Rural Identity, and Sustainability, 1870-1920.’” H-Environment. 2023.
  • Exhibition review: “Kent Monkman at The Royal Ontario Museum: How the celebrated artist appropriates Western styles of portraiture for new perspectives on Indigenous identity.” smART Magazine. 2023.

Honours, Awards & Grants

  • 2022-25 — Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • 2020-21 — Canada Graduate Scholarship – Masters, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • 2015 — Program Medal, Cross-Disciplinary Art: Publications, OCAD University

Professional Affiliations

  • American Society for Environmental History
  • Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
  • Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English


BFA, OCAD University
MA, University of Toronto


“Ukwehuwe Stories: A Philosophy and History of Being in the World.” Indigenous Learning Forum, American Philosophical Society. Co-presenting with Dr. Jennifer Komorowski. Virtual Presentation. 2024.
Guest Lecture: “Northeastern Woodlands Ecology and Ecological History” Philosophy, Culture, and Values, Prof. Jennifer Komorowski. Toronto Metropolitan University. 2024.
“Stroud and Brooch: The Visual Representation of 18th-Century Kanien’kehà:ka in the Outlander Series.” Panel: Representations of Indigenous Communities. Outlander Conference. University of Glasgow, Scotland. 2023.
“Qaniujaaqpait / Inuktitut Syllabics: Researching Syllabic Type at the Massey College Bibliography Room.” NiCHE Visual Cultures of the Circumpolar North. American Society for Environmental History Environmental History Week. Virtual Roundtable. 2023.
"Killing the Black Snake: Discerning the Hand of Haudenosaunee Scholarship in the Archive.” New Directions in Indigenous Book History. Virtual Symposium, Bibliographical Society of America & Andrew W. Mellon SoFCB. 2023.

Administrative Service

Acquisitions Committee, Art Museum at University of Toronto, 2023-present
Advisory Board Member, Art Museum at University of Toronto, 2022-present
Events Committee Member, Book History and Print Culture Collaborative Specialization, University of Toronto