• CSUN History Department

Natale A. Zappia

Natale A. Zappia, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, History | Director, Institute for Sustainability
Office location:
Sierra Tower 630



University of California, Santa Cruz
Ph.D., History

University of California, Santa Cruz
M.A., History

Claremont Graduate University
M.A., History

Cornell University
B.S., Human Development/Family Studies

Selected Publications


Rez Metal: Indigenous Soundscapes and History with Ashkan Soltani (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming, Spring 2020)

Traders and Raiders: The Indigenous World of the Colorado Basin, 1540-1859 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014; paperback edition 2016)

The Many Faces of Edward Sherriff Curtis: A Collection of Portraits and Stories from Native North America (with Steadman Upham, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006)

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

“Frontiers of Grain: Indigenous Maize, Afroreurasian Wheat, and the Origins of Industrial Food,” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal17:2 (Spring, 2019), 215-255

“Experimenting with New Crops at the Peri-Urban Fringe” (with Cinzia Fissore), Current Investigations in Agriculture and Current Research 6:4 (Spring, 2019)

2017 “Indigenous Food Sovereignty: An Introduction,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 41:3 (Winter, 2017), 1-8; Guest editor for special issue

“Revolutions in the Grass: Energy and Food Systems in Continental North America,” Environmental History 21:1 (January, 2016), 30-53; Winner of the 2017 Wayne D. Rasmussen Award for the best article of the year on agricultural history not published in Agricultural History

Book Chapters

“Agro-Ethnic Landscapes of Los Angeles” in Jenny Bah and Melissa King, eds., The Anthropology of Los Angeles: City, Image, and Politics (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017), 195-215

“Captivity and Economic Landscapes in Native California” in James Brooks and Bonnie Martin, eds., Linking the Histories of Slavery: North America and its Borderlands (Santa Fe, NM: School of Advanced Research Press, 2015)

Selected Publications and Submissions under Review


Under contract Indigenous Archives in History: Keepers, Tellers, and Translation co-edited with Lisbeth Haas (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press)

Book Chapters

“Food Systems in the Early American Great Plains,” in Kathleen Brosnan and Brian Frehner, eds., Environmental History of the Great Plains (Norman, OK: Oklahoma University Press)

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)

“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, 2020)

Selected Projects in Development


Food Frontiers: Native Commodities, Landscapes, and Power in Early America


“The Quechan Uprising of 1781: Rethinking Indigenous Resistance in Early North America” (with Benjamin Madley)

Research and Interests

Natale Zappia is associate professor of history and Director of the Institute for Sustainability at California State University, Northridge. His work explores the intersection of food systems, Indigenous political economies, and ecological transformations across early North America. His recent book, Traders and Raiders: The Indigenous World of the Colorado Basin (UNC Press, 2014; paperback 2016), tells the early history the Lower Colorado River, a watershed that looms large over the modern urban landscapes of Los Angeles.

Zappia is now at work several new projects including "Food Frontiers: Native Space and Power in Early North America" which explores the Indigenous longue durée of America's food history. His recent essay "Revolutions in the Grass: Politics and Food Systems in Continental NorthAmerica," appeared in the journal Environmental History and won the 2017 Wayne D. Rasmussen Award for best article on agricultural history. Other forthcoming books include Rez Metal (co-authored with Ashkan Soltani; University of Nebraska Press, 2020) and Indigenous Archives and Indigenous Knowledge in History: Keepers,Tellers, and Translation(edited with Lisbeth Haas; under contract with University of Nebraska Press). Zappia is also the Associate Project Director of the Early California Cultural Atlas, a digital atlas mapping Indigenous migration across California between 1769-1848.

Before his academic career at CSUN and Whittier College, Zappia served as the Executive Director of the Garden School Foundation, an environmental non-profit based in South Los Angeles focusing on ecological literacy. He participates in several related public history and community-based outreach projects in LA, including the 2015-16 Project 51, a yearlong public humanities initiative connecting communities throughout Los Angeles to the region's 51-mile concrete river.