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Paul Apodaca is an expert on Native Americans in the United States, with particular emphasis on the peoples of Southern California, as well as more generally on images of Native Americans in non-Native American popular culture.
Apodaca was born in Los Angeles and raised in Tustin, California. His father's family was from the eastern side of the Navajo Reservation, of the Ma'ii deeshgiishinii Clan (Jemez Clan), and his mother's family is Mixton. He received his M.A. in American Indian Studies and his Ph.D. in Folklore and Mythology from UCLA, where he received the award for Outstanding Graduate Student in 1996.  He currently lives in Orange, California, with his wife, Paula.
Apodaca currently serves as an associate professor of Anthropology and American Studies at Chapman University and as a visiting professor at UCLA. He has worked as a regional advisor to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian (representing the California-Nevada-Utah region), and as a selector for the NMAI Native American Film and Video Festival. He has also been a member of the Native California Network, and a board member for the California Council for the Humanities. He is a contributing editor to News from Native California, a past editor of the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, a teacher-consultant for the Pearson Scott Foresman textbook publishers, and serves on the editorial Board of the Malki Museum Press. An artist and performer in his own right, Apodaca sat in as a spoken word performer with The Dave Brubeck Quartet during the 2009 Brubeck Festival, a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Brubeck's legendary album, Time Out. Apodaca also appears in a special feature segment of the DVD release of the 2009 Nicolas Cage film, Knowing, discussing the cultural significance of apocalypse myths.
For 17 years, Apodaca was a curator at the Bowers Museum in Orange County, and he has worked with funding agencies like the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the California Arts Council, and the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. Apodaca has served as a consultant on Indian culture and imagery to Knott's Berry Farm and the Walt Disney Corporation, and served as a technical advisor on the 1989 television mini-series, Lonesome Dove. In 2008, Apodaca was appointed to a term as Lecturer in Residence of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, a part of Autry National Center, where he made presentations on "The Mayan End of the World?"; "“Unraveling the Mystery of Cogged Stones Used in Early California”; and "Imagery and Reality: The Role of American Indians in Film and Television." In 2008, he also served as keynote speaker at the University of California Native American Professional Development Conference.  He served as a creative consultant for the 2014 Disney film, Planes: Fire and Rescue, for which he helped develop the characters of "Windlifter," a heavy-lift helicopter who is portrayed as an American Indian and voiced by actor Wes Studi. Apodaca assisted with design elements on the Windlifter’s image, and in a script element in which Windlifter recounts an American Indian folktale of how Coyote was renewed by fire. 
Among his more significant contributions as an anthropologist, Apodaca recovered and restored once-lost recordings of traditional Agua Caliente tribal leader Joe Patencio, Alvino Siva, and others singing bird songs of Cahuilla oral literature. The collection is archived at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs. He is also responsible along with Henry Koerper of Cypress College and Jon Erikson of the University of California Irvine, for California state legislation that added an eight-thousand-year-old carving of a bear to the list of California state symbols as the official California State Prehistoric Artifact. 
Awards and recognition
Apodaca's awards include the 2007 Little Eagle Free Foundation Man of the Year (sponsored by the family of Walter Knott), the 1999 Mary Smith Lockwood National Medal for Education from the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Orange County Human Rights Award, and a Smithsonian Institution Museum Professional Award. He ded performed music for the Academy Award winning film, Broken Rainbow (1986), a documentary film that helped to stop the relocation of twelve thousand Navajos in northern Arizona. Apodaca also won a 1997 Native American Journalists Association award for his article, "California Tongues: Language Revival as Basis for Cultural Renaissance," published in the Native Americas Journal (Cornell University American Indian Program). In 2009, he was named a member of the Honorary Host Committee for the 40 Years of Ethnic Studies celebration at UCLA, along with other luminaries such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rafer Johnson, Cheech Marin, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Wikikmal: The Birdsong Tradition of the Cahuilla Indians. Los Angeles: American Indian Studies Center,UCLA (forthcoming).
“Founding a Tribal Museum: The Malki Museum” (with Katherine Siva Saubel), in American Indian Places: A Guide to American Indian Landmarks, edited by Francis Kennedy. New York: Houghton Mifflin (2008).
"Cactus Stones: Symbolism and Representation in Southern California and Seri Indigenous Folk Art and Artifacts," Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 23(2):215-228 (2001).
"Review of Kozak & Lopez, Devil Sickness and Devil Songs: Tohono O'odham Poetics," in American Ethnologist, 28(2): 496-497 (2001).
"Cahuilla bird songs" (with Luke Madrigal), California Chronicles, 2(2): 4-8 (November 1999).
"Powerful Images: Portrayals of Native America," American Anthropologist, 101(4): 818 (1998).
Tradition, Myth, and Performance of Cahuilla Bird Songs, Thesis (Ph. D.)--UCLA (1999).
"Testaments of Hope," Chronicle of Higher Education, (February 20, 1998)
"Archaeological, Ethnohistoric, and Historic Notes Regarding ORA-58 and other Sites Along the Lower Santa Ana River Drainage, Costa Mesa" (with Henry C. Koerper, David D. Earl, and Roger Mason). Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 32(1):1–36 (1996).
Images of Power: Masterworks of the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art (with Armand J. Labbe), Univ of Washington Press (1995).
"California Indian Shamanism and California Indian Nights," News from Native California 7(2): 24-26 (1994).
"Sharing Information: The Cahuilla Tribe and the Bowers Museum," News from Native California 5(2) (Feb/April 1991).
"Permanent Sandpainting as an Art Form" in Sharing a Heritage: American Indian Arts, Charlotte Heth, ed., UCLA AISC Press (1991).
Gabrielino/Tongva Culture (video) (with George Angelo), Native American Public Telecommunications, Inc./Vision Maker Video. (Lincoln, Neb.) (1991).
Broken Rainbow (film) (with Maria Florio, Victoria Mudd, Laura Nyro, Fredric Myrow, Rick Krizman) Earthworks/Direct Cinema Ltd. (Los Angeles, CA) (1987).
- Volume 32 No 2 A Publication of the Tustin Area Historical Society Apr/May 2007 Retrieved 2016-12-24.
- Apodaca bio at the "Navajo Internet" site, http://www.lapahie.com/Paul_Apodaca.cfm
- UCLA Graduate Quarterly profile of Paul Apodaca http://www.gdnet.ucla.edu/asis/library/gqwinter99.pdf
- Apodaca bio at Smithsoian NAFVF site, http://www.nativenetworks.si.edu/eng/blue/nafvf_97.htm
- Apodaca bio at the "Navajo Internet" site http://www.lapahie.com/Paul_Apodaca.cfm
- See  and 
- "The People's Path."
- "Honorary Host Committee for the 40th Year." Ethnic Studies at UCLA.