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  • Dancers at New Burke Museum Opening October 2019
    Dancers at New Burke Museum Opening October 2019

AIS Celebrates 50 Years at the University of Washington

The development of an American Indian Studies Center at the University of Washington began in the spring of 1970 following student protests calling for more diversity of UW’s curriculum, faculty, staff and students. A group of Native American students came together in a class to discuss the aims of such a program and the educational processes required to establish it. The American Indian Studies Center began in Autumn Quarter, 1970, with both Indian and non-Indian faculty involvement from departments that included Anthropology, Art, English, History, Sociology, and Political Science, as well as the Burke Museum.

That small center has now grown to an established Department, one of only a handful in the entire United States, with a major, two minors, a Graduate Certificate, and an affiliated research center. The Department of American Indian Studies has become the home for indigenous knowledge at the University of Washington and we work to contribute to the growing field of Indigenous Studies with our world-class faculty, students, and staff. Read the full story of our history and growth.

Celebrate With Us Sacred Breath Nov 2020 artist Tracy McClellan, Michelle Jacob, Fern Renville

In honor of our 50 year anniversary, we are planning events highlighting our graduates, founding faculty, and exciting current student and faculty work. Make sure to check our Events Calendar or Facebook page often to stay up to date on the celebrations. 

Our first celebration event will be Sacred Breath Indigenous Writing and Storytelling virtual event on November 23, 2020. Our theme for this special event is family connections and will feature 2 indigenous children's book authors and an amazing local storyteller. We hope you'll join us for the fun.


The American Indian Studies Department at the University of Washington advances and promotes knowledge integral to Native peoples through research, teaching, and community service. It is one of the largest and most comprehensive programs of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

The American Indian Studies Department offers a major in American Indian Studies, a minor in American Indian Studies, and a minor in Oceania & Pacific Islander Studies.

American Indian Studies approaches its teaching and research from a decolonized, community based, and global perspective. American Indian Studies faculty and students strive to develop innovative theories and methodologies that increase knowledge about Indigenous Peoples and support the needs of Indigenous communities. The department promotes faculty and student exchange programs with institutions that are committed to a deeper understanding of Indigenous communities and Peoples throughout the world.

Native Voices

Native Voices is the masters degree program in Native American Documentary, Film, and New Digital Media, with Professors Dan Hart and Luana Ross serving as co-directors. Native Voices has been working with Indigenous students and producers for more than fifteen years.

Documentaries produced by the students in our program have won awards and have been screened at Sundance, at the American Indian Film Festival—where Native Voices graduate Rosemary Gibbons won the first prize for documentary—at the Museum of Modern Art, at the National Museum of the American Indian, and at many other venues. Native Voices films are used at scores of American and International universities to teach Indigenous education.

Learn More about AIS at UW