Lineages of Abel’s family migrated from Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico to the San Francisco Bay Area, the traditional territory of the Ohlone peoples.
Abel’s dissertation examines place-based belonging and movements to protect sacred sites by diverse Ohlone tribes of the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, even as they are without federal recognition and their territories are sites of major urban centers, migration, and gentrification. Drawing on ethnographic research and insights from religious studies, anthropology, geography, and Indigenous feminisms, Abel’s research engages the meaning of land as a site of ceremony, belonging, political activism, and futurity. These lands embody what Charles Long (1999) describes as “orientation in the ultimate sense,” sites of profound existential meaning.
Abel’s dissertation argues that to varying degrees, these lands are also sites of spiritual presences, transnational relationships, and contested narratives where Ohlone peoples participate in what Mishuana Goeman (2013) describes as “(re)mapping” of traditional and contemporary land relations. Such analysis seeks to support contemporary political movements to protect sacred sites in Ohlone territories such as the burial site at the West Berkeley Shellmound led by the Confederated Villages of Lisjan Ohlone and work of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to defend a ceremonial site called Juristac. In the wake of Standing Rock and Mauna Kea, Abel’s dissertation also situates Ohlone sacred sites protection efforts in the context of global indigenous movements defending land, water, and culture.
Abel earned a BA in philosophy and religion from San Francisco State University and an MA in religious studies from the University of Missouri.