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Native American and Indigenous Studies strives to develop interdisciplinary teaching and research and increase understanding of the historical experiences, cultural traditions and innovations, and political status of Indian peoples in the United States and Canada.
The NAIS faculty consists of scholar-teachers with a broad range of expertise from diverse backgrounds, including Native faculty members from the United States and Canada. The Native American and Indigenous Studies Program attracts a varied body of students who bring their own perspectives to the classroom setting. Our students build upon their individual experiences and understandings in a shared learning environment.
Dartmouth College offers both a major and minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies. The initial course offerings begun in 1972 were organized around the study of Native American ethnology, literature, and history. We have since expanded the agenda with new courses, reflecting the important commitment Dartmouth places on excellence in education and staying current with recent developments in the various fields of Native American scholarship.
At present, faculty hold dual appointments in History, Environmental Studies, Government, and English. We augment our regular offerings with additional NAIS courses cross-listed with other departments.
The NAIS Department brings outstanding guests, scholars, mentors, community activists, tribal elders/leaders, and artists to the Dartmouth campus.
The department hosts symposia of interest to researchers and scholars around the Country. Past conference themes have included "Native Americans and Christianity," "Survival and Revival in Native New England," "New and Future Directions in Native American Studies," "Traditional Knowledge in the 21st Century," "German and Indian Encounters Across Three Centuries," and "Native American Archaeologist Relations in the Twenty-First Century." The department also hosted a visit by the Navajo Supreme Court DA which held oral arguments in a pending case on the Dartmouth College.
Since 1970, Dartmouth has graduated over 1,100 American Indian students. NAD alumni hail from many different nations and a variety of areas of professional life. Many of them remain in close contact with their alma mater, making the trip to the Hanover Plain each spring for the annual Dartmouth College Pow Wow.
NAIS courses are also popular with non-Native students, some of whom choose Native American and Indigenous Studies as their major or minor.
Dartmouth's commitment to Native American Studies began with the founding of the College. Mohegan preacher Samson Occom raised funds for the College in Britain. The grant for the College, given in 1769 by King George III of England, highlighted Native American education as the purpose of the institution: "...for the education and instruction of Youth of the Indian Tribes in the Land in reading, writing & all parts of Learning which shall appear necessary and expedient..." Unfortunately no more than 71 Indians attended in the years 1770-1865, and in the century between 1865 and 1965, only 28 Indians enrolled at Dartmouth.
Dartmouth's commitment to Native American education was re-affirmed on March 2, 1970 by Dartmouth's 13th President, John G. Kemeny, during his inauguration. President Kemeny promised to enroll a "significantly greater" number of Indians than at any time since the College's founding. This commitment has since been reaffirmed by every College president. The first Chair of the Program was Michael Dorris. The Native American Studies program began in 1972 with two course offerings. It now offers more than 20 courses each academic year, and supports a major and minor in the Program.
In 2021, the Program changed its name and its status to become the Department of Native American and Indigenous Studies, encompassing Native and Indigenous people from Central and South America, Oceania, and other regions.