Indigenous studies in First World nation states such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States of America and Hawaii, appear to have acquired the status of a discipline, although the historical and geographical context of its formation varies. The nature and extent of its institutionalisation and the conditions of existence are the structural and organisational components that give credibility to Indigenous Studies as a discipline with global reach. These components substantiate the field’s international currency, intellectual credibility and subject matter. My focus in this presentation is to provide an historical context to the epistemological boundaries of the field set by Indigenous scholars, in particular Native Americans and Maori academics in the latter part of the 20th century. I explore challenges to this early work by Indigenous scholars in the 21st century and conclude by examining the analytic and discursive relations between race and culture as contested territory within this field of knowledge production.