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American Indian Studies

Minor and Certificate Programs

Welcome to American Indian Studies at Washington State University!

We offer options for undergraduate students and non-degree-seeking professionals to gain valuable knowledge and abilities in Native American studies, including history, culture, politics, and contemporary issues. Both the minor degree and the certificate in American Indian Studies (AIS) are important assets in a variety of rewarding professions that involve direct and indirect interaction with tribal communities, individuals, and business enterprises.

Course requirements for the minor and certificate are the same: nine credits from core course listings plus nine credits of elective coursework, for a total of 18 credits (six classes). A minor is awarded to degree-seeing students enrolled at WSU; students not enrolled in a WSU degree program can earn the certificate on its own.

Reflecting a variety of specializations, the program includes comparative ethnic studies classes and courses from the departments of anthropology, history, music, and art.

As spelled out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between WSU and 10 Columbia Plateau tribes, by offering the minor degree and the certificate in AIS, the University “promotes Native American studies and educational programs throughout the University . . . serving the needs of Native American students, other students, and the Signatory Tribes.” WSU is committed to creating a regionally relevant AIS program. In addition to classroom studies, opportunities are provided to AIS students to work in local indigenous communities for up to three credit hours, participating in a collaborative, tribally directed arrangement, in a program that honors both the intent of the MOU and the University’s land-grant responsibilities to surrounding Columbia Plateau tribes.


For more information about the American Indian Studies Program at WSU, please contact Alma Rocha, advisor, at 509-335-3781 or

Learn more about opportunities and programs for Native students at WSU through the Plateau Center for Native American Programs.

“Native American tribal governments, as well as individuals who are American Indians, are customers and important stakeholders involved in all aspects of Avista’s daily operations. Our company values employees with diverse backgrounds and experience, such as those who have completed an AIS (American Indian Studies) program. Avista is enriched by the diversity of our employees.”

Toni Pessemier
American Indian Relations Advisor
Avista Corporation, Spokane, Wash.

Courses for minor and certificate

AIS Core

CES 171 Introduction to Indigenous Studies 3 credits  Introduction to Indigenous studies; introductory course to contemporary indigenous cultures and politics.

HIST 308 North American Indian History Precontact to Present 3 credits  Traces American Indians from precontact to the present against the backdrop of sovereignty, treaty rights, and trust responsibility. Cooperative: Open to UI degree-seeking students.

ANTH 320 Native Peoples of North America 3 credits A holistic exploration of various indigenous peoples and cultures of North America, through the lens of anthropology. (Crosslisted course offered as ANTH 320, AIS 320).

History 410 History of American Indian Sovereignty and Federal Indian Law 3 credits  The history of sovereignty and Federal Indian Law against the backdrop of treaties and trust responsibility. (Crosslisted course offered as HISTORY 410, ANTH 410, POL S 410).


CES 372 Indigenous Women in Traditional and Contemporary Societies 3 credits Course Prerequisite: ANTH 101, 214, CES 101, or 171. Exploration of roles and activities of women in indigenous societies; how traditional gender roles have developed and changed.

*AIST 401 Contemporary American Indian Issues 3 credits Key cultural, economic, educational, legal, resource, and sovereignty issues facing Indian communities today. *Cooperative course taught by UI, open to WSU students

ANTH 327/AIS 327 Contemporary Native Peoples of the Americas 3 credits Contemporary cultures of Native American communities emphasizing North America. (Crosslisted course offered as ANTH 327, AIS 327). Typically offered Spring.

ANTH 331 Archaeology of the Americas 3 credits Cultures and environments of the Americas from the arrival of the earliest hunter-gatherers to the development of complex civilizations. (Crosslisted course offered as ANTH 331, AIS 331.) Typically offered Fall, Spring, and Summer.

ANTH 334 Time and Culture in the Northwest  3 credits The archaeologically reconstructed environmental and cultural past of the Northwest including contemporary scientific and social approaches and issues. Recommended preparation: ANTH 101. (Crosslisted course offered as ANTH 334, AIS 334.) Typically offered Spring.

ANTH 535 Cultural Resource Management 3 credits  Role of archaeology in historic preservation and resource conservation; legal and institutional frameworks; research and interpretation in a CRM context. Typically offered Fall. Cooperative: Open to UI degree-seeking students.

CES 373 Native American Literature 3 credits Native American literature, by and about the original inhabitants, image and counter-image, with emphasis on the 20th century. (Crosslisted course offered as CES 373, ENGLISH 341).

CES 379 Indigenous Film 3 credits Critical examination of films and videos featuring and by indigenous peoples; traces the history of the indigenous peoples as subjects of films and as filmmakers.

CES 470 Indigenous Politics 3 credits Course Prerequisite: Junior standing. An overview of the struggles of indigenous people; issues include rights, recognition, identity, natural resources, intellectual property, and repatriation globally.

CES 475 Indians of the Northwest 3 credits Course Prerequisite: ANTH 320, CES 171, 375, 377, or HIST 308; junior standing. History and ethnography of Native Americans of the Coast and Plateau; historic relationship with Europeans and Euro-Americans, and other Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Chicanas/os.

CES 499 Directed Independent Study 

ART 301 Arts of Native North America 3 credits Diversity of visual forms, traditional and contemporary, within changing historical and cultural contexts.

MUS 265/CES 271 Native Music of North America 3 credits Music and ceremonialism as a reflection of North American, Native cultures, past and present.

Inter-institutional course collaboration

In May of 2008, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Lewis-Clark State College, North Idaho College, Northwest Indian College, the University of Idaho, and Washington State University to foster collaboration in work related to American Indians. The MOU called for the establishment of a Collaborations Committee comprised of representatives from the five participating colleges and universities. The Committee’s mission is to “strengthen the instruction and scholarship about, and services to Native Americans offered by each institution.” Toward this end, course collaborations are being developed by which students can take courses at any participating institution and receive credit at their home college or university. Washington State University and the University of Idaho will be the first to collaborate in this way, offering courses beginning in fall of 2011 and Spring 2012. Please contact the Plateau Center for AIS regarding Inter-Institutional Course collaboration for the course information to register.

Special Topics: Indigenous Methodologies

Special Topics: American Indian Studies