Bachelor of Arts in American Indian Studies

The Bachelor of Arts in American Indian Studies (AIS) is designed to challenge students to think critically about the differences and similarities between American Indians' lives of the past and present and their own. The emphasis in the curriculum placed on duality links the concerns of tribal communities with academic rigor, enabling our faculty to harness their expertise and passion for teaching in ways that lead to greater student cultural competence and prepares them to meet high expectations.

The curriculum is focused on four areas of emphasis:

  1. California Indian Studies;

  2. American Indian Creative Arts and Humanities;

  3. Law, Politics, and Society; and

  4. Science, Health, and Environmental Studies.

The knowledge base within these areas prepare students to work academically – and in advocacy – with both tribal and urban Native communities within California and the United States. The courses comprising the B.A. challenge students to actively question the most ingrained myths about American Indians, the roles they have played in the United States and internationally over time, and the goals of historical and contemporary cultural maintenance and revitalization movements. The program also includes an international comparative perspective and coalitional politics with Native peoples of U.S. occupied territories and more broadly within the Americas and the Pacific. AIS courses are taught by faculty wedded to the belief that community relationships and pedagogical rigor are the cornerstones upon which student success within the curriculum rests. AIS faculty represent a small cadre of scholars who have distinguished themselves both nationally and internationally by pushing accepted boundaries within and outside of the field in the areas of cultural ecology, ethnography, ethnolinguistics, history of consciousness, mixed-race studies, and music. The interdisciplinary pedagogical excellence of the AIS faculty enables preparation of the next generation of inquisitive American Indian Studies scholars that have a responsibility to Native peoples of California and the United States. AIS majors experience a balanced classroom education with an active community participatory learning component and are required to regularly seek advising from an AIS faculty member.

Program Learning Outcomes:

Completing the Bachelor of Arts in American Indian Studies (AIS) empowers students to do the following:

  1. Understand the complex histories, politics, and social issues confronting Native peoples in the context of U.S. colonization, imperialism, and globalization. This understanding will include awareness of the diverse political and creative strategies used by Native peoples to confront the historical legacies of dispossession, genocide, and social inequity and discrimination, including legal action for land restoration, cultural conservation/revitalization efforts, and multiple media of creative expression.

  2. Compare and contrast the uniqueness of Native epistemologies and their articulation in multiple practices — from land and water care, foodways, cultural resource management, literature, music, and the arts.

  3. Appreciate experiential knowledge through community service learning, as a way of connecting classroom education to career preparation and advisement.

  4. Develop the necessary analytical, oral communication, information literacy, and writing skills to prepare them for careers or graduate school in areas related to American Indian Studies.

Community Service Learning

Many courses within the major provide a Community Service Learning (CSL) option, including AIS 205 and AIS 460. This option allows students to integrate classroom education with community participatory learning. Students are enrolled in an AIS core or elective course plus AIS 694 and work with an organization approved by the department for 15-45 hours over the course of the semester (depending on the units). AIS 694 is entirely online, with requirements that include short written assignments and a book review. Organizations with which students have served in the past include the American Indian Child Resource Center, California Indian Legal Services, The Cultural Conservancy, International Indian Treaty Council, and the Native American Health Center.

Career Outlook

An American Indian Studies major provides a diverse foundation of knowledge and skills that can be applied to a number of careers. American Indian Studies alumni have and can anticipate securing employment in agricultural and pastoral enterprises, environmental and cultural rights organizations, ethnography and cultural programs, health care and social work, media and communications industries, museums and cultural centers, teaching, tribal businesses and government, the traditional arts, and federal and state agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Indian Health Services, National and State Park Services, Title IX Indian Education Program, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

American Indian Studies (B.A.) — 42 Units

Core Requirements (21 Units)

Students in the major must earn a grade of C or better for each course in the core.

AIS 100Introduction to American Indian Studies3
AIS 150American Indian History in the United States3
AIS 160Survey of Native California3
AIS 205American Indians and U.S. Laws3
AIS 300American Indian Studies Research Methodologies3
AIS 680American Indian Studies Senior Seminar3
AIS 694Community Service Learning (1-3 unit options for a total of 3 in any combination)1-3

Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (3 units)

ETHS 300GWWriting in Ethnic Studies - GWAR3

Elective Requirements (18 Units)

The elective requirements are organized into four areas of emphasis. Upon advisement, students may select one course from each area of emphasis (12 units total) and an additional two courses (6 units total) for a total of 18 units; or, they may complete six courses (18 units total) in one area of emphasis where available. Fifteen units must be completed at the upper-division level. Upon department approval, students may choose up to two elective courses (up to 6 units) from other departments/programs on campus.

1. California Indian Studies

AIS 410Perspectives of Native California Indians3
AIS 694Community Service Learning (for up to 3 additional units to the core requirement)1-3

2. Creative Arts and the Humanities

AIS 162American Indian Oral Literature3
AIS 235American Indians: Image and Issues in the Mass Media3
AIS 310American Indian Religion and Philosophy3
AIS 320American Indian Music3
AIS 325American Indian Art3
AIS 360Modern American Indian Authors3
AIS 400American Indian Education3
AIS/WGS 420Native Genders and Feminism3
AIS/ANTH 500Language and Cultural Systems of North American Indians3
AIS 560Modern Creative and Performing Arts3

3. Law, Politics, and Society

AIS 230Urban Indians3
AIS 330American Indian Law3
AIS/AFRS 350/LTNS 355Black Indians in the Americas3
AIS 400American Indian Education3
AIS/WGS 420Native Genders and Feminism3
AIS 460Power and Politics in American Indian History3
AIS 470American Indian Ethnicity: Problems in Identity3

4. Science, Health, and Environmental Studies

AIS 450American Indian Science3
AIS 520Before the Wilderness: American Indian Ecology3

Complementary Studies

Students completing a Bachelor of Arts in American Indian Studies must complete twelve units in complementary studies in courses bearing a prefix other than AIS or courses cross-listed with AIS. These units may be in

  1. a language other than English;
  2. one course from AAS, AFRS, LTNS, and RRS;
  3. or four courses from one prefix: AAS or AFRS or LTNS or RRS,
  4. partial completion of a minor or certificate;
  5. units earned in a study abroad program; or
  6. a coherent group of courses complementary to the major.

With the approval of an advisor in the major, courses which fulfill the complementary studies requirement may be lower or upper-division units, resident or transfer units.

Requirement Course Level Units Area Designation
Oral Communication LD 3 A1
Written English Communication LD 3 A2
Critical Thinking LD 3 A3
Physical Science LD 3 B1
Life Science LD 3 B2
Lab Science LD 1 B3
Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning LD 3 B4
Arts LD 3 C1
Humanities LD 3 C2
Arts or Humanities LD 3 C1 or C2
Social Sciences LD 3 D1
Social Sciences: US History LD 3 D2
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD) LD 3 E
Ethnic Studies LD 3 F
Physical and/or Life Science UD 3 UD-B
Arts and/or Humanities UD 3 UD-C
Social Sciences UD 3 UD-D
SF State Studies
Courses certified as meeting the SF State Studies requirements may be upper or lower division in General Education (GE), a major or minor, or an elective.
American Ethnic and Racial Minorities LD or UD 3 AERM
Environmental Sustainability LD or UD 3 ES
Global Perspectives LD or UD 3 GP
Social Justice LD or UD 3 SJ

Note: LD = Lower-Division; UD = Upper-Division.

Note: A minimum of 40 upper division units must be completed for the degree (including upper division units required for the major, general education, electives, etc.). A student can complete this major yet not attain the necessary number of upper division units required for graduation. In this case, additional upper division courses will be needed to reach the required total.

First-Time Student Roadmap (4 Year)

The roadmaps presented in this Bulletin are intended as suggested plans of study and do not replace meeting with an advisor. For a more personalized roadmap, please use the Degree Planner tool found in your Student Center.

First-Time Student Roadmap

Transfer Student Roadmap (2 Year)

For students with an AA-T in Social Justice Studies.

SJS ADT Roadmap

This degree program is an approved pathway (“similar” major) for students earning the ADT in Social Justice Studies

California legislation SB 1440 (2009) mandated the creation of the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) to be awarded by the California Community Colleges. Two types of ADTs are awarded: Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T). 

Note: no specific degree is required for admission as an upper-division student. However, the ADT includes specific guarantees related to admission and graduation and is designed to clarify the transfer process and strengthen lower-division preparation for the major.

An ADT totals 60 units and in most cases includes completion of all lower-division General Education requirements and at least 18 units in a specific major. (The Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science AS-T degrees defer 3 units in lower-division GE area C and 3 units in lower-division GE area D until after transfer.) Students pursuing an ADT are guaranteed admission to the CSU if minimum eligibility requirements are met, though not necessarily to the CSU campus of primary choice.

Upon verification that the ADT has been awarded prior to matriculation at SF State, students are guaranteed B.A. or B.S. completion in 60 units if pursuing a “similar” major after transfer. Determinations about “similar” majors at SF State are made by faculty in the discipline.

Degree completion in 60 units cannot be guaranteed when a student simultaneously pursues an additional major, a minor, certificate, or credential.

A sample advising roadmap for students who have earned an ADT and continue in a "similar" major at SF State is available on the Roadmaps tab on the degree requirements page for the major. The roadmap displays:

  • How many lower-division units required for the major have been completed upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • Which lower-division requirements are considered complete upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • How to complete the remaining 60 units for the degree in four semesters.

Students who have earned an ADT should seek advising in the major department during the first semester of attendance.

General Advising Information for Transfer Students

  1. Before transfer, complete as many lower-division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
  2. The following courses are not required for admission but are required for graduation. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these units before transfer; doing so will provide more flexibility in course selection after transfer.
    • a course in U.S. History
    • a course in U.S. & California Government

For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), please visit Check any geographically accessible CCCs; sometimes options include more than one college. Use ASSIST to determine:

  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy any lower-division major requirements for this major;
  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy CSU GE, US History, and US & CA Government requirements.

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 semester units/90 quarter units required for admission.

Additional units for courses that are repeated do not apply to the minimum 60 units required for upper-division transfer (for example, if a course was not passed on the first attempt or was taken to earn a better grade).

Before leaving the last California Community College of attendance, obtain a summary of completion of lower-division General Education units (IGETC or CSU GE Breadth). This is often referred to as a GE certification worksheet. SF State does not require delivery of this certification to Admissions, but students should retain this document for verifying degree progress after transfer.

Credit for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or College-Level Examination Program courses: AP/IB/CLEP credit is not automatically transferred from the previous institution. Units are transferred only when an official score report is delivered to SF State. Credit is based on the academic year during which exams were taken. Refer to the University Bulletin in effect during the year of AP/IB/CLEP examination(s) for details regarding the award of credit for AP/IB/CLEP.

Students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines often defer 6-9 units of lower-division General Education in Areas C and D until after transfer to focus on preparation courses for the major. This advice does not apply to students pursuing associate degree completion before transfer.

Transferring From Institutions Other Than CCCs or CSUs

Review SF State's lower-division General Education requirements. Note that, as described below, the four basic skills courses required for admission meet A1, A2, A3, and B4 in the SF State GE pattern. Courses that fulfill the remaining areas of SF State’s lower-division GE pattern are available at most two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

Of the four required basic skills courses, a course in critical thinking (A3) may not be widely offered outside the CCC and CSU systems. Students should attempt to identify and take an appropriate course no later than the term of application to the CSU. To review more information about the A3 requirement, please visit

Waiting until after transfer to take a single course at SF State that meets both US and CA/local government requirements may be an appropriate option, particularly if transferring from outside of California.