Michigan State University
Michigan State University
American Indian and Indigenous Studies
Native American Institute
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The mission of the Native American Institute is to work with tribes, American Indian organizations and various Michigan State University units to enhance the sovereignty, cultural continuity and wellbeing of tribes, Indian communities and Indian people.

The Native American Institute strives to build close and responsive relationships with tribal and urban Indian communities and the various resources (people, programs, organizations and the knowledge therein) across Michigan State University to provide the best services possible to tribes, Indian organizations, Indian people, policy makers and the general public.

In that spirit NAI will: 

  • Provide training, technical assistance, research, and educational assistance to Native American Tribes and organizations in Michigan.
  • Serve Michigan officials and lawmakers by offering periodic information on policy alternatives regarding Indian issues.
  • Promote and enhance the public’s knowledge and awareness of Michigan Indian communities, initiatives, history, and culture.

Further, the NAI takes a community-driven and participatory approach to our work that often includes: 

  • Tribal and community determined program priorities
  • Tribal and community oversight of projects
  • Co-development of curricular and other resources with tribal and community partners
  • Tribal and community control over co-authored grants
  • Reliance on tribal expertise and employment of tribal citizens

We use this approach to develop partnerships and programming teams that can collaboratively address critical issues identified by Indian communities. Some of our best work occurs when we serve as nexus connecting tribes/tribal organizations with MSU faculty and MSU students. In such instances, there is great potential for collaborative learning and problem solving.

The Native American Institute (NAI) was authorized by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees in October 1981. The Native American Institute was established as a component of the Center of Urban Department in the Urban Affairs Program. Through the work and vision of its founding director, George Cornell, the Institute was established to help North American Indian organizations and tribal governments plan and prepare to meet the present and future needs of their constituents. The Institute has collaborated with tribes and American Indians on behalf of Michigan State University for close to three decades. Through this time period, Michigan tribes achieved significant advances in their community and economic development. The Native American Institute has attempts to provide assistance and add value to these community development efforts wherever possible.

On July 1st, 2003, the Native American Institute changed administrative homes and became one unit in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). Through our transition into CANR, we strengthened our partnership with MSU Extension and now jointly administer certain programs focused on tribal topics. We also strengthened our commitment to working on natural resource and agricultural topics such as ecosystem management, environmental protection, sustainable community and economic development, traditional/ cultural preservation and tribal food systems. Although we strengthened our commitment to these issues that align strongly with the focus of CANR, we continue to prioritize working on other critical topics, particularly those tied to the wellness of American Indian families. See our list of current projects for further details.



446 W. Circle Dr. Room 412

East Lansing, MI 48824

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(517) 353-6632