Don Mitchell is an ecological anthropologist, writer, and photographer who lived among the Nagovisi people of Bougainville for several years in the 1960s and 1970s, and returned in 2001 after Bougainville’s war of secession.
Mitchell grew up in Hilo, on the island of Hawai’i. While a senior at Hilo High, he attended the University of Hawai'i, Hilo Campus, as an advanced admissions student. He studied anthropology and creative writing at Stanford and earned a PhD in anthropology from Harvard.
For many years he was a professor at Buffalo State in western New York, as well as a marathon and ultra-marathon runner and for 25 years operated a successful road race timing company (Runtime Services). In 2011 he was named to the inaugural class of the Western New York Running Hall of Fame. He lived in the city of Buffalo and later in the small town of Colden before returning to Hawai’i.
He published an academic book and articles about Nagovisi, but in the early 1990s returned to writing fiction and poetry. His stories of another culture have won praise from many quarters, including a Pushcart nomination and awards from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology (Poetry Prize 1983, Fiction Prize 1998, Fiction Prize (co-winner) 2008). One of his stories was runner-up in New Millennium Writings 2008 fiction contest. He has published in Green Mountains Review, El Portal, and other journals. In 2011 he co-authored an evolutionary psychology paper.
In 2013 he was named "Artist in Residence" by the city of Portales, NM.
He lives in Hilo, Hawai’i, with the poet Ruth Thompson.
With Katie Nuai, in Nagovisi, 1972
After 72K with 6000' elevation gain, Hawai'i, 2015. Each year Don walks his age in kilometres, from Hilo up over the Saddle Road.
With Simon Kenema, Colden NY 2009. Simon is the first Nagovisi Ph.D. (in Anthropology, degree awarded 2015, St Andrews University, Scotland).