American Indian Institute

Organization's name: American Indian Institute
Headquarters address  
Address: 502 West Mendenhall Street
Bozeman, MT 59715

United States of America
Phone: 406-587-1002
Fax: 406-522-7160
Web site:
Organization type: Indigenous Peoples Organizations
  • English


Areas of expertise & Fields of activity:
Economic and Social:
  • Culture
Geographic scope: International
Mission statement:
Organizational structure: In August 1977 at the Headwaters of the Missouri River, the Crow Nation hosted a gathering of approximately 35 Indian spiritual leaders. They had traveled to the gathering from the four directions. They worked together to forge the Two-Circle relationship between the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth and the American Indian Institute. Based on ancient Native American understandings, the two Circles were described as equal yet separate, fulfilling their common purpose by using common sense and behaving with mutual respect, and responsibility. The Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth is composed of grassroots spiritual leaders from Indian nations throughout North America. Structured in the ancestral way, the Circle is open to all traditional Indian people. It serves as a living repository of indigenous wisdom and values. Its focus is exclusively on perpetuating traditional cultural and spiritual values. In accord with ancient ways, the Traditional Circle discusses indigenous issues in terms of traditional values, and comes to consensus. In certain cases, the Circle looks to the American Indian Institute to help find ways to implement possible solutions. In all cases, the Institute seeks to provide financial and administrative support whenever requested by the Circle. The American Indian Institute is a non-Indian Circle that provides administrative, fund development and program support to advance the work and vision of the Traditional Circle. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Institute is structured as a typical American charitable organization. Headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, it is a small organization with a worldwide mission. It is community-based not in a geographic community, but in a community of interest — non-Indians dedicated to the survival of indigenous heritages and to the support of the traditional people through whom that survival will be achieved. With the guidance of the Traditional Circle, the Institute established a unique intergenerational program, Healing the Future, for Indian youth and families. The program combines traditional healing and ceremonial experiences with intervention and counseling activities to build on the strengths of Native communities to care for one another and the Earth. The Institute helped organize and fund a delegation of indigenous people of North America to attend a Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders in London, Moscow and Kyoto. In 1993, another indigenous delegation went to the Global Forum held in Kyoto, Japan. With the support of the Institute, representatives of the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth formed a delegation to the Fourth World Wilderness Conference in Denver in 1987 and participated in the international Environmental Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. To increase intercultural awareness and appreciation, the Institute helped organize a tour of Japan in 1988 and 1989 with a festival of native North American arts, including Indian dance and visual arts. The Institute serves as the fiscal agent for the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team. The Institute serves as the clearinghouse of first choice for programs and projects that affect traditional Indian people.

Additional Information

Social Development

Accreditation to: Indigenous Forum
Affiliation with other organizations: All areas of Indian country in North America The Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth is a spiritual circle open to all Indian people. It constitutes the continuation of an ancient practice of joint council among the most respected leaders of Indian nations. Its purpose is to nurture a grassroots renewal of traditional values and worldviews among Indian peoples, to ensure the continuity of Native wisdom, and to bring that wisdom to bear on important issues facing all peoples of the earth. The values inherent in the traditional Native worldview - faith, thankfulness, love, and respect for all Creation - are essential for living well on this Earth. These values are the foundation of life. Discussions of education, economics, environment, and other issues are secondary to this basic understanding of Creation and one's place and function in it. Projects and annual gatherings of the Traditional Circle reinforce and strengthen traditional values within participating delegations and extend them to Indian communities as well as across cultures. The Circle is organized in the traditional Indian way. There are no signatures, no hierarchy of officers, and no membership restrictions or limitations. Those who come to Circle gatherings on a regular basis represent grassroots communities and are empowered by consensus to speak on behalf of their people. They have the respect, trust, and support of those whom they represent. Their guiding principles are moral, not legal in origin. Actions of the Circle are based on consensus. All dimensions of issues are discussed. Consensus is formed by the persuasiveness of the positions presented and their consonance with traditional perspectives. A core group of Elders who participate in nearly all activities of the Circle are its respected leaders. This group represents most areas of Indian Country in North America. The Circle gathers for six days each year at an encampment hosted by an Indian Nation. Every Circle gathering includes: Elders who, because of their experience and commitment, speak on behalf of their people from the perspective of a traditional, spiritual worldview; "Runners" who have not yet achieved "Elder" status but whose commitment to the Circle is unquestioned, and who do "leg work" for the Elders; Young people who may sit with the Elders in the councils as observers, and who also help maintain the camps. Youth also meet separately during the gathering to discuss common issues. They are invited to present their perspectives to the Elders' Circle where they are respectfully considered. Family members and children of all ages who participate to the extent of their capacities and interests. Inclusiveness is an ancient Indian tradition that insures the cultural and spiritual continuum of Indian people.