Is American Indian Studies for Real? Duane Champagne (bio) American Indian studies programs that take Indigenous perspectives as central to their scholarly and community work are like Indian tribes seeking to maintain cultural and political autonomy. Both are moving in directions not entirely understood or accepted by mainstream institutions. American Indian studies and tribal communities are engaged in establishing rules and understandings with American society, but run the risk of marginalization, because tribal cultures and views on self-government are outside more common American understandings of civil rights, assimilation, minority and ethnic group actions, and inclusion. American Indian tribes and Indigenous studies programs do not meet common expectations, and are therefore engaged in negotiation to establish common ground. Not unlike Indigenous communities negotiating cultural and political relations with nation states, Indigenous studies, as a scholarly and tribal-community-oriented enterprise, must define its disciplinary field, establish its cultural and methodological terms, and establish empirical subject matter of its own. Although Indigenous studies can draw on the intellectual theories of contemporary scholarly work and traditions, most of that work is done within Western epistemologies and is designed to contribute human understanding, but to a large extent from a Western point of view. An Indigenous studies program also contributes to greater human understanding, the goal of scholarship universally, but uses perspectives and engages in issues that yield knowledge, which will contribute to the goals and values of political and cultural autonomy of Indigenous peoples. We are all working toward common ground, but we are coming from different directions. Like Indigenous communities [End Page 77] struggling to define themselves and their goals within relatively unsympathetic nation states, Indigenous studies is also mismatched with the goals and values, even organization, of most colleges and universities. It is the central task of Indigenous studies, not unlike Indigenous communities, to establish a scholarly discipline and perspective with common ground of understanding and validation within the scholarly community and university system. Multidisciplinary Indigenous Studies The number of American Indian studies departments in the United States is very small, only a handful. American Indian studies generally consists of multidisciplinary programs or courses taught by faculty from a variety of disciplines, but which analyze or engage American Indians or Indigenous peoples at some level.1 In particular, historians, anthropologists, folklorists, academic lawyers, and religion experts have pursued study of American Indians and more generally Indigenous peoples around the world.2 More recently, academic and professional fields such as environmental studies, education, and many others study Indigenous issues from a variety of perspectives. Most academics of Indigenous descent do not study or gain doctoral degrees in the field of American Indian studies. Until recent decades it was difficult to obtain a doctoral degree in this field. On occasion a few people obtained multidisciplinary independent doctoral degrees, but the production of doctoral students in American Indian studies or more generally Indigenous studies worldwide is small. There are now some institutions dedicated to doctoral programs in this field, such as the University of Arizona; University of California, Davis; and the University of Trent. Other programs, such as at the University of California, Berkeley, offer doctoral degrees in ethnic studies, but a student can specialize in American Indian studies. Most faculty engaged in Indigenous studies at one level or another are usually trained in a non-American Indian studies discipline, and usually are hired by or have their primary departmental affiliation outside of American Indian studies. The multidisciplinary character of the current state of the study of Indigenous peoples and the budgets of universities and colleges tend toward the creation of multidisciplinary Indigenous studies programs. Many Indian studies programs focus on student retention and recruitment, and in several institutions a few willing faculty usually teach courses with American Indian content. The predominance of multidisciplinary programs for Indigenous studies at colleges and universities is a cost-effective way to include Indigenous peoples in the curriculum and satisfy the need for courses that address a diversity of cultures and minority groups. Generally, American Indian studies programs are seen [End Page 78] as diversity projects, often created by student and community protests during the heady days of the late 1960s and the 1970s. Nevertheless, along with...

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