The Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indians was founded in 1990 by a generous gift from Kathryn M. Buder, a resident of St. Louis who respected and admired American Indian/Alaska Native peoples. The Buder Center is housed within the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis with the mission to empower and prepare Native students for professional leadership in Native communities through education. 


  • Buder Center is founded. The American Indian Studies Program is designed to educate American Indian students and to have them work with the American Indian population for education, family preservation and well-being, and serving the American Indian people broadly.
  • Dana Klar (United Houma Nation) was the first Buder Center Director. Klar was an alum of the MSW and JD programs at Washington University. She focused on the social and cultural aspects of the program along with recruitment and building community. Klar initiated a “host families” programs to help AI/AN students acclimate to St. Louis. Since Klar, the number of AIAN students have increased in the area and community still exists through alumni connections nearby.


  • The first Annual Washington University in St. Louis Pow Wow is held on March 23, 1991. 

The pow wow was an important step in building the relationship between the St. Louis American Indian community and the Center for American Indian Studies at GWB.

– Dana Wilson Klar,                Director, 1991


  • Eddie Brown (Tohono O’Odham/Yaqui) was the second Buder Center Director. Dr. Brown contributed to the growth of the Center by prioritizing Indigenous research and procuring almost $4 million in grant monies. Dr. Brown also piloted a nationwide graduate recruitment program for AIAN students. Dr. Brown’s priorities can still be felt to this day. Since Dr. Brown, the Center’s research agenda has grown and students actively contribute to the growing body of Indigenous literature every year.


  • Lisa Byers (Cherokee) becomes the first Buder Scholar MSW graduate to receive their PhD.


  • Dr. Molly Tovar (Comanche) was the third Buder Center Director. Dr. Tovar created the American Indian/Alaska Native concentration at the Brown School, which is the only AI/AN social work concentration of its kind in the country. She worked to create additional special programs within the Center, including the Hunt. Fish. Gather. program and the Social Workers Advancing through Grounded Education program.

“For American Indian/Alaska Native people and their leaders, this century represents a time of collaboration and partnership, an opportunity to replace compromise with consensus”

Molly Tovar, Director, 2017


  • The Buder Center graduates its 100th graduate since its founding in 1990. Buder alumni at this time represent 66 tribes and work across the entire country.
  • The American Indian/Alaska Native Concentration was created within the Brown School.


  • Kellie Thompson (Seneca) was the fourth Buder Center Director. She is a Buder and Brown School Alumna and continues the Center’s special programs, research and student development. She has worked with partner organizations to launch the Alliance for Native Programs and Initiatives in St. Louis and to launch the Indigenous Research Initiatives that Support and Engage Communities fellowship program for students.


  • Dr. Pamela L. Begay is the current Director of the Buder Center. She is a Buder and Brown School Alumna and continues the Center’s special programs, student development and research. She is the Chair of the American Indian/Alaska Native Concentration, teaches in the mental health concentration, and maintains a clinical private practice focusing on treating trauma while infusing psychodynamic theory.