• 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: Inside the Navajo Heavy Metal Scene
(with Ashkan Soltani, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press)

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

“A Closer Look at CSR Practices in Sustainable Fashion: A Guideline for Apparel Brands," with Elline Deogracias and Tracie Tung, CSU Journal of Sustainability and Climate Change 1:1 (March, 2022), 25-34

“Towards a Rigorous Understanding of Societal Responses to Climate Change,” with Dagomar Degroot, et. al., Nature (March, 2021), 539-550

“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

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

“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

“California Indian Historiography:  From the Nadir to the Present,” California History 91:1(Spring, 2014), 28-34

“Indigenous Borderlands:  Livestock and Power in the Native Far West,” Pacific Historical Review 81:2 (May, 2012), 193-220

Book Chapters


“Deep Time and Ecologies before the American Revolution,” in Marjoleine Kars, Michael A. McDonnell, and Andrew M. Schocket, eds., The Cambridge History of the American Revolution (Cambridge University Press)

“Early California Cultural Project: Visualizing Uncertainties within Indigenous History,” (w/Steven Hackel and Jeannette Zernecke), in Janet Hess, ed., Digital Mapping and Indigenous America (Routledge Press, 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)

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)


“Agro-Ethnic Landscapes of Los Angeles” in Jenny Bah and Melissa King, eds., The Anthropology of Los Angeles: City, Image, andPolitics (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)


Rez Metal (writer)

Selected Projects in Development


The Future Histories of Farming, with Ashkan Soltani, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press)

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

Book Chapters

“Mojave, 1450-1500 CE.,” in Dagomar Degroot and J. R. McNeill, eds., Handbook of Societal Resilience to Past Climate Change (Oxford University Press)


“The Future Histories of Farming”

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 North America," appeared in the journal Environmental History and won the 2017 Wayne D. Rasmussen Award for best article on agricultural history. Other works include Rez Metal (film and co-authored book with Ashkan Soltani) and The Future Histories of Farming. Zappia is also the Associate Project Director of the Early California Cultural Atlas, a digital atlas mapping Indigenous migration across California between 1769-1848, and co-creator of Open Gaarden, an urban gardening policy and agricultural history app.

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, and the Los Angeles Landscape History Mapping project.