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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).

Mission:
As the flagship liberal arts university in the state, the University of South Dakota and the Institute of American Indian Studies is committed to providing educational and research opportunities to students, faculty and staff interested in the history, culture and language of the nine federally recognized Tribes in South Dakota. The Institute is interested in developing and facilitating community-driven research that is rooted in Indigenous epistemologies and protects tribal sovereignty. The Institute is committed to ethical research and honoring tribal protocols by supporting research that is sanctioned and approved by Tribal Nations. The Institute is committed to increasing undergraduate and graduate research that utilize Indigenous centered theory and research methodologies. Finally, the Institute is invested in the future of Tribal Nations by increasing access and support to American Indian undergraduate and graduate students.

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.