Richard Meyers began working at South Dakota State University in the summer of 2012 with a goal in mind—he was going to start an American Indian Studies major.
“In a state with nine different federally recognized tribes, it was vital, and the existing minor indicated that the desire for the major was long-standing,” said Meyers.
Meyers is the tribal relations director and program coordinator for the American Indian Studies program that opened for enrollment fall 2013 with the new major highlighted.
Alongside coordinating American Indian Studies, Meyers teaches an upper level anthropology course, and plans to teach more once he solidifies the administrative work that goes along with developing the program.
Meyers was able to secure excellence funds to conduct a study on how to make the major fit to this region and the SDSU academic community.
“I’ve been exploring how to make the SDSU AIS program applicable to the Plains Indians and to South Dakota,” said Meyers.
Meyers’ work at South Dakota State University ties into the notion of being elected and appointed to two national organizations.
He was appointed to serve on the Task Force on Cultural Heritage, a subsidiary to the world’s largest anthropology organization called the American Anthropological Association. The group meets annually to discuss methods to build a strong, multifaceted approach to cultural heritage issues in the United States.
Meyers was also appointed to serve a three-year term on the American Indian Studies Association board of directors. Headquartered at Arizona State University, an annual conference brings together scholars from around the country to discuss problems and solutions for American Indian Studies topics.
South Dakota Roots
Meyers grew up off and on both the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations. He attended Crazy Horse School in Wanblee on occasion, but family travel led him to Massachusetts, where he graduated high school in 1993.
After high school, Meyers attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 1997. After that, he came back to South Dakota and taught at Crazy Horse School, but in 1998 decided to pursue a graduate education.
He graduated in 2004 with two master’s degrees—one in cultural anthropology from Arizona State University, and the other, a master’s in English from Middlebury College in Vermont, completed during the summer months. He also worked as an anthropology instructor at Middlebury College from 2005 to 2007.
Meyers then went on to complete his dissertation within the anthropology department at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Upon completion in 2008, Meyers started working for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs as a writer and editor.
In 2012, he left federal service and made his way to Brookings to develop the American Indian Studies program.
American Indian Studies Major
When developing the American Indian Studies major, Meyers wanted to make sure students received a rounded cultural awareness. The major provides a broad base for understanding past, present and possible futures of American Indians.
Course curriculum includes the historical and contemporary significance of American Indian experiences.
Students enrolled in American Indian Studies take courses including Introduction and Intermediate Lakota, Intercultural Communication, History and Culture of the American Indian, American Indian Literature and Formation of Federal Indian Policy.
Some of the elective courses include American Indian Cultures and the Classroom, Native American Religions, Literature of the American West, Indigenous Feminisms, Education and Native Peoples, North American Ethnology, American Indian Government and Politics, Indians of North America, American Indian Literature and Geography of the American Indian.