University of New Mexico – Institute for American Indian Research

The American Indian faculty members of the College of Arts and Sciences proposed to create the Institute for American Indian Research (IfAIR) within the College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 2004. In its history, the University of New Mexico has had a long and complicated relationship with American Indian nations and people, one in which the University has frequently acted as a colonizer—as a place in which American Indians have served as “objects” of study rather than as students, faculty members, or administrators. In recent years, the University has made many efforts to change this relationship, and UNM now boasts an increasingly high number of American Indian students and faculty when compared with other similar institutions. However, American Indians are still all too often seen as objects of research rather than as researchers, and the University’s relationship with Native Nations and communities in New Mexico is tenuous at best. The creation of IfAIR by American Indian faculty represents a significant effort to change this reality. Specifically, IfAIR seeks to encourage and establish cooperative and collaborative relationships that serve the interests of Native peoples.

The Institute will serve as a forum for the discussion of issues critical to the continuance of Native peoples by individuals both in and outside of the university community, thus providing a significant link to our area’s Native Nations and communities. As many Native scholars have noted, tribal people have spent so much time “surviving” that little time is left for “philosophizing,” that is, for creating the Native intellectual base needed for strong tribal leadership and strong, self-determining Native communities. Consequently, the Institute will offer a place, people, and resources to help fill this need. Furthermore, because Native peoples, as contributors to and part our state and the United States, have something distinctive to share, we believe that the research institute will provide both Native and non-Native peoples with an important place to come together to discuss issues that affect us all.

The University of New Mexico is an ideal place for such an Institute because of its proximity to Native American Nations and communities, its historical and changing relationship with Native Americans, its high number of Native students, its excellent academic departments in Arts and Sciences, and its many institutional resources, which include the nation’s first Native American Studies Program, a Native American Student Support Services, and an Institute for American Indian Research, as well as numerous other Native initiatives. The Institute is a significant step toward making the University of New Mexico a true “home” for American Indians as students, as faculty, as administrators, and as intellectuals. Significantly, the Institute will be inclusive—a place or home for all people, Native and non-Native, who support tribal sovereignty and self-determination to come together.


The mission of the Institute for American Indian Research is as follows:

  • To facilitate research that contributes to the decolonization, sovereignty, and self-determination of Indigenous peoples by providing initiatives that support such research endeavors and by providing a forum for interdisciplinary conversation between and among Native and non-Native faculty and students committed to such issues;
  • To promote community-inspired, service-oriented scholarship that will link the university to Native American Nations and communities and generate discussion of Indigenous issues both within the university and in the surrounding area;
  • To recruit and retain American Indian faculty members and graduate students and nurture American Indian intellectuals at every level;
  • To generate intellectual and financial resources for the Institute;
  • To support all initiatives of the Native American Studies Program (NAS) and to coordinate new initiatives with NAS and other existing and future Native Programs, Institutes, etc.


Lloyd L. Lee, Director
Institute for American Indian Research
Native American Studies
MSC06 3740
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131