History of The American Indian Council of Architects and Engineers


In the early 1970’s fewer than 30 American Indian architects and 15 engineers could be identified throughout the United States, and very few of them were principals in the firms or offices where they worked. A small group of them came together in Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 23, 1975 to form the American Indian Council of
Architects and Engineers (AICAE) as a non-profit organization to promote the development of American Indians in the professions of architecture and engineering and to encourage the training and licensing of greater numbers of American Indians in these professions. Today the AICAE has more than 200 professional architects, engineers and those in related fields in 20 states.

The mid-1970’s was also a time when Indian tribes were expanding their tribal infrastructure and there was, not only a need for the services of architects and engineers, but an increase in business contracting opportunities for these professions nationwide. Recognizing this need and opportunity, the initial group wanted a way to increase communication among like-minded native professionals and business owners to take advantage of the new business opportunities, and to facilitate their contributions to the rapidly developing tribal economics in Indian country.

Among the charter members of AICAE was its first chairman, Neal A. McCaleb, a Chicksaw Indian and owner of McCaleb Engineering in Oklahoma. McCaleb was subsequently appointed by President George W. Bush as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Senate in 2001. The other initial officers were vice-chairman, Denby Deegan of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, and Leon W. Shirley of the Navajo Nation and partner in Fernandez-Shirley- Trujillo, who served as the secretary-treasurer. Other charter members were Charles
Archambault of Archambault & Company, Ernest Echohawk, Carl Dupris of Enplane Corporation, Denis Numkena of Numkena Associates, Inc., Leroy Brown, and Wakon Redbird & Associates.

AICAE members provide a full range of architectural and engineering services to tribes and Alaska Natives throughout the country as well as to federal and state agencies and local governments at all levels. AICAE members have designed and constructed tribal justice centers, detention facilities, school buildings and campuses, health centers, museums and cultural interpretive centers, senior centers, and community and federal college facilities.

Besides the professional accomplishments of its members, AICAE counts among its most noteworthy accomplishments the training and development of two generations of Indian and Alaska Native professionals through student chapters and scholarships at institutions of higher education throughout Indian country, including the University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, Utah State University, the University of Oklahoma and Portland State University. Recently AICAE established the Louis Weller Scholarship to honor the contributions
of the Caddo Indian architect over many years of service to the organization and to his profession.

AICAE produced a design manual for the National Endowment of the Humanities to assist architects and engineers in incorporating cultural values and customs in their work for Indian communities. Members of AICAE successfully collorated in forming the Native American Design Collaborative (NADC) to provide specific
technical and cultural advice on design and construction of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian on the national mall in Washington, D.C. and the affiliated Cultural Research Center in Suitland, Maryland. A delegation from AICAE was received in Europe at the Museum of Man in Paris and in London by the British Academy of Architecture.

Today members of AICAE offer professional and consulting services in architecture and surveying as well as civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, lighting, and HVAC engineering, along with master planning, interior design, construction management, and landscape architecture and engineering. A number of AICAE members now also serve on university facilities in their professional disciplines. Many of our members mentor students and professionals among the Native communities throughout the United States.