SUAC's origins predate the university itself. They reflect cultural encounters and broad intellectual trends, as well as the unique history of Stanford University.
The Stanford University community recognizes that the present-day Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, with an enrolled Bureau of Indian Affairs documented membership of over 550, is comprised of all of the known surviving American Indian lineages aboriginal to the San Francisco Bay region who trace their ancestry through the Missions Santa Clara, San Jose, and Dolores, during the advent of the Hispano-European empire into Alta California; and who are the successors and living members of the sovereign, historic, previously Federally Recognized Verona Band of Alameda County. Furthermore, the Stanford University community recognizes that the university is established within the Puichon Thámien Ohlone-speaking tribal ethnohistoric territory, which based upon the unratified federal treaties of 1851-1852, includes the ancestral lands of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of the enrolled Muwekma lineages are descended from direct ancestors from the Thámien Ohlone tribal territory whose ancestors were baptized and had affiliation with Missions Dolores and Santa Clara. The Stanford University community also recognizes the importance of this land to the indigenous Muwekma Ohlone people of this region, and consistent with our principles of community and diversity strives to be good stewards on behalf of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe whose land we occupy.
SUAC's diverse holdings originated in the late 19th century with the Stanford family’s personal collections. The collections greatly expanded after the founding of the University and University Museum (now the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University) in 1891. Acquisitions remained idiosyncratic and opportunistic throughout the 19th century.
As colonial expansion dispossessed tribes across the country, California’s dynamic social networks shaped new economic and political power, multicultural conflict, strategic tribal survivance, and collecting cultures—including at Stanford.
Post-World War II
After World War II, Stanford’s then-new Anthropology Department made increasing use of the university’s anthropological collections in teaching and research. During this time, the holdings grew through faculty and alumni donations, as well as campus and regional archaeology projects.
Post 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake
A substantial portion of the University Museum’s anthropological collection was formally transferred from the Cantor Center for Visual Arts (formerly the University Museum) to the Anthropology Department after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
This collection of archaeological and ethnographic artifacts and art, combined with campus and area archaeology assemblages, is now held by the Stanford Archaeology Center and stewarded by SUAC.