Darnella Davis was born on Creek allotment land in the same house where her mother was born. Following the Second World War, many families moved north to find work and the Davis family was among them, finally settling in Detroit. Darnella graduated from Cass Technical High School, earning a scholarship to study at Parson's School of Design in New York. Her travels and education continued as she lived for three years in Dakar, Senegal and four years in Rabat, Morocco. She has been an exhibiting artist, a teacher, and for nearly 15 years has been engaged in research and evaluation, studying issues of access and equity in education and youth development.
Dr. Davis is a graduate of the School of Art at the University of Michigan. She holds a MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, and her doctorate in education policy is from George Washington University. For her dissertation, she studied federal Indian Education policy implementation, surveying teachers and administrators on the importance of culturally relevant curriculum and native language instruction in supporting educational opportunities for American Indians in public, charter, and BIA schools.
She now lives is Washington D.C., where she uncovered a trove of information at
the National Archives that launched her on a study of her family's history.
The family's claims to land were the subject of her two-woman exhibit, Native
Color, that took place in conjunction with the opening of the National Museum
of the American Indian. Land also is the topic of her paper "The Thornton
Legacy, Shifting Identity and the Quest for Land in Indian Territory."