UCLA AMERICAN INDIAN STUDIES
The UCLA American Indian Studies program seeks to provide a multi-disciplinary, academic approach to studying contemporary issues and problems in American Indian Society. The program has been designed for the maximum benefit to research scholars, potential teaching candidates, and those individuals who wish to pursue employment in governmental, tribal, or social service agencies that require additional academic training beyond the Bachelor's degree.
The program strives to merge the concerns of the academic community with the priorities of research determined by the Indian community; and therefore, advocates a holistic framework for studying American Indian society, that will transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries of research. Through the lens of this framework, evaluation of existing methodologies utilized by the academic community are examined for their utility in understanding American Indian problems, and inter-disciplinary approaches can be explored.
In addressing 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 to the Indian community, 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; and serve as a catalyst for the expansion of textual materials, faculty development, and publication relevant to contemporary Indian people.
The initial beginnings of the American Indian Studies program date to 1969, when students and community members asked UCLA to create a curriculum and research center concentrating on Native American history and culture. Many Native students at UCLA and community members believed that UCLA was not conducting research or disseminating accurate information about Native American issues, history, and culture.
In 1970, Chancellor Young secured a five-year Ford Foundation Grant for support of the American Indian Studies Center and the three other ethnic studies centers, Asian American, African-American and Chicano. The Ford grant supported research, grant writing, a library, publications, and curriculum development. In the early 1970s, the student affairs position was secured from the university and was designed to focus on student retention and recruitment.
In 1975-76, UCLA agreed to assume financial support for the four ethnic studies centers. Also in 1975, and in association with the new UCLA commitments to the four ethnic studies centers, the Institute of American Cultures was created to distribute research grants and fellowships in ethnic studies.
The Center, in 1975, was endowed with five faculty and is 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, the faculty created an undergraduate Minor in American Indian Studies, and the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree program in American Indian Studies was established in 2002.