Created in 1969, Native American Studies at UC Davis began as a program, originally housed within the Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences, in the College of Agriculture and Encrionmental Sciences. The original faculty members were Jack D. Forbes (Powhatan-Renape-Lenap), David Risling (Yurok-Karuk-Hoopa), Carl N. Gorman (Navajo), and Sarah Hutchison (Cherokee). In Fall 1973, George Longfish (Seneca/Tuscarora) joined the faculty. Also in 1973, the C. N. Gorman Museum was established in honor of Carl Nelson Gorman, artist, WWII code talker, cultural historian, and advocate for Native peoples. Professor Longfish was named the Director of the Gorman Museum in 1973. By 1975, the NAS major had been established (the NAS minor went into effect in the 1980s).
In 1989, Native American Studies into the College of Letters and Science, as an interdepartmental program. That same year, Inés Hernández-Ávila (Nez Perce/Tejana) joined the faculty. Additional faculty were hired in 1991: Steve Crum (Western Shoshone) and Stefano Varese. In 1991, Martha Macri (Cherokee) began teaching in Native American Studies. The Department welcomed Victor Montejo (Jakaltek Maya) in 1995, as a new addition to its faculty. Zoila Mendoza joined the department in 1999. Artist Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (Seminole/Muskogee/Diné) joined the faculty in 2003. More recent hires include Beth Rose Middleton (2010), Liza Grandia (2012), Justin Spence (2013), and Jessica Bissett Perea (Dena’ina) (2013).
Native American Studies received departmental status in 1993. The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Native American Studies was also established that same year. The DE in Native American Studies is affiliated with the graduate programs in Anthropology, Comparative Literature, History, Performance Studies, Psychology, Sociology, and Spanish. In Spring 1993, Native American Studies offered its first graduate seminar.
The Graduate Program in Native American Studies was approved in 1998, making UC Davis only the second university in the nation to offer a Ph.D. in Native American Studies. In Fall 1999, the Department welcomed its first group of students enrolled in the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs in Native American Studies.
Since its inception, Native American Studies at UC Davis had offered a hemispheric approach to the study of indigenous peoples of the Americas. In the early 1970s, the founders of the program foresaw the need to address the transnational dimensions of Native American Studies. Their reasoning was multiple. Different forms of indigenous ethnicities have survived five centuries of colonial efforts to eradicate them by assimilation. Economic, social, political, and cultural conditions of domination have changed through time and space, as have the adaptive mechanisms of survival and resistance implemented by indigenous people. Native peoples today are a dynamic manifestation of a long historical process in which pre-Colombian and colonial matrices are equally recognizable as foundations of adaptive social and cultural strategies. We continue to witness a process of constant readjustment and cultural creation which allows each indigenous society to reproduce itself and to continue to exist as a social entity differentiated from the surrounding non-Indian community.
These new forms of Indian ethnicities with their complex demographic dynamics, socioeconomic structures, ethnopolitical processes, and with their intellectual expressions, artistic creativity, and unique cultural configurations, constitute the main subject matter of the multidisciplinary study program of Native American Studies at UC Davis.
Important Dates in the History of Native American Studies at UCD
Created in 1969, Native American Studies began as an undergraduate program, originally housed within the Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. The original faculty members were Jack D. Forbes, David Risling, Jr., Carl Nelson Gorman, and Sarah Hutchison. George Longfish joined the faculty in 1973. From its inception, Native American Studies has offered a hemispheric perspective to the study of Native and indigenous peoples.
Native American Studies founded the C. N. Gorman Museum in honor of retired faculty member, Carl Nelson Gorman, Navajo artist, WWII code-talker, cultural historian, and advocate for Native peoples. As a founding faculty member, Gorman was the first faculty member to teach Native American art at UC Davis in 1969. George Longfish served as Director of the Gorman Museum from 1973 to 1996, and 2000 to 2003. Theresa Harlan was Director from 1996 to 2000. Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie assumed the Directorship of the Gorman in 2004.
The first proposal for a graduate program in Native American Studies was submitted to Graduate Council in the Academic Senate. NAS was advised to create a Designated Emphasis (DE) in Native American Studies as a way to transition into a full graduate program.
Graduate Council approved the DE in Native American Studies. The departments of Anthropology, Spanish, Comparative Literature, History, Psychology, and Sociology formally agreed that their graduate students could declare a DE in Native American Studies. NAS offered its first graduate seminar in Native American Studies in Spring 1993. In Fall 1993, Native American Studies received departmental status.
The Organized Research Program was renamed the Indigenous Research Center of the Americas (IRCA). Professor Stefano Varese directed IRCA until his retirement in 2010. In academic year 2012-2013, Professor Liza Grandia assumed directorship of IRCA.
The Native American Language Center was established by Professor Martha Macri. The Language Center serves as research site and information network for the study of indigenous languages. Professor Macri served as the Director until her retirement in 2013. Professor Justin Spence assumes directorship in academic year 2013-2014.
NAS revised and resubmitted the Graduate Program Proposal to Graduate Council.
The Graduate Program in Native American Studies was approved at both the UC Davis campus level and at the UC system-wide level.
The first cohort of graduate students arrived in Fall 1999.