Department of History
Old Horticulture
506 E. Circle Dr
Room 256
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Main: 517.355.7500
Fax: 517.353.5599
Email: history [at] msu [dot] edu
Hours: 8:00-5:00 M-F

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Graduate Field in American Indian Studies

Students interested in pursuing American Indian Studies as part of their graduate program will find a depth of scholarship and wide variety of interests among both the faculty in the history department and from the numerous American Indian Studies faculty in other departments, these faculty are listed at  This diverse faculty enables students to construct their dissertation committees from a variety of disciplines.

Graduate students generally focus on the years of contact or on the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries and receive training in the methods and historiographies of American Indian history.  Professor Susan Sleeper-Smith, whose work on Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Encounter in the Great Lakes, chairs many of the committees with other committee membership drawn from both the history department and the wide range of associated faculty.  Students complete two fields in history and are able to complete two minor fields outside the department, which enables students to pursue a well-rounded interest that recognizes the complexity of Native cultures. The specifics of the field will vary according to the particular interests of the student.  Students in American Indian Studies generally complete one language, preferably Ojibwe. For those whose focus is the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, French is also recommended.

Students have studied with graduate faculty in other departments, especially in English, Anthropology and Archaeology, and American Culture.  Students who have included English faculty on their committees often work with Gordon Henry, a well-known Ojibwe writer, author of The Light People and The Failure of Certain Charms, and other disparate signs of life.  His work has garnered him international recognition.  In anthropology, students interested in language and in language loss and revitalization have worked with Professor Mindy Morgan, who has recently published The Bearer of this Letter:  language ideologies, literacy practices, and the Fort Belknap Indian community. Many Archaeology faculty also work with our graduate students, including Professor Lynne Goldstein, who has worked on the Mississippi River valley and has published Atzalan: mysteries of an ancient Indian town. Jodi O’Gorman focuses on late precontact sites in Great Lakes while Professor John Norder studies the northern Great Lakes.  Professor Norder has dramatically enhanced the opportunity to study the Great Lakes region through his research on rock art and he has worked with students in public and applied archaeology and examined issues of cultural heritage management among Indigenous communities in North America.  Michigan State is especially fortunate to have a skilled language teacher and our students frequently work with Helen Roy, who teaches Ojibwe.  Graduate students are encouraged to study Ojibwe to fulfill their language requirement.  In American Culture our students have worked with Professor Pat Lebeau, who has recently published a Term Paper Resource Guide to American Indian History, with Greenwood Press.  His research provides an in-depth historical knowledge of past and present-day Indian history.

Graduate students may also wish to pursue comparative programs, the strength and wide variety of scholars in the history department make this an especially appealing opportunity.  There is much to be gained by comparing the colonialism that has impacted American Indian communities with the colonialism that has changed the lives of African people, as well as those in the Middle East and South America.  A strong program in Chicano Studies makes comparative opportunities especially appealing.   The African History program, ranked number 3 in the nation, has a long established tradition of comparative scholarship, with five well-published faculty members, including Professors Nwando Achebe, Peter Alegi, Laura Fair, and Walter Hawthorne. David Gift, who recently joined our faculty, studies forced migration, slavery, and ethnic minorities in the early modern Iberian world, with special attention to historical connections between the colonial Caribbean and precolonial Atlantic Africa.   In Middle Eastern history Professor Emine Evered has worked with American Indian studies students on the impact of French colonialism on Indian women in North America and on Moslem women in Algeria and Morocco.  Professor Dennis Valdes works on Chicano labor history and his book Al Norte focuses on agricultural labor in the Great Lakes region while Professor Javier Pescador has worked on migration history as well as sports history for Chicano people, recently publishing Crossing borders with the Santo Niño de Atocha.

Michigan State University both heads a consortium of colleges and universities involved in the training of American Indian Studies students at the graduate level and is also a member of the Newberry Library American Indian Studies Consortium. The Newberry Consortium draws on the Newberry Library’s world-renowned collections in American Indian and Indigenous studies and the resources of the McNickle Center to offer a series of annual workshops, institutes, symposiums, conferences and fellowships to graduate students and faculty at member institutions.  Both consortiums are intergral to graduate student training and offer academic opportunities that further enrich and enhance the American Indian Studies major at Michigan State University.

On-Line Sites of Interest to Students in American Studies at Michigan State: