When looking into college or university, especially when thinking about Majors and Minors, you will commonly be asked what you want to do with your degree. This is an important question we all have to ask ourselves. As you think about potential careers and commitments to family and community, AISP believes that you should simultaneously look inward (yourself) and outward (your community). Picking a Major and Minor is a difficult decision that many students make in consultation with family and community members.
In American Indian and Indigenous Studies (AIIS), we are concerned with who you’d like to be, what knowledge and skills you’d like to have, and with whom you’d like to collaborate. AIIS offers a space for students to think about Indigenous issues and the importance of Indigenous knowledge in the twenty-first century. It is also a space to work with Indigenous individuals, communities, organizations, and nations. Because AISP is an undergraduate Minor, we encourage all undergraduate students to consider minoring in American Indian Studies.
At the core of AIIS is the development of interdisciplinary knowledge focused on American Indian and Indigenous issues. As a program, American Indian and Indigenous Studies focuses on historical and contemporary issues and their effects on Indigenous peoples, with a primarily focus on American Indian peoples of the Great Lakes and across the Americas. We are an interdisciplinary field of study that explores a variety of established academic disciplines in the humanities and social sciences in order to produce new (and old) forms of knowledge, new (and old) ways of thinking, and creative approaches to teaching and conducting research – all of which are connected back to Indigenous knowledges (epistemologies) and ways of being in the world (ontologies).
At MSU, American Indian and Indigenous Studies is becoming a global leader in teaching, research, and community collaboration with and on Indigenous issues. We are centrally located in the center of Anishinaabewaki – the traditional lands of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi – and near the Canadian border. Because Indigenous peoples, cultures, and histories have always crossed geopolitical borders established by settler-colonial nation-states, AISP intentionally works across the US-Canada border, and engages with Indigenous issues in Latin America, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia, and many other locations that are collectively known as the Fourth World.
It is important to recognize that Michigan State University is located on lands traditionally and contemporarily occupied by Anishinaabeg peoples and is part of Treaty of Saginaw (1819) territory. In fact, University records indicate that when the first day classes were held at MSU in 1857, there was still an ‘Indian Encampment’ along the banks of the Red Cedar River – near what is now Wells Hall. It should be noted that MSU history and present must always take into account American Indian and Indigenous histories and presents.
As a program, we believe that an undergraduate Minor in AIIS – or Graduate Affiliation at this time – prepares students to work in a variety of capacities. Graduates can attain positions with tribes; Indigenous organizations; federal, state, and local governments; social service agencies; non-profit organizations; community organizations; museums; youth-serving organizations; schools; and research centers, among others. AIIS can also be used to supplement the Western knowledge gained in traditional academic disciplines.
We believe that every student at MSU, and across the US, should enroll in American Indian Studies courses to prepare them to understand the complexities of our shared settler-colonial history and ways to truly engage in conversations around Indigenous sovereignty, American Indian-settler reconciliation, equity, and diversity.
Recently, a growing number of Canadian universities have begun requiring Indigenous studies courses for all students, demonstrating a profound commitment to contemporary Indigenous communities and individuals, as well as to a critical understanding of the interconnectedness of American Indian and settler histories. In AISP, we support this important curricular move. With a Minor in American Indian Studies, students will be equipped to help create a more just and equitable world.