History

The Native American Studies Minor was established in 1979, through the efforts of scholar and activist Ed Castillo (Luiseño-Cahuilla). Throughout his career, Castillo demonstrated a commitment to both scholarship and activism, which he saw as complementary approaches to the creation of a more informed and equitable society in California and the USA. At Sonoma State University, Castillo advocated for Native American Studies, taught classes on local Native American history and culture, and specialized in the impact of Spanish colonization on Native Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

In 2005, Greg Sarris became the Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair of Sonoma State University. During his tenure and until his retirement in the spring of 2022, Sarris taught courses in creative writing, American literature, and Native American literature. Shortly thereafter, Ashley Hall and Mary Churchill joined NAMS in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and as long-time lecturers they continue to teach courses in literature, arts and cultures, and Indigenous knowledge systems. In 2017, Erica Tom joined Sonoma State and in collaboration with Sarris helped to create the first academic component of the Summer Bridge Program in 2018.

From 2020 to 2022, Erica Tom served as the Director of Native American Studies. During her term, Tom taught courses in trauma-informed approaches to program and community development and worked in partnership with long-time lecturer Mary Churchill to facilitate a collaboration with Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, Kashia Elementary School at Stewarts Point Rancheria, and Sonoma State University. Jeffrey Reeder who served as the Faculty Advisor to NAMS during the academic year 2020-2021 joined Tom and Churchill in this collaboration. Janet Hess tenure as chair in 2021-2022 focused on program building projects and supporting collaboration among NAMS and tribal and public communities.

With the welcoming of Silvia Soto, assistant professor in Chicano and Latino Studies, as NAMS associate chair in the fall 2022 and the ongoing contributions of lecturers, Ashley Hall, Mary Churchill, Josephine McKay (Pomo), and Paul Steward (Elem Pomo), we look forward to continuing to grow our intellectual community.