University of California, Riverside

Department of History

Clifford Trafzer

Clifford Trafzer
Office Phone: (951) 827-1974


Clifford Trafzer

Distinguished Professor of History and Costo Chair in Native American

Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, 1973

Areas of specialization: Native American Social-Cultural History; American West; Oral Traditions; Public History


Raised in Arizona, Clifford Trafzer was born to parents of Wyandot Indian and German blood.  He earned a B.A. and M.A. in history at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he also worked as an archivist in Special Collections. In 1973, he earned a Ph.D. in American History with a specialty in American Indian History from Oklahoma State University.  The same year he took a position as a museum curator with the Arizona Historical Society. Before joining the faculty of UCR in 1991, Trafzer taught American Indian History at Navajo Community College, Washington State University, and San Diego State University. He has served as chair of the Departments of American Indian Studies and Ethnic Studies; for many years, he served as a Commissioner of the California Native American Heritage Commission, Director of the California Center for Native Nations, and Director of the Native American Education Program.  Trafzer has published his research with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ford Foundation, American Philosophical Society, Historical Society of Southern California, Haynes Fund, and American Council of Learned Societies. In 1981, he published Kit Carson Campaign: The Last Great Navajo War and Yuma: Frontier Crossing of the Far Southwest. In 1986, he offered Renegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Pacific Northwest, which won the Governor's Award for the best non-fiction in Northwestern history, and Volga Germans, both co-authored with Richard Scheuerman. In 2016, a revised version of the book was reprinted as Snake River-Palouse and the Invasion of the Inland Northwest. In 1994 he won the Penn Oakland Award for Earth Song, Sky Spirit and in 1997 won a book award given by Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers for Death Stalks the Yakama: Epidemiological Transitions and Death on the Yakama Indian Reservation, 1888-1964. His works include Grandmother, Grandfather, and Old Wolf: Tamánwit Ku Súdat and Traditional Native American Stories From the Columbia PlateauExterminate Them!Boarding School Blues, and As Long As The Grass Shall Grow and Rivers Flow: A History of Native Americans.  In 2004, Trafzer co-edited Native Universe: Voices of Indian America, the inaugural book published by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to commemorate the opening of museum. He has published Boarding School Blues, The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue, and Shadows of Sherman Institute.  Recently, he published A Chemehuevi Song: Resiliency of a Southern Paiute Tribe, American Indian Medicine Ways: Spiritual Power, Prophets, and Healing, Comanche Medicine Man, and River Song: Naxiyamtáma (Snake River-Palouse): Oral Traditions of Mary Jim, Andrew George, Gordon Fisher, and Emily Peone.  He is currently researching the “The Seven Drums Religion, Smohalla, and Washani Faith of the Northwest” and “The Intersection of Western Medicine and the American Indian people of Southern California,” a project supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education awarded UCR a grant, Graduate Assistances in Areas of National Need (GAANN), to support graduate students in American Indian Studies. Trafzer is the Principal Investigator of the GAANN grant. 

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General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

College Information

CHASS Student Academic Affairs
3400 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.
Tel: (951) 827-3683
Fax: (951) 827-5836

College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
3413 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.
Tel: (951) 827-1546
Fax: (951) 827-4537


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