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  About en francais!

Welcome! Bienvenue! Maeva!

Projects & Publications

Marquesan Phrasebook

Marquesan Now


Creative Writing

Landscape History Work

Marquesas Links







I am a writer, researcher, anthropologist, author, wife and mother of two daughters.  Here you can find information about my books, latest work and projects, useful links, and information about my home away from home, the Marquesas Islands (where "maeva" means welcome! More on that, below). Click here to learn more about me.

What's New / Te te'ao hou 

I was one of the main collaborative writers to write, research and copyedit the recently released national bestseller, Collective Illusions: Conformity, Complicity, and the Science of Why We Make Bad Decisions, with author Todd Rose (Hachette Go, 2022). Check it out!

My essay, "Branches," appeared in the spring, 2022 issue of Plant-Human Quarterly. It touches on miscarriage, spirits and the Marquesan forest, and it is accompanied by original artwork.

Fresh off the presses: my new article in American Ethnologist explains how Indigenous peoples' unique everyday practices and relationships to the environment form the basis for identity and resistance, and suggests how
conservation and sustainability projects could benefit from understanding this connection.

I was interviewed for this Atlas Obscura piece (April 4, 2022) about recent archaeological finds by Melinda Allen and what the Marquesas might have looked like before human habitation.

My new article on Marquesan war clubs, or u'u, for PBS' Antiques Road Show! The show recently featured a war club that was acquired by a whaleman in the 19th century and later became a family heirloom. But this story is only the tip of the reef, when it comes to understanding the power of u'u. Read more here.

Check out my book!

Published by the University of Washington Press (2019).  Order your own copy or download the Kindle version on Amazon.

Working with the Ancestors Cover

Praise for
Working with the Ancestors:

    - "In the tradition of the best anthropological books, Working with the Ancestors transports the reader to a foreign land and allows them to learn from local people themselves. It is a journey worth taking." Gary Jackson and Claire Smith, Flinders University

    - "Both timely and necessary." Guillaume Molle, Australian National University

    - "This well-written and powerful book blends together theoretical foundations, ethnographic examples, and Donaldson's own extensive anthropological fieldwork, presented as a series of vignettes and case studies." David Fazzino, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

    - "A fascinating book...Addresses questions that are core to current sustainability debates: Is it possible to separate Indigenous cultural and environmental values? How has depopulation, colonialism and religion impacted island communities? Are capitalist approaches to cultural heritage management sustainable if they diminish the very values that give significance to heritage places?" Gary Jackson and Claire Smith, Flinders University

Marquesan Now 

Marquesan Now is a blog that shares Marquesan words, news and photos inspired by my phrasebook (see below). Live vicariously.  Learn Marquesan.  Visit Marquesan Now!   

Marquesan Phrasebook

The Marquesan language has been skirting extinction for over a century.  The Marquesan Phrasebook promotes the distinct Marquesan language and cultural identity of today.  It contains a Marquesan dictionary that translates Marquesan directly into English for the first time since the early 19th century.  It is also the first book to translate between Marquesan, English, and French.  The Marquesan Phrasebook is a valuable resource for scholars, tourists, and local Marquesans alike.  

Click on the Marquesan Phrasebook link at left to find out more!

Archaeology in the Marquesas

The AFAR Summer Field School in the Marquesas operates bi-annually from June to August.  Students learn about the archaeology of the islands, how to speak an endangered language, and engage with a community museum.  The field school is partially sponsored by the Andover Foundation for Archaeological Research and directed by University of Hawaii professor Barry Rolett.  A unique opportunity you don't want to miss!  Visit www.afargo.org for details and to apply.   

About the Marquesas Islands

The Marquesas, known to Marquesans as Fenua Enata or Fenua Enana, are a remote group of 12 volcanic islands located just below the equator, in French Polynesia.  The most isolated archipelago in the world, only a few are accessible by domestic flights from Tahiti.  A favorite haunt of a number of famous artists over the last two centuries, this is a place entirely unique in culture, geography and spirit.  Towering peaks and steep, rocky cliffs plunge directly into a tossing, turquoise sea punctuated by white caps that gleam in the sun.  The tropical air breathes relaxation, even as its salty currents carry giant frigate birds and bright white doves lazily across the sky above.  

Is your curiosity piqued?  Click here to indulge in Marquesas information, photographs, and more!