Our History (35 Years of NAI)

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The Native American Institute (NAI) was authorized by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees in October 1981. The Native American Institute was established as a component of the Center of Urban Department in the Urban Affairs Program.

Through the work and vision of its founding director, George Cornell, the Institute was established to help North American Indian organizations and tribal governments plan and prepare to meet the present and future needs of their constituents. The Institute has collaborated with tribes and American Indians on behalf of Michigan State University for close to three decades. Through this time period, Michigan tribes achieved significant advances in their community and economic development. The Native American Institute has worked to provide assistance and add value to these community development efforts wherever possible.

On July 1st, 2003, the Native American Institute changed administrative homes and became one unit in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). Through our transition into CANR, we strengthened our partnership with MSU Extension and now jointly administer certain programs focused on tribal topics. We also strengthened our commitment to working on natural resource and agricultural topics such as ecosystem management, environmental protection, sustainable community and economic development, traditional/ cultural preservation and tribal food systems. Although we strengthened our commitment to these issues that align strongly with the focus of CANR, we continue to prioritize working on other critical topics, particularly those tied to the wellness of American Indian families. See our list of current projects for further details.