New classes in American Indian and Indigenous Studies available starting in Fall 2022

Yakima Valley College will strengthen opportunities for students to explore social, political and cultural issues impacting Indigenous peoples across North America with the launch of multiple new courses in the 2022-23 academic year.

Jonathan Byrn, instructor of ethnic studies and American Indian and Indigenous studies, said the new courses are an important addition at YVC, which is located on Yakama Nation treaty land in a state with 29 federally-recognized Native nations.

“We serve students and have faculty members from several Native nations from across the United States,” Byrn said. “This initiative serves to better represent them on campus and in our curriculum by providing education to both Native and non-Native students on the histories of Indigenous peoples in North America as well as issues faced by contemporary populations today. The courses also focus on regional histories and cultures here in Washington to better educate students about where they are and the issues facing Indigenous peoples here in their state.”

Byrn, who joined YVC’s faculty in 2019 and earned his doctorate in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, previously taught courses in American Indian studies at colleges offering degrees in the field including Fort Lewis College in Colorado and the University of Arizona. Since that time, he has helped lead the development of YVC’s new courses to fit the needs of YVC students and align with American Indian and Indigenous studies programs at four-year colleges in Washington.

The new courses are:

  • AIIS 101 Introduction to American Indian & Indigenous Studies — This introduction to the interdisciplinary field provides a historic and contemporary perspective on the social, political and cultural issues faced by Indigenous peoples in North America.
  • AIIS 209 Native American History to 1815 and AIIS 210 Native American History since 1815 — A two-part survey of Indigenous history in North America examining major themes including colonialism, decolonization, treaty making, conflict, federal Indian policy, genocide, resistance, tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
  • AIIS 202 Contemporary Issues of Native Nations — This course provides an understanding of the impacts of historical events and trauma, the resiliency of Native nations and the role of tribal sovereignty in the U.S. It will explore current issues including natural resource management, missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, gaming, governance and international relations.

Byrn noted that all students can benefit from the courses and developing a better understanding of the issues facing Native nations today as well as the complex histories of Indigenous peoples in North America and the impacts of those histories on the current populations.

“Students working with Indigenous peoples in any capacity will benefit from the trainings and topics offered in the new AIIS courses as their specific focus will address issues that can often be overlooked in general coursework,” Byrn said.

In addition, Byrn noted the courses were designed to be part of a direct transfer program with the University of Washington’s American Indian and Indigenous Studies program for students interested in earning their bachelor’s degree with a major or minor in the subject. In the future, YVC hopes to develop direct transfer programs with other four-year schools in the state that have American Indian and Indigenous Studies programs.

The new courses are the just the start of efforts to strength American Indian and Indigenous studies at YVC, Byrn said, with work under way to develop additional courses that will explore the representation of Indigenous peoples in film, American Indian education and more.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /