Mission and History

Mission

The UCLA American Indian Studies Interdepartmental program (IDP) offers an undergraduate major, minor and a graduate level two-year Master’s degree. The IDP seeks to provide a multi-disciplinary, academic approach to studying contemporary issues and problems in Indian Country, both urban and rural. The program is designed to benefit, though not limited to, research scholars, teaching candidates and those individuals interested in employment in governmental, tribal, or social service, law and policy-related fields.

The program strives to merge the concerns of the academy with research aims of the Native community. The IDP advocates a holistic framework for studying American Indian society, transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries. Our extensive faculty, affiliated faculty and lecturers represent a range of disciplinary fields from the humanities and social sciences. Through disciplines such as Law, Women’s Studies, History, Public Health, Anthropology and Sociology the IDP offers a multi-faceted approach of examining intersections of gender, race, identity and nationhood.

To address the severe lack of trained professionals dealing with American Indian issues, the program seeks to respond to the needs of the Indian community. To achieve one of its primary goals of service the program provides a formal context for scholars in American Indian research that serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas and the opportunity to share individual perspectives, philosophies and ideologies. This serves as a catalyst for the expansion of textual materials, faculty development, and publication relevant to contemporary Indian people. 

History

The beginnings of the American Indian Studies program date to 1969, when students and community members petitioned UCLA to create a curriculum and research center concentrating on Native American history and culture. Many Native students at UCLA and community members felt that the University could do more in regards to conducting relevant research and disseminating accurate information about Native American issues, history and culture. UCLA rose to the challenge.

In 1970, then Chancellor Young secured a five-year Ford Foundation grant for support of the American Indian Studies Center and the three other Ethnic Studies centers on campus the Asian American, African-American and Chicano Studies Centers. The Ford grant supported research, grant writing, a library, publications, and curriculum development. In the early 1970s, the budding program secured a Student Affairs position that was designed to focus on Native student retention and recruitment—an element that still exists to this day.

In 1975, in association with UCLA’s commitment to the four Ethnic Studies Centers, the University created the Institute of American Cultures (IAC) to fund and distribute research grants and fellowships for Ethnic Studies driven scholarship. The IAC is still a vital source of funding for Ethnic Studies related research on the UCLA campus. Few Universities, much less in the academic caliber of UCLA offer such grants and scholarships.

During 1975-76, UCLA agreed to financially support the four Ethnic Studies Centers—some of the first in the Nation. It was during this pivotal time in 1975, that UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center was endowed with five Faculty members. The Center was charged with faculty recruitment and development of Native scholars and scholars working in Native Studies.

In 1982, the Center faculty created the program’s Master’s Degree in American Indian Studies and developed a series of core courses. In 1995 they created UCLA’s Undergraduate Minor in American Indian Studies. Nearly ten years later, in 2002 the Bachelor of Arts Degree program in American Indian Studies was established.

Over the decades, UCLA has made a commitment to American Indian Studies and Native scholars. Our program is rooted in student movements of the 60s that pushed for academic institutions to do more. To this day, early programs like the IAC, Native recruitment and retention, the American Indian Studies Center, its Library and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal still thrive and continue to offer a strong foundation for Native scholarship.

UCLA hosts one of the Nation’s oldest programs of American Indian Studies. It is the highest ranked University with an American Indian Studies M.A. program and offers students the ability to excel in an interdisciplinary fashion.

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