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American Indian Studies

c/o Jan Johnson 
Coordinator AIS
Clinical Assistant Professor 
English - University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1102
Moscow, ID 83844-1102

PHONE: (208) 885-7743 
EMAIL:  janjohn@uidaho.edu

Native American motif with text "American Indian Studies"


American Indian Studies Program: A Brief History at the University of Idaho

An Ad Hoc Committee was formed in January of 1999 by Dean Kurt Olsson (College of Letters and Sciences), with members including Rodney Frey (chair), Bill Swagerty, Walter Hesford, Debbie Storrs, Donna Walker (Dir. Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs), Ken Sherwood and Matt Reader (Native American Student Association), with tribal direction from Dianne Allen (Dir. Dept. Ed. Coeur d’Alene Tribe) and Simone Wilson (Ed. Liaison for Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee).

The Program Mission and Objectives and curriculum for the Minor were established in spring of 1999. Critical to these program objectives and evolving curriculum is collaboration with tribal members of the area reservation communities. Such collaboration resulted in a team-taught capstone course, AIST 401 Contemporary American Indian Issues, in which tribal elders, program directors, experts in cultural resources, natural resources and legal issues help teach the seminar, as well as application of an Indian pedagogy into the instruction of the curriculum, in which the classroom is extended to the reservation communities and, under the guidance of tribal experts, students participate in activities and listen to talks ranging from fisheries management, root gathering and use, legal issues, health care issues, gaming and economic development, language and cultural resources preservation, and tribal sovereignty.

Tribal Approvals for the Program came in August of 1999:
  • Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council Resolution #329 (99), signed by Ernest Stensgar, Chairman, and Richard Mullen, Secretary (August 12, 1999)
  • Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Resolution # 99-408, signed by Samuel Penney, Chairman, and Julia Davis, Secretary (August 24, 1999)

Departmental, College, University and State Approvals:

  • Faculty membership, Departmental Approvals: English, History, Teacher Education, and Sociology, Anthropology and Justice Studies (July, August and September 1999
  • College Approvals: Letters and Science Curriculum Committee and Dean Olsson, key also for establishing budgetary line (September 7, 1999)
  • University Curriculum Committee (September 13, 1999), Faculty Council and General Faculty, and Provost Pitcher (October 1999) 
  • State Board Approval Idaho State Board of Education (September 7, 1999, signed by G. G. Fitch, Executive Director) occurred in Fall 1999


  • The Native American Advisory Board Review: presented, discussed and feedback on October 30, 1999, May 18, 2000, and November 4, 2000.
  • University of Idaho entered into a Memorandum of Understanding of Inter-Tribal Collaboration with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Kalispel Tribe, Kootenai Tribe, Nez Perce Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Fort Hall Reservation of Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Duck Valley Reservation of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, begun Fall semester 2001.
  • The annual Distinguished American Indian Speaker's Series was initiated, Fall semester 2000. Support for the annual Tutxinmepu Powwow, sponsored by the Native American Student Association, began Fall semester 2001.
  • Affiliate Faculty-Tribal Teacher positions were initiated with the Coeur d'Alene and Nez Perce Tribes, Spring semester 2002. In the spirit of collaboration and with an imperative to further validate and enhance the rich diversity of Indian perspectives and knowledge within the university’s curriculum and campus climate, the AIST Program has established a series of "Affiliate Faculty - Tribal Teacher" positions with the Coeur d’Alene and Nez Perce Tribes. While the Tribal Teachers retain regular University of Idaho affiliate faculty status, these faculty members were selected by their respective tribes based upon criteria each tribe deemed relevant and appropriate. The Affiliate Faculty- Tribal Teachers will assist in curriculum review and development, student advising, research consulting, and course instruction. We welcomed D'Lisa Penney Pinkham (of the Nez Perce Tribe) and Felix Aripa (of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe) as our first Affiliate Faculty - Tribal Teachers. 
  • AIST began offering Introduction and Intermediate Nez Perce Language in collaboration with Lewis-Clark State College and the Nez Perce Tribe, Fall semester 2002.
  • In 2006, AIST entered into partnership to include link with Washington State University to offer three-way simulcast for students on the Pullman campus.
  • The annual Sapatq’ayn Cinema (American Indian Film Festival) was initiated Spring semester 2003.
  • AIST initiated Associate Faculty positions, Fall semester 2005. We have acknowledged the important role of non-faculty members of the university community who are critical in the lives of the students. We have welcomed them as part of the AIST faculty, under the designation of "Associate," with all the rights and responsibilities of the tenure-track faculty in our program. Yolanda Bisbee and Sarah Penney were welcomed as the first Associate members. 
  • AIST established Curriculum Teaching and Learning Outcomes Spring semester 2007, and added the MA in Interdisciplinary Studies Spring semester 2007.
  • The University of Idaho created the full-time positions of Tribal Liaison (working out of the Provost's Office) and hired Arthur Taylor, and the Director of the Native American Student Center and hired Steve Martin, Fall semester 2007.
  • The University of Idaho entered into a Memorandum of Understanding of Inter-Institutional Collaboration with Lewis-Clark State College, North Idaho College, Northwest Indian College, and Washington State University, partnering in academic programming, outreach to Indian communities, and student services, Spring semester (March 24) 2008.