Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, a professor of history, has been appointed by the College of LAS to direct the American Indian Studies Program at Illinois. He will be the second permanent director appointed to the position since the program’s inception in the late 1980s.

Gilbert’s appointment is set to begin on August 16 pending approval by the Board of Trustees. In addition to Gilbert’s appointment, the program also recently hired a new full-time faculty member and a search is underway for another.

Gilbert, an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe from northeastern Arizona, said he looks forward to helping the program gain prominence as a leader in advancing our understanding of American Indian history, culture, and people.

“We are very focused on moving forward,” Gilbert said. “We believe that some of our best days are ahead of us, and with the LAS administration’s support and the backing that we have from people around campus, we are determined to succeed.”

Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS, said the college is pleased and proud to see the American Indian Studies Program moving forward.

“I believe Professor Gilbert can lead American Indian Studies at Illinois to be one of the best programs of its kind in the country,” Hu said.

Gilbert has a five-year appointment. He will fill the role currently held by Adrian Burgos Jr., also a professor of history who has served as the unit’s interim director since 2016.

“We owe much gratitude to Professor Burgos,” Hu said. “He took the position when the program needed a leader. Professor Burgos did a superb job.”

The program’s newest faculty member is Dustin Tahmahkera, an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma and most recently a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He will begin at Illinois in August.