The Institute of American Indian Studies was authorized by the South Dakota legislature in 1955 "to provide persons of Indian descent with educational opportunities both on and off the campus of the University of South Dakota and to provide to all persons the opportunity to research and study the history, culture, and language of the Indians of North America and South Dakota" (SDCL 13-57-3.2). 

The Institute works closely with the Native studies program and Student Services and will participate in planning and promoting campus events and activities relating to American Indian issues at USD and in the region, sharing plans and progress and seeking and offering advice and assistance to their efforts.

The Institute serves as the central point for Indian affairs in the university structure, convening an annual meeting of all disciplines, courses, programs and services relating to American Indian affairs, and shall advise and assist them in their relations with the tribes and their respect for Native American culture and protocols.