Peter James Iverson

April 4, 1944February 14, 2021

Peter James Iverson was born in Whittier, California in 1944. On occasion, he wryly observed that sharing a birthplace with Richard Nixon was not a distinction he particularly relished. He was the first child of William James Iverson and Adelaide Veronica (Schmitt) Iverson. Peter and his brothers, David and Paul, were raised in Menlo Park, California. His family was enmeshed in the rich social scene of Stanford University, where his father was a professor and his mother was the life of the party and an incredible hostess, as well as a long-time volunteer for the League of Women Voters. He was passionate about sports. At Carleton College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in history, he rebelled against the Vietnam War (risking expulsion during the draft) and registered African-Americans to vote in the Jim Crow South. He continued on an academic path, receiving his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

It was at Madison Peter turned to his great academic passion, Native American history. He leapt at the opportunity to teach at what was then Navajo Community College (now Diné College). His connection to the living communities of Native peoples, particularly the Diné, inspired his scholarship and his teaching for his entire career. He loved old traditions and new, both weaving and rodeo. He loved to listen and to engage, to teach and to play basketball with his students. He rebelled against a historical tradition that stuck to the archives, becoming a role model for modern historians who relied on oral histories and non-traditional sources. He taught this approach, insisting that his graduate students interact and collaborate with the Native peoples whose histories they were writing.

Peter wrote ten books (including Diné: A History of the Navajos (2002), We Are Still Here (1998), Barry Goldwater: Native Arizonan (1997), and Carlos Montezuma (1982)) and edited five additional volumes, as well as writing dozens of chapters, articles, and essays. These works, often written in collaboration with Native scholars and artists, broke new ground in the study of Native Peoples and the American West in the twentieth century. He always acknowledged with respect and gratitude his teachers from the Navajo Nation and other indigenous communities. During his long career, he received many prestigious fellowships and honors for his pioneering work. He was the winner of the Chief Manuelito Appreciation Award for Contributions to Navajo Education, the Ak-Chin Indian Community Service Award, the American Indian Historians Association Award, the Wyoming Council for the Humanities Award, the Western Writers of America Award, and the Distinguished Achievement Award of the Carleton College Alumni Association. He was named a McNickle Center for American History Fellow, a three-time National Endowment of the Humanities Fellow, a Leadership Fellow of the Kellogg Foundation, an Arizona Humanities Council Public Scholar, and a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. Peter was the first Arizona State University’s Regents’ Professor of History. He also served as a professor of history at the University of Wyoming and as Anderson Visiting Professor of American Studies at Carleton College. He received awards for teaching, doctoral mentorship, and work as a faculty member at Arizona State University and the University of Wyoming. He served as Director of Graduate Studies in History at Arizona State University. He was associate editor of The Historian from 1990-1995, and consulted on five documentary films. He was extremely active in several professional associations including serving as the President of the Western History Association and Acting Director of the D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies. For over three decades, he loved working with his students. His work as a mentor notably included a large number of Native, non-traditional, and first-generation students. To his delight, many of his scores of PhD advisees continued as professional historians and others pursued history in a variety of non-traditional ways. He believed teaching was the best job in the world. His impact as a scholar continues to spread.

Peter loved stories. This was true whether he was entertaining his students, his colleagues, or his family. Whether he was writing for fellow historians or Native American children, he passionately believed in the power of memory, the meaning of place, the value of listening, and the potential of storytelling. He emphasized the centrality of character for historical figures and all of us, insisting that ultimately “who you are is more important than what you do.”

Peter’s great love was his wife Kaaren. Peter and Kaaren raised four children with joy and a sense of celebration and adventure. He was so proud of his children, celebrating their triumphs and sending them love regardless of whatever challenges they faced. Peter served as example of excellence and compassion to his children and their spouses: Tim Warder, Scott and Lissa Warder, Erika Iverson, and Jens Iverson and Kate Orlovsky. He doted on their four grandchildren (Carmen, Roman, Freya, and Ada). He is survived by his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his brothers and their spouses (David Iverson and Lynn Fuller, and Paul and Yoko Iverson), and his nieces and their families (Ayuko Iverson, Ajith Satya, and Akemi Satya; and Laura, Kevin, Hannah, and William Beare). Peter died on 14 February 2021 in Tempe, Arizona, where Peter and Kaaren made their home for many decades. He will be sorely missed by his family, and the much wider community of people who loved and admired him. Services will be planned at a later time. In lieu of flowers, the family invites donations to the Peter and Kaaren Iverson Native American Scholarship Fund, which will support Native Americans studying at ASU. Donations may be made at or or checks may be made payable to “ASU Foundation” and sent to the ASU Foundation, Attn: Cash Receipting, P.O. Box 2260, Tempe, AZ 85280-2260. Please indicate “In Memory of Dr. Peter Iverson” in the memo field. All gifts are tax deductible and will be added to a permanently endowed scholarship fund. To send condolences or sign the online guestbook, please go to the Green Acres Mortuary and Cemetery (


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Peter James Iverson

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Penny Ann Quintana

April 21, 2021

My name is Penny Ann Quintana, I was a M.A. Student of Dr. Iverson in the early 1990s, I just want to express my Condolences to his family. I enjoyed working with Dr. Iverson he was a great teacher and mentor. As a first generation graduate, I appreciate all of his effort to guide me through the research and writing process of a thesis. He has to be one of my best teachers in all of my educational and academic career. He is someone I will never forget and who encouraged me throughout my time spent at Arizona State in the M.A. History program. Today, I am a teacher and often share my experience with my students of a wonderful professor I had and what a great teacher he was and his contribution to the field of Native American History especially when I teach my high school students about the American West and Native People's. To this day and it is 30 years after I have received my degree, I continuously talk about Dr. Iverson and just how great of a Professor he was and I consider myself very lucky to have worked with him on my degree at ASU! He was one of the best and always strived to help his students succeed through his guidance and teaching. I will greatly miss him and I am so glad and proud to have had the opportunity to work with him.

Sybil Thornton

March 28, 2021

Sincerest condolences to family, friends, and fellow colleagues.

Hsl Arkes

March 12, 2021

Pete was the Carletonian editor when I was the news editor. We spent a LOT of time together creating the weekly Carletonian newspaper. He was the only person I ever met for whom the first draft was good enough to be the last draft. He was clearly a gifted writer. When my family was visiting my grandparents in California in the mid 1960s I asked my father if we could take a detour to Menlo Park so that I could see Pete. I respected him a great deal, not only for his intellect, but also for kindness. He will be missed by everyone who knew him.

Carolina Butler

March 8, 2021

My condolences to Peter Iverson's wife Kaaren, their children, family and friends.
I am fortunate to have been part of Peter's world beginning in the late 1970s when he was doing research with the Fort McDowell Yavapai tribe faced with a forced relocation. I, Mex-Amer, living nearby, was helping the tribe & after a many years fight, unbelievably our side won.
Years later, Peter's endorsement appears in our book "ORAL HISTORY OF THE YAVAPAI."
When still teaching in Wyoming & doing research, Peter& a colleague stayed with our family a couple of times.
Peter was a top historian, professional and firm. I'll always remember him with admiration & respect & of our friendship.

Elizabeth Gordon

March 4, 2021

My condolences to the entire Iverson family! Dr. Iverson was the chair of my thesis committee many years ago. His advice and guidance have shaped my approach to history and my career. I'm so grateful to have had the pleasure to learn under his tutelage.

Rest in peace.

Roger Adelson

March 1, 2021

My Condolences.

Roger Adelson

Kathy Howard

March 1, 2021

Regents Professor Peter Iverson was a wonderful scholar and mentor to so many ASU graduate students – and I was one of them. As a non-traditional student attempting to be admitted into the graduate school History Program, Peter provided guidance and encouragement. He also paved the way for Native students, supporting those who were admitted into the graduate program and found themselves far from home.

I recall Peter and Kaaren hosting students at a seminar held in their home. After we presented our research, Kaaren provided us with a catered meal. I invited the Iversons to join us at the Crownpoint Rug Auction and we had a great time with them. Time shared with Peter at gatherings of the Western History Association, Arizona History Convention and Westerners were memorable and rewarding.

Peter was so accomplished. Details of his life are spelled out in his lengthy obituary. I am thankful to have known him as scholar, mentor and friend.

M Bohnert

February 28, 2021

My most sincere condolences on the death of Dr Iversen. I had the privilege to he in his Honors Senior seminar many years ago. The topic was the Navajo and I learned much and whetted my appetite to learn more. A treasure of a man.

Tyson Krock

February 26, 2021

My Condolences for your family. My thoughts are with you all.

Billy Kiser

February 26, 2021

As a graduate student at ASU beginning in 2009, I was fortunate to be a part of Dr. Iverson's last graduate seminar ("Natives and Newcomers") before his retirement in 2010. I fondly remember the field trips we took as part of that class, visiting local Native communities and individuals. I also appreciated the tremendous care and concern that Dr. Iverson took when evaluating our research papers. The final two weeks of the semester, he held class at his house near the ASU campus, and he and his wife provided all of us with catered lunch as we sat in his living room presenting and discussing those final research papers. When I asked Dr. Iverson to write letters of recommendation for me, he again invited me to his house, and we had a long conversation about my career goals so that he could write the most effective letter possible. It was obvious that he cared deeply about his graduate students and their success in the field, and this is something that can often go underrecognized in the profession, as many people focus on the publications, grants, and awards. I'll always have fond memories of my time at ASU and the role that Dr. Iverson played in my education, and for that I am deeply grateful to him.