American Indian Studies began as an interdisciplinary academic program within American Studies in 1998. At that point, UNC offered few courses on American Indians. The Research Laboratories in Archaeology, founded in 1939, conducted research, and anthropology faculty taught the occasional course, as did a succession of history adjunct and visiting faculty, but no coherent program existed.
Several years of lobbying by American Indian students prompted American Studies Chair Townsend Ludington, History Department Chair Richard Soloway, and Acting Provost Richard Richardson to take action. They brought to UNC Professor Michael D. Green in American Studies and Professor Theda Perdue in History and charged them with creating a program. Joined by Danny Bell as program assistant, they began teaching a wide range of courses, coordinating their efforts with existing faculty, pressing for additional hires, and designing a curriculum.
In 2003 UNC began offering an interdisciplinary minor in American Indian Studies, and in 2008 American Indian Studies became a major concentration within American Studies. In summer 2009 Professor Tol Foster initiated the Cherokee Study Abroad program, and that fall, in cooperation with Western Carolina University, UNC began beaming in three semesters of Cherokee language.
Students in American Indian Studies also participate in RLA’s field schools, secure internships at the Interior Department, engage with the American Indian Center’s Elder in Residence program, and enjoy a host of activities sponsored by the Carolina Indian Circle and other groups on campus.
The result is an academic program that is innovative and integrates academic and experiential learning.