B.A. in AIS

American Indian Studies (AIS) is committed to developing native-centered scholarship about the indigenous peoples of North America through education on the contemporary and historic ways of life, knowledge, and experience of:

  • American Indian
  • Alaska Native
  • Native Hawaiian
  • First Nation communities, individuals, and nations 

An AIS undergraduate major provides students with a holistic and analytical study of critical issues Native North America has faced in the past and present as they strive to remain culturally autonomous peoples. 

Emphasis is given to Native peoples' political and legal relationships to external governments and the general American and Canadian populations as well as to other native groups.

The major plan of study focuses on fundamental AIS topics based on the department's interdisciplinary strengths.

Degree Requirements


The study of history, politics, laws, comparative political systems, the effects of imperialism and colonialism, and core issues of native self-determination and self-governance from a political and legal perspective.

There is an emphasis on the national context within which tribal and First Nations operate--and their interrelationships with other governmental structures, especially states and provinces. 

Attention is also given to the ways in which Native Nations and recognized communities ensure the health and welfare of their peoples.

Cultural Diversity

In the 2010 US census, approximately 2% of the population identified themselves US Native Americans. AIS collaboratively studies how these people as members of distinct societies, who speak different languages and have different ways of life that have been threatened through past attempts at forced assimilation. 

AIS aims to understand the dynamic processes of cultural adaptation, preservation and innovation both within and among cultures to understand them as enduring peoples with distinctive and complicated self-identities. This is accomplished in terms of cultural awareness, self-awareness and with respect for self and others.

Native Voices

The study of Native oral traditions, literatures, languages and arts found in both historic and contemporary contexts. This includes the study of creative expressions from humanistic and Indigenous-culturally specific perspectives.

Indigenous Knowledge

Understanding all aspects of knowledge developed by Native societies including science, technology, environmental understandings, respect for the land, philosophical principles, systems of education and epistemologies, ethnics, ways of interpreting the world, and the sense of self and community. 

This includes knowledge and sacred histories to the degrees deemed appropriate for expression in transcultural situations.

Natural Resources and Economic Development

As a land grant university, the University of Arizona is concerned about the economic and community development of American Indian reservations and has developed special expertise in issues involving the land, economics and public policy, including Nation building at the Udall Center.