Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

Native American Studies Research Guide: Background Info


Collection development responsibilities for Native American Studies in the Michigan State University Libraries is distributed among a number of librarians.  Erik Ponder focuses on acquiring materials about the Native Americans of the United States.  Cen Cheng is responsible for Native Americans of Canada.  Mary Jo Zeter focuses on Native Americans from the Latin America and the Caribbean.  Deborah Margolis also selects materials related to Native American culture and pre-history as part of her Anthropology assignment.  Terrie Wilson selects materials related to Indian Art as part of her Art responsibilities.

American Indian Studies at MSU

Michigan State University American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AISP).  Seeks to form an understanding of American Indian cultures and identities, the place of American Indian/ Indigenous people in today’s world, and the changing demands of American Indian/Indigenous peoples in the pursuit of cross-cultural diversity. We believe these are issues that transcend traditional boundaries between academic disciplines. To understand the complexity of these subjects and to respond to them thoughtfully, students require a range of training both across disciplines and outside university settings. Michigan State University’s AISP is designed to meet this need.  The Native population of Michigan is proportionally one of the largest of those states east of the Mississippi. The American Indian Studies undergraduate specialization at MSU insures that the state's largest university offers a program of study that explores the indigenous foundations of this country and recognizes the continuing contribution of Native/Indigenous peoples to North American and Global society.  Also see American Indian Studies Program Brochure.  Beginning August 16, 2015, Dylan A.T. Miner  will be the new Director of the American Indian Studies Program (AISP) at MSU.   Note: program name change to American Indian and Indigenous Studies, July 1, 2016.

AISP Contact (2017/2018):
Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner
PhD student
American Indian & Indigenous Studies (AIIS) Graduate Assistant
Michigan State University
414 Baker Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: (517) 488-8844 // office (517) 432-2193
Email: or

Educating Anishinaabe: Giving, Learning, and Empowering (EAGLE).  The American Indian faculty and staff association at MSU.  Meets monthly.

Native American Institute.  Provides training, technical assistance, research, and educational assistance to Native American Tribes and organizations in Michigan. Serve Michigan officials and lawmakers by offering periodic information on policy alternatives regarding Indian issues. Promote and enhance the public's knowledge and awareness of Michigan Indian communities, initiatives, history, and culture. House in the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  Facebook Page.  Note: works best with IE and Chrome.

Indigenous Law and Policy Center. The Michigan State University College of Law, Indigenous Law and Policy Center is committed to the education of Native law students and the training of lawyers prepared to work on behalf of tribes around the country, whether for tribal governments, private law firms or non-profit organizations.  Be sure to check out the Occasional Paper Series.

Turtle Talk.  The blog for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. We post news items related to Indian law and politics, with a special emphasis on topics related to Indian tribes in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. We also post announcements about our activities and about the activities of the MSU Native American Law Students Association.  In addition, Turtle Talk offers links to every Supreme Court case involving federal Indian law in the modern era (1959 to present). Finally, Turtle Talk provides links to the primary documents key to Michigan Anishinaabe legal and political history, including a link to every federal and state legal decision involving one of the Michigan Ottawa/Odawa tribes. We also offer links to all kinds of scholarship about the Anishinaabek and Anishinaabe tribes.


MSU Indigenous Graduate Student CollectiveThe mission of the Indigenous Graduate Student Collective is to promote indigenous scholarship and camaraderie among graduate students while building campus and community connections...One of the many objectives of the IGSC is to offer learning opportunities and to forge partnerships and community ties with MSU faculty, undergraduate students and other graduate students.  The IGSC is committed to the spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and academic well-being of graduate students attending MSU




The North American Indian Student Organization (N.A.I.S.O.)    A non-profit student organization for students of Michigan State University. Discussion includes NAISO activities and issues and can be a great way to meet other Native Americans at the MSU community or in the larger Lansing area. 

North American Indian Student Organization (newer site?)  The North American Indigenous Student Organization (NAISO) strives to promote education and motivate the Native Student Community and majoritity community in and around Michigan State University (MSU) through social and cultural support. 

Newberry Consortium for American Indian Studies.  Membership in the Consortium will be limited to 20 institutions and is being offered to universities in the United States and Canada. The Consortium draws on the Newberry’s world-renowned collections in American Indian and indigenous studies and the resources of the McNickle Center to offer programs such as institutes, conferences, and annual workshops, as well as provide fellowships to graduate students and faculty at member institutions.  Learn more about the American Indian Studies Seminar Series, the NCAIS Spring Workshop in Research Methods, the NCAIS Graduate Student Conference, and the NCAIS Summer Institute. The D’Arcy McNickle Center frequently hosts summer institutes exploring topics in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, these institutes feature guest lecturers in American Indian studies, American history, art history, and literature, as well as Newberry staff experts in American Indian materials in several collections, including visual arts and cartography. Learn more about the NEH Summer Programs.

#NativeMSU.  Follow on twitter.

Remember, when organizing events, just use the hashtag #NativeMSU to make everyone aware of your activities.


Native Americans definition from Wikipedia

Check out Wikipedia for a definition of Native Americans.

The term Native Americans may refer to:

In its broadest sense, the entirety of the indigenous peoples of the American continents:

Or, more-specifically, to the indigenous people living within a particular country:

Culture Card : A Guide to Build Cultural Awareness with American Indians and Alaska Natives. Intended to enhance cultural competence when serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Covers regional differences; cultural customs; spirituality; communications styles; the role of veterans and the elderly, and health disparities, such as suicide.   Courtesy of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Five Interesting Facts About Native Americans Article by Nadra Kareem Nittle from

100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America. / Native American Journalists Assn, Joe Grimm, Michigan State School of Journalism.  Canton, Michigan : Read the Spirit Books, [2014].  50pp.  Main Library E77 .N373 2014 : First published in 1998 by the Native American Journalists Association.  One of a series of guides published by the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

American Indian Place Names - how states got their names (InfoPlease)  Want to learn more?  Consult O brave new words! : Native American loanwords in current English by Charles L. Cutler.  Norman ; London : University of Oklahoma Press, c1994.  286pp. Main Library Stacks PE3102.I55 C88 1994 : A study of the incorporation of Native American words into the English vocabulary. Traces the European settlers' acquisition of Indian words for animals, plants, and foods, and examines the rate of loanword borrowing and fluctuations in that rate reflecting crucial events in European settlement and changes in the relationship between whites and Indians. Glossaries provide pronunciations, first dates of recorded use, etymologies, and brief definitions of all North American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut words current in English. An appendix lists Latin American Indian loanwords.  For another work with a Michigan focus, see Indian names in Michigan / Virgil J. Vogel.  Ann Arbor, [MI] : University of Michigan, c1986  227pp.  Main Library StacksE78.M6 V64 1986

American Indian Glossary (InfoPlease)

Columbia Encyclopedia (6th edition via InfoPlease) North American Indigenous Peoples.

Native Americans in the United States wikipedia entry

Native American Studies Background Readings

Native American studies / Clara Sue Kidwell and Alan Velie.  Lincoln [Neb.] : University of Nebraska Press, c2005.  160pp. Main Library E76.6 .K53 2005b : This guide to Native American history and culture outlines new ways of understanding American Indian cultures in contemporary contexts....Covers key issues such as the intimate relationship of culture to land; the nature of cultural exchange and conflict in the period after European contact; the unique relationship of Native communities with the United States government; the significance of language; the vitality of contemporary cultures; and the variety of Native artistic styles, from literature and poetry to painting and sculpture to performance arts....This thematic approach places history, culture, and intellectual production in the contexts of politics and power. Using specific examples throughout the book, the authors portray the culture of Native Americans from the viewpoints of Native people as well as from those of non-Native Americans.

Natives and academics : researching and writing about American Indians / edited by Devon A. Mihesuah.  Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c1998.  212pp.  Main Library E76.8 .N37 1998  : Ten leading Native scholars examine the state of scholarly research and writing on Native Americans. Their distinctive perspectives and telling arguments lend clarity to the heated debate about the purpose and direction of Native American scholarship....All too frequently, Native Americans have little control over how they and their ancestors are researched and depicted in scholarly writings. The relationship between Native peoples and the academic community has become especially rocky in recent years. Both groups are grappling with troubling questions about research ethics, methodology, and theory in the field and in the classroom....In this timely and illuminating anthology, ten leading Native scholars examine the state of scholarly research and writing on Native Americans. They offer distinctive, frequently self-critical perspectives on several important issues: the representativeness of Native informants, the merits of various methods of data collection, the veracity and role of oral histories, the suitability of certain genres of scholarly writing for the study of Native Americans, the marketing of Native culture and history, and debates about cultural essentialism. Some contributors propose alternative forms of scholarship. Special attention is also given to the experiences, responsibilities, and challenges facing Native academics themselves....With lively prose and telling arguments, Natives and Academics lends clarity to the heated debate about the purpose and direction of Native American scholarship.

The State of Native America at the End of the Twentieth Century       Article by J. Kelly Robison appearing in American Studies Journal, No. 46 (Winter 2000)

Teaching Native America Across the Curriculum : a Critical Inquiry / Curry Stephenson Malott, Lisa Waukau, Lauren Waukau-Villagomez.  New York : Peter Lang, c2009.  248pp.  Main Library E97 .M343 2009 : In teaming with two women educators who were raised on the Menominee Indian reservation, Malott (education, D'Youville College, Buffalo, New York) underscores that being white does not mean that one has to reproduce colonial legacies. Following autobiographical notes, they discuss why Indigenous insights are crucial to education for literacies across cultures and subjects in a pluralistic society from a critical constructivist perspective, and apply these insights in a case study of teaching at this Wisconsin reservation. A lesson plan by a Native American teacher that includes an analysis of Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha for a 11th grade American literature class is appended.

Term Paper Resource Guide to American Indian History / Patrick Russell LeBeau.  Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2009.  376pp.  Main Library and MSU Faculty Collection (1 West)  E76.6 .L334 2009 : Major help for American Indian History term papers has arrived to enrich and stimulate students in challenging and enjoyable ways. Students from high school age to undergraduate will be able to get a jump start on assignments with the hundreds of term paper projects and research information offered here in an easy-to-use format. Users can quickly choose from the 100 important events, spanning from the first Indian contact with European explorers in 1535 to the Native American Languages Act of 1990. Coverage includes Indian wars and treaties, acts and Supreme Court decisions, to founding of Indian newspapers and activist groups, and key cultural events. Each event entry begins with a brief summary to pique interest and then offers original and thought-provoking term paper ideas in both standard and alternative formats that often incorporate the latest in electronic media, such as iPod and iMovie. The best in primary and secondary sources for further research are then annotated, followed by vetted, stable Web site suggestions and multimedia resources, usually films, for further viewing and listening. Librarians and faculty will want to use this as well.  The table of contents itemizes the 100 different paper topics covered.

Journal of American Indian EducationFull Text, Vol. 1, 1961-62 through Vol. 48, 2009.   The MSU Community can also find issues via the MSU Library Catalog.

Native Americans from the Nordisk familjebok (1904) Vol. 1, accredited to the Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig by Wikipedia Commons.

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Erik Ponder
African Studies Librarian
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Dr. (E 224B)
East Lansing, MI 48824

Ask a Librarian

Sketch of Roanoke Indians by John White in 1585

Native Americans dancing, in the vicinity of Roanoke Island, circa 1585.

Dugout Canoe Near Roanoke Colony, 1585

Engraving of Indians Near Virginia Colony, 1590

First Native American In Space, John Bennett Herrington

John Bennett Herrington served as flight engineer on the Space Shuttle Endeavor for a mission to the International Space Station in 2002.  In addition to becoming the first Native American in space, Herrington also became the first Native American to experience a space walk outside the shuttle.  Source : Space Flight Today