The core objectives of the American Indian Studies Center (AISC) are to:
- facilitate and disseminate research about indigenous peoples;
- strengthen graduate and undergraduate education;
- seek extramural funds to support student and faculty research; and
- carry out university and public service programs related to the Center’s mission.
To accomplish these aims, the AISC maintains a reference library; publishes books as well as the American Indian Culture and Research Journal; organizes symposia, conferences, film screenings, and other events; supports academic programs in American Indian Studies and administers postdoctoral and predoctoral fellowships and research awards through the Institute of American Cultures.
The Center serves as a focal point for scholars, staff, students, and community members. Our research focus is broad and encompasses topics ranging from the contemporary urban Indian experience to issues unique to reservation communities. We seek to balance a local, national, and international focus, with special attention given to California Indian nations. Foundational to our mission is a commitment to facilitating indigenous peoples’ distinct social, cultural, economical, political, and legal needs by virtue of their status as native nations.
The American Indian Studies Center is an Organized Research Unit (ORU), and as such, its mission is to promote research, education, and community service within an academic framework. The Center is headed by a director who is a tenured member of the UCLA faculty. It is one of the four ethnic studies centers that constitutes the Institute of American Cultures (IAC). In 1975, the Institute of American Cultures was created to distribute research grants and fellowships in ethnic studies. All four ethnic studies centers participate, and each year, by means of competitive review processes, each center awards postdoctoral fellowships, predoctoral fellowships, or series of research grants to faculty, student, and postdoctoral fellow applicants. During the past 25 years, the fellowships and grants have been major sources of research support in the Center.
The Center’s goals are accomplished by assisting campus departments with recruiting American Indian faculty and supporting research by faculty and students. The Center acts as a focal point for faculty, pre- and postdoctoral fellows, and students who work within the field of indigenous studies. IAC grants, external grants, committees, and teaching bring faculty and students to the Center from a variety of departments.
The Center dates to 1969, when students, faculty, and community members pressed UCLA to create a curriculum and research center concentrating on Native American history and culture. In 1970, Chancellor Young secured a five-year Ford Foundation grant for support of the 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 the fiscal year 1975–76, UCLA agreed to assume financial support for the four ethnic studies centers, including the American Indian Studies Center.
At present, the Center is divided into four operational units. Administration integrates, supports, and monitors basic operations in all units. Publications disseminates research findings through the production of a quarterly academic journal, books, monographs, videotapes, and other media. The library serves as a resource for students and scholars by maintaining a collection of books and periodicals on American Indian subject matter and helping support research projects and grant development. The research department administers internal and external grants, and carries on and stimulates collaborative research projects. The American Indian Studies Center is dedicated to culturally appropriate research, information distribution, and community service for and about American Indians.
In 1975, the Center was endowed with five faculty FTEs (full-time equivalents) and is charged with faculty recruitment and development of scholars working in American Indian Studies. In 1982, the Center faculty created the Interdepartmental Program’s (IDP) master’s degree in American Indian Studies and developed a series of core courses. Since that time, the Center has provided administrative and resource support to the IDP, including a student lounge and computer work area. Students study and often work in the Center, where the IDP’s academic coordinator is also offiiced. Faculty, holding Center FTE, are appointed in academic departments. In the mid-1990s, the Center and IDP faculty created a minor, B.A., and J.D./M.A. in American Indian Studies, which was approved in 2002.