Don Mitchell is an ecological anthropologist, writer, book designer, and photographer. He grew up in Hilo, on the island of Hawai‘i, and graduated from Hilo High School. He studied anthropology, evolutionary biology, and creative writing at Stanford and earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard.
He lived among the Nagovisi people of Bougainville for several years in the 1960s and 1970s, and returned briefly in 2001.
For many years he was a professor of anthropology at Buffalo State.
In his non-academic life, he was a dedicated marathon and ultra-marathon runner and a professional road race timer (operating for 25 years as Runtime Services). He continues to tackle long distances on foot, though much more slowly.
He lived in Buffalo and later in Colden, New York, with the poet Ruth Thompson. In 2013 they returned to his childhood home in Hilo. In mid-2020 they left Hilo for Ithaca, New York.
He published an academic book and articles about Nagovisi, but in the early 1990s returned to writing fiction and poetry. His stories have won praise from many quarters, including a Pushcart nomination and awards from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, New Millennium Writings and other journals.
His photographs have won competitions and have hung in several Hawai‘i galleries. He designs books for several small publishers.
He has been an Artist in Residence for the City of Portales, New Mexico, and in 2019 shared (with Ruth Thompson) the Jack Williamson Visiting Professor of English Chair at Eastern New Mexico University.
In Hawai‘i, he was actively involved in matters concerning Mauna Kea, Hawai‘i’s tallest and most contested mountain.