Institute of American Indian Studies

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Our Future

Independent of the Department of Native Studies and the Native American Student Services programs, the Institute will continue to work closely with the Department of Native Studes and the Student Services and will participate in planning and promoting campus events and activities relating to American Indian issues at The U and in the region, sharing plans and progress and seeking and offering advice and assistance to their efforts.

The Institute shall serve as the central point for Indian affairs in the University structure, convening an annual meeting of all disciplines, courses, programs and services relating to American Indian affairs, and shall advise and assist them in their relations with the tribes and their respect for Native American culture and protocols.

  • Develop a Northern Plains American Indian academic research center at The University of South Dakota (USD) that serves the University community and the regional tribal communities, on par at least with the University of Oklahoma, the University of New Mexico, the University of Arizona and UCLA.
  • Unify the American Indian presence and resources at USD.
  • Establish a sense of permanence and stability in the Institute by raising an endowment to provide and support:
    • funds for the administration and ongoing development of the Institute;
    • research, focusing on innovative undergraduate and graduate projects relating to Northern Plains Indian Tribes and tribal communities; and
    • publishing research projects, literary works, works of art and treatises on various issues of importance to Indian tribes and peoples.
Goals & Objectives
  • Promote undergraduate and graduate research in cooperation with the DAIS
  • Research: assist in developing, coordinating, and funding interdisciplinary research projects
  • Publish periodic newsletters and Annual Report
  • Administer special awards - Ullyot Scholarships and annual Essay Competition
  • Maintain on-going relations with Tribes and Tribal Colleges
  • Provide briefings and advice on Tribal culture and relations to USD projects or services dealing with Tribes and Tribal institutions
  • Assist in fundraising for Indian programs and activities
  • Plan special events - conferences, lectures, symposia
  • Coordinate American Indian-related campus activities
  • Recruit Native American students – in coordination with Student Services and Office of Diversity
  • Assist in development of American Indian Language Institute at USD 

Our History

Established in 1955 through the concerted efforts of Dr. William O. Farber and Dr. Wesley Hurt, director of the W. H. Over Museum, the Institute of American Indian Studies was part of a nation-wide effort to preserve Indian heritage and promote higher educational opportunities for Indian students. During its first decade of existence, the Institute sponsored programs and conferences centered around economic, legal, and political issues facing the Lakota and Dakota people during the period of federal termination.

In 1965, Major General Lloyd Moses became the Institute’s director. During his seven-year tenure, the Institute received a large grant from the Doris Duke Foundation, which enabled the Institute to significantly increase the interviews conducted by and archived in the Oral History Center. General Moses also aided in the publication of two important works of Indian history scholarship. In 1970, the late Dr. Joseph Cash and Dr. Herbert Hoover published "The Indian Americans", and a year later, edited the work "To Be An Indian", which became a type of manual for conducting oral history interviews with American Indians.

During the late '60s and early '70s, Indian student enrollment increased, bringing about other organizations and clubs on campus centered on Indian affairs. Among these were the Wapaha Club (precursor of Tiospaye), the Tribal Law Study Club, Indian Community action Project (ICAP) and Upward Bound. These organizations were placed under the only established University institution at that time, and the only institute devoted to American Indian issues, the Institute of American Indian Studies. Soon thereafter, these student organizations became independent of the Institute. Lakota language courses were added to the University’s curriculum toward the end of General Moses’ directorship.

Webster Two Hawk (Cetan Nunpa) succeeded General Moses as the director of the Institute of American Indian Studies in 1974. During his three-year tenure, the Institute sponsored conferences on Indian education, self-determination, tribal government, and tribal colleges, and the Institute assisted in the implementation of the Native Studies minor. Three additional works also were published. The first, an ethno-historical work entitled "Three Affiliated Tribes" written by Dr. Cash and Dr. Gerald Wolff of the History department, examined the cultural relationships of the Arikaras, Hidatsas and Mandans tribes in the twentieth century. The second work, "An Indian Philosophy on Education", edited by John Bryde, was the first collection of essays by Indian professionals describing how Indian children should be educated. Dr. John Milton of the English department also published a small anthology of poems by four Indian poets entitled "Four Indian Poets".

In 1974, the South Dakota Legislature formally recognized the Institute of American Indian Studies at the University of South Dakota, declaring: 

  "The Legislature hereby recognizes the center for Indian studies which is a division of the University of South Dakota and is under the control of the Board of Regents. The purposes of the center for Indian studies are to provide persons of Indian descent with educational opportunities both on and off the campus of the University of South Dakota and to provide to all persons the opportunity to research and study the history, culture, and language of the Indians of North America and South Dakota." 

During Cato Valandra’s directorship, from 1977 until his death in 1987, the Institute emphasized tribal cultural values, as illustrated in the themes of the Institute-sponsored conferences and publications: "The Tiospaye", "Oral Tradition", "Indian Roots", "Ceremonies", "The Cannupa Wakan and Pipestone", "Lakota Women", "Little Spirits" (Nagi), "Indian Names and Imprints", and "New Beginnings". The Institute also published Emogene Paulson’s "Sioux Collections", which examined changes in Sioux leadership during the twentieth century, and "The Lakota Children’s Dictionary", compiled by Dr. Robert Bunge of the Modern Languages department. The year 1987 also marked the first University Indian Awareness Week.

Dr. Joseph Cash served as the Institute’s director for the next four years until his death, at which time Dr. Leonard Bruguier assumed the position. During this period, the Institute published articles on Sioux music, Sioux legacy, cultural kinship and Rites and Pipes, and Dr. Herbert Hoover published his work "The Yankton Sioux". The Institute acquired its own library, which was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Joseph Cash. During Dr. Bruguier’s directorship in the 1990s, the Institute conducted and archived numerous interviews of tribal people, advanced the Native Studies major, and continued its promotion of Indian higher education and focus on contemporary Native American  issues. Another Institute milestone was opening up relations with tribal colleges and the first ever joint meeting between USD and the tribal colleges in 2004.

In 2005, the University established a separate Department of Native Studies, chaired by Dr. Mark Daniels who, in his joint role as Director of the Institute, and aided by Chuck Trimble, hosted a national conference dedicated to the remarkable 50 years of the Institute’s work. Chuck Trimble became the acting director of the Institute in 2007 and renewed discussions about curricular needs of and opportunities for further collaboration with tribal colleges in the region. During this short span of time, the Institute published an oral history manual and video for distribution to all the regional tribes and tribal colleges and "The Native American Veterans Oral History Manual" (2005). The comprehensive assessment of the Oral History Center’s two primary missions, the American Indian Research Project and South Dakota Oral History Project, was published in the "Collections Assessment & Initiative Report" (2005).

These efforts culminated in a spring 2008 Forum on “Indian Studies and Indian Campus Life in the Northern Plains,” jointly sponsored by the Institute and the Department of Native Studies, featuring Sam Deloria, Executive Director of the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Patrice Kunesh, associate professor at The University of South Dakota School of Law, was appointed the Director in January 2008. That spring she presented her vision for the Institute to the University community in "The Road Map for the Future of the Institute of American Indian Studies," a plan to restore the Institute to its original mission within the University dedicated to research and study of American Indian history and culture, strengthening relationships with tribal governments and colleges, promotion of scholarly publications, and support of Indian educational opportunities.

Events & Programs

We annually host a Cash Lecture event and essay competition. Also, please see our News Reports.