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Native American academic program marks 50th year

The Native American Studies program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque is marking a milestone this year.

The NAS department, one of the most established and longest running in the U.S., is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

UNM is marking the occasion Feb. 19 with a symposium and roundtable discussion about the future of the program and of Indigenous studies.

According to UNM, NAS began in the 1970s when Native Americans, African Americans, Chicanos, and women wanted more inclusive classes that reflected beyond the traditional Eurocentric male perspective of history. 

“Native American Studies started due to student demand and activism. Students demanded UNM be more inclusive of Native people’s histories, experiences and perspectives,” Tiffany S. Lee (Diné and Lakota), department chair and professor, said.

Lee said the program has its early roots in a Native American student group formed in 1952 called the “Kiva Club.”

Today, she said, the focus of the department is on leadership, community-building and a commitment to Indigenous academic scholarship and research.

From left to right (back row) are NAS program coordinator Delia Halona and associate professor Lloyd Lee. From left to right (front row) are senior student success specialist Catherine Montoya and department chair and professor Tiffany S. Lee. (Photo Courtesy UNM Newsroom.)

“Our students learn about the present-day issues that continuously affect our communities and are trained with skills to address them through research, writing, policy analysis and innovative collaborations,” Lee said.

The symposium is in honor of Viola Cordova (Jicarilla Apache), the first Native American woman to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy. She was also a UNM professor.

Cordova, who died in 2002, is the author of “How It Is: A Native American Creation Story and Who We Are.”

Read the full story by the UNM Newsroom here.

Closer to the Seminole Tribe, Florida International University in Miami is home to the “Global Indigenous Forum,” founded by Dennis Wiedman about seven years ago.

Wiedman is an anthropologist and associate professor in the department of global and sociocultural studies at FIU.

FIU’s “Global Indigenous Student Group” hosts events and collaborates with Seminole and Miccosukee Tribal members as part of its initiatives.

More about UNM’s program is available at For more on the FIU group, go to