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Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates in Ethnography and GIS


In partnership with the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the University of Arizona hosts the Western Apache Ethnography and Geographic Information Systems Research Experience for Undergraduates each summer, 2010-2012.  A National Science Foundation-supported REU Site, this field school introduces undergraduate students to ethnographic field research and to the use of Geographic Information Systems in the analysis and interpretation of ethnographic data.  

Participants engage in community-based participatory research, working with Western Apache elders, tribal natural resource managers, and heritage program personnel to contribute to the Western Apache tribes’ efforts to document cultural histories, traditional and local ecological and geographic knowledge, and issues of historic and contemporary resource management.  Students’ final projects provide content that will be included in a Western Apache cultural and historical atlas.


School Location

The field school is headquartered at the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Fort Apache Historic Park, located on the Tribe’s 2,500 square mile trust lands and about 185 miles north of Tucson.  The school’s classroom and lab and student and faculty housing are located in historic Fort Apache officers’ quarters, courtesy of the non-profit Fort Apache Heritage Foundation. Student research projects potentially take them to locations throughout Western Apache aboriginal lands, including a large portion of eastern and central Arizona.


The REU field school is in session for six weeks in June and July each summer. The 2011 program will begin June 6 and continue through July 15.  The first two weeks include intensive classroom and lab instruction, interspersed with day field trips.  During the remaining four weeks, students spend increasing periods of time conducting independent research. Students will also take part in regular evening seminars, a girl’s coming of age Sunrise Dance, and a weekend field trip to other tribal communities in Arizona and New Mexico.


Program Faculty

Karl A. Hoerig (Program Director and Faculty Mentor) is director of the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Nohwike’ Bágowa Museum and the Fort Apache Heritage Foundation.  He has worked with indigenous communities in the Southwest for more than 15 years, helping to facilitate heritage perpetuation through ethnography and cultural interpretation.

T.J. Ferguson (Faculty Mentor) is the School of Anthropology’s Professor of Practice. He works with a number of Puebloan and Athapaskan Indian tribes in the southwestern United States, conducting ethnographic, historical, and archaeological research addressing issues of settlement, land use and cultural landscapes, as well as the ownership of cultural items and intellectual property.

Thomas Pederson (Faculty Mentor) holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.  He is GIS Specialist for Atkin Olshin Schade Architects in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  His professional practice is primarily focused on community based planning and cultural resource management.  Among his current work is a long-term project to rehabilitate the historic core of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in northern New Mexico, engaging youth from the pueblo to document the village using GIS.

John R. Welch (Faculty Mentor) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology and the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C.  He has worked with the White Mountain Apache Tribe for more than 25 years, serving as the Tribe’s Historic Preservation Officer from 1992 to 2005. Welch’s current collaborations center on cultural heritage issues at the interface of sovereignty and stewardship—the practical and political decisions and dynamics that determine what is to be carried forward into the future.

A large group of Western Apache elders and knowledge holders, tribal staff, resource managers, and community members generously serve as vitally important contributors to student training.

Application, Registration, and Course Credits

Application materials for the 2011 season can be found here, with applications due in March. The announcement for the field school can be found here.  Eight students are admitted each season. Priority is given to qualified Western Apache tribal members but other Native and non-Native students are encouraged to apply.  Participating students receive a $3,000 stipend in addition to room and board.  

The field school incorporates two upper-division, three-credit hour courses, “Application of Geographic Information Systems to Cultural Anthropology” and “Ethnographic Field Methods.”  Upon admission to the program, non-U.A. students register for the University’s Summer Session and will be enrolled in the courses by the School of Anthropology.  Tuition and fees for the two summer session courses is anticipated to be between $3,000 and $3,200 for 2011.


For more information about the Western Apache Ethnography and Geographic Information Systems Research Experience for Undergraduates, please contact program director Karl Hoerig at


The Western Apache Ethnography and Geographic Information Systems Research Experience for Undergraduates is a National Science Foundation REU Site, and receives major funding from the National Science Foundation.


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