Everything you wanted to know about American Indian Studies, but were afraid to ask: Assessing Indian Studies as an academic discipline

Spintz Stiles Harrison
American Indian Studies, University of Arizona
August, 2006


One impact of the Civil Rights Era was the development of American Indian Studies as an academic discipline. Native American college students were tired of the mundane courses regarding Indians and protested by demanding courses relevant to them as Indian people. As a result, the discipline was literally developed overnight with no structure regarding the discipline.

Nearly forty years later, what has American Indian Studies accomplished? The purpose of this research was to explore pertinent issues regarding the discipline and to offer potential reasons why the discipline has yet to develop a working hypothesis, definition, and research methodology.

Research methods were gathered via email survey and face-to-face interviews. Participants for the email survey were identified through individual AIS department web pages. Two-hundred and forty AIS Professors were sent a short five question survey with instructions requesting a reply within five weeks.

The interview criterion was based upon their contributions to the literature regarding the discipline, role of AIS Departmental Chairperson, and role as Professor of American Indian Studies.

The results from the research revealed information that both agrees and differs from the four hypotheses. The significant factor concerning the research was the low number of email survey replies. In addition, nearly one-third of the respondents wrote of their inability to provide answers suitable for the research design.

After the deadline of the email survey, respondents informed me of their reluctance to reply citing they generally do not reply to email surveys, did not have the time to reply, they could not provide sufficient answers, and they lack of interest in replying.

This data provided newfound information concerning the discipline and the instructors teaching AIS courses. In direct contrast to the data, some spiring information was found from the instruments. 11 Additional AIS venues for publication were identified as was a reason explaining why AIS does not have a paradigm. This research was designed to assist in the dialogue between AIS professors and AIS departments/programs and to point out the need for maintaining collaborations for the further develop of American Indian Studies.