Letter from the Chair - Spring 2023
Siyo nigada (hello all)!
Greetings from Seattle and our UW campus on this beautiful spring day on the traditional homelands and shared waters of Coast Salish peoples. My name is Dr. Chris Teuton and I am Professor and Chair of the Department of American Indian Studies (AIS), where I teach and research about Indigenous oral and written stories, traditions, and language. I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a member of Echota Ceremonial Grounds in Park Hill, Oklahoma.
As we close out 2022-23 I’d like to reflect with you on some of the exciting ways AIS has grown and developed this academic year. As many of you know, American Indian Studies at UW began in 1970 through student protests and attained department status in 2009. From its beginning, AIS has been instrumental in recruiting, enrolling, and retaining Native American students; creating courses in Native American history, literature, culture, politics, and languages; and attracting a diverse faculty to campus. Today, our department is an international leader in the field of American Indian and Indigenous Studies. As we say, AIS is the home of American Indian and Indigenous knowledges at UW. We carry on that tradition proudly. And, in turn, our graduates have become researchers, writers, artists, lawyers, professors, linguists, teachers, policy analysts, and tribal leaders, to name only a few paths an AIS degree may lead one toward.
This year our American Indian Studies faculty and adjunct faculty taught hundreds of students in a wide array of courses, including those on literature, governance, history, the environment, storytelling, Southern Lushootseed language, and Tribal Canoe Journeys. And with such exciting courses and excellent faculty it’s not surprising that our AIS majors and minors continue to grow. We’re grateful for our wonderful students, who bring such passion, curiosity, and dedication to their studies. This year, 11 students graduated with a B.A. in American Indian Studies while 8 graduated with a Graduate Certificate in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Congratulations to all our AIS graduates!
Outside of the classroom, AIS’s intellectual and cultural programming included impactful events such as “The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Indigenous Food and Ecological Knowledge Symposium,” which AIS’s Dr. Charlotte Coté directs each year. Our twice yearly “Sacred Breath: Indigenous Writing and Storytelling Series” also drew many of you together to celebrate the beauty and wisdom of Indigenous literatures.
We are thrilled as a department to have hired McKenna Dorman, a member of the Snoqualmie Tribe, in the newly created position of AIS Program Coordinator. McKenna has been an incredible addition to our AIS team and has been leading efforts in our application for grants from the Mellon Foundation as well as advising the campus’s new UW Canoe Family student group.
Finally, our department conducted two full-time, tenure-track faculty searches this year. We’re incredibly excited to announce that we hired Dr. Jen Rose Smith of the Eyak people from Cordova, Alaska as an Assistant Professor with expertise in geography, environmental studies, and literature. We also will be welcoming next fall Dr. Jessica Bissett Perea, a Dena’ina scholar from Alaska whose research expertise is in Native American music and sound studies. The hire of these two amazing scholars demonstrates the strength and standing of AIS not only at UW, but among our peer institutions, as one of the top departments of American Indian and Indigenous Studies education in the world. We can’t wait to have Dr. Smith and Dr. Perea join our AIS community.
We are proud of the Department of American Indian Studies and of the path of growth we’re on. All of these good things that are happening to AIS and to our campus community lead back to one group: our students. Our accomplishments could not have happened without you. Thank you for working with us, for teaching us, and for entrusting us with your education in American Indian Studies. We strive for excellence with your development in mind and we hope we will make you as proud as you have made us.
On behalf of our AIS community, thank you for a wonderful year of growth! We look forward to seeing you all again next fall.
Christopher B. Teuton (Cherokee Nation)
Professor and Chair
Department of American Indian Studies
Adjunct Professor Department of English
University of Washington
Want to Stay Up to Date with All the AIS News?
Sign up for our mailing list to have our biannual newsletter delivered straight to your inbox every Autumn and Spring.