History & Mission

Mission: “Build, promote, and honor self-sustaining American Indian and Alaska Native communities through education and leadership.”

In 1969, important government positions related to Indian concerns were being filled by non-Indians who possessed the graduate education necessary to meet the job qualifications. Robert L. Bennett (Oneida), was Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) at the time. He and John C. Rainer, Sr. (Taos Pueblo), realized that there was a lack of American Indians with professional degrees. Knowing that Indian people need financial assistance to complete their graduate work, they established American Indian Scholarships (AIS).

In 1971, AIS incorporated in the state of New Mexico as a non-profit organization. In 1972, a seed grant from the Donner Foundation led to the development of a contract with the BIA. The Special Higher Education Program is still our major funding source, and had grown from $100,000 to $2,400,000 (1995), but has been drastically reduced since then.

In 1989, American Indian Scholarships, Inc. changed its name to become the American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC). It is still the only national non-profit organization dedicated to aiding Indian graduate students in all fields of study. As a non-profit organization, AIGC prides itself on maintaining a very low administrative cost. In fact 90% of all contributions goes directly to student services. We view this careful management of our resources as just one way to meet our goal: to improve the cultural and economic well being of American Indians and Native Alaskans, individually and tribally, through graduate education.

In 2000, AIGC assumes administration of the Gates Millennium Scholar Program for American Indians/Alaska Natives, resulting in doubling of AIGC staff and office space. American Indian Graduate Center Scholars is formed to manage the program.

In 2007, Sam Deloria becomes the Director of the American Indian Graduate Center. AIGCS receives the highest number of on-line nominee submissions nationally among other Gates Millennium partners.