On Nov. 2 and 3, the UA's Department of American Indian Studies is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its master's degree program and the 20th anniversary of its doctoral program by hosting a series of activities titled "Past, Present, Future."
Events will celebrate the impact of the program's alumni who are leaders in tribal governance, education, the arts, community development and beyond. Through a series of panels and roundtable discussions, alumni will highlight their work in Indian Country and in the department's areas of concentration, including education, literature, law and policy, and natural resource management. The anniversary celebration also will look forward, bringing thought leaders together to explore the future of the department as both an academic discipline and as a resource for Native communities.
Kiera Ladner joined the University of Arizona Department of American Indian Studies this fall as a Fulbright fellow, bringing an international perspective to one of the oldest graduate programs in indigenous studies in North America.
Ladner, formerly the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Politics and Governance, is an associate professor in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba. She is driven by questions of colonialism and the coexistence of nations, and her research focuses on self-determination, treaty constitutionalism and indigenous political thought. She previously received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant to examine indigenous constitutional politics in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Ben Colombi, acting head of the Department of American Indian Studies, is excited to have Ladner join the department.
"Kiera brings a focus on indigenous politics and will be creating links across campus in this area," said Colombi, noting that Ladner will collaborate with colleagues in the Native Nations Institute and the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program in the James E. Rogers College of Law.
"She also incorporates both the local and global perspective," Colombi said. "She will help us connect the dots between four countries: the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand."
The groundbreaking history of the department, which offers a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D., makes it an exciting place for Ladner to visit. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the graduate program. The department offered the first master's degree in American Indian studies in the country in 1982 and the first Ph.D. in the U.S. in 1997.
Ladner is the second Fulbright scholar to be placed with the department since the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences signed a Memorandum of Understanding in fall 2015 with Michael Hawes, executive director of the Canadian Fulbright Foundation, to have a Canadian Indigenous Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellow join the department for five years. The UA's Fulbright program is run through the Office of Global Initiatives.
"To the best of my knowledge, the UA has the oldest graduate program in indigenous studies in North America," Ladner said. "As such, it is quite unique, as it has both a rich history with scholars such as Vine Deloria having taught here, and a great intellectual environment today with scholars and students from across the continent." (The late scholar Vine Deloria Jr. established the UA’s graduate program in American Indian studies.)
While at the UA, Ladner hopes to write about and present on two projects: a comparative examination of indigenous constitutional law and politics, along with digital archiving in marginalized communities. The latter project has missing and murdered indigenous women as a focus.
Ladner's interdisciplinary and international strengths complement Colombi's goals for the department. The department is transitioning its graduate degrees into graduate interdisciplinary programs, or GIDP. It recently added 30 affiliated faculty members to expand the breadth of the curriculum.
Building on the department's existing strengths in American Indian literature, education, and law and policy, Colombi plans to add new concentrations in sovereignty as well as the environment and natural resources. He also will continue to strengthen the department's emphases on tribal health and indigenous entrepreneurship.
"We plan to draw from all colleges on campus and make (the department) more inclusive and interdisciplinary," Colombi said. "We want to train our students in such a way that they are really experts."