Our History

As a land-grant institution, the UMN-TC was endowed by the Federal Government with stolen Dakota lands under the Morrill Act of 1862. These public lands had been wrested away from the Dakota people previously through the U.S./Dakota Treaties of 1805, 1837 and 1851 and made accessible to white settlers through their subsequent removal, disposession, and state-mandated genocide/exile. In addition to occupying Dakota homelands, the greater University of Minnesota system also occupies Ojibwe lands throughout the state that were expropriated in similar ways to advance the economic interests of white settlers, notably white settler men. The history of the University of Minnesota system, is rooted in the attempted extermination and genocide of American Indian Tribal Nations, and the settler colonial theft of American Indian homelands throughout Mni Sota Makoce (Minnesota) and the U.S. 

Our office began originally as the American Indian Learning Resource Center (AILRC) in 1978. The AILRC was created as a result of the fierce advocacy efforts of American Indian faculty, staff, community members, and their non-Indigenous allies at the University, who collectively formed a specialized Task Force on American Indian concerns. This committee conducted investigations, made formal recommendations to University leadership and administration, and worked to advance the needs and criticisms of American Indian students and community members who felt that the University wasn’t sufficiently supporting the academic, cultural, and political needs of its American Indian Students. The AILRC in many ways, was also founded as a result of American Indian political activism in the Twin Cities of the 1960s and 1970s, as exemplified notably by the Red Power and American Indian Movements (AIM). The efforts of American Indian activists, leaders, and organizers who advanced issues around Indian removal/termination and Indigenous/tribal sovereignty in Mni Sota Makoce and throughout the U.S. coincided with, and aligned in many ways with the work of the Indigenous advocates and community members who helped create the AILRC.

The AILRC was funded in 1978 by the Office for Minority and Special Student Affairs in direct response to the task force’s findings and work, as well the work of American Indian community members and students at the University. Our first director was Roger Buffalohead, who had also served as the first chair of the Department of American Indian Studies at the UMN-TC. Our office was originally housed in Jones Hall, along with other resource centers that worked to support other marginalized and/or minoritized student groups. In the early 2000s, our office was renamed the Circle of Indigenous Nations and became a unit of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE). Today, our office operates as a unit of MCAE and the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) to advocate for and support the needs of American Indian/Native American, Alaska Native, and First Nation(s) students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.