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Michael McLean Ames was born in Vancouver in 1933. He graduated from UBC with a B.A. in Anthropology in 1956, and from Harvard University with a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology in 1961. Ames also studied at the University of Michigan, University of London, and the University of Chicago between 1957 and 1962. He taught at McMaster University from 1962 to 1964, and in 1964 he began working at the University of British Columbia (UBC) as an assistant professor, followed by an associate professorship in 1966 and full professorship in 1970. In 1974 he became Director of the UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA). From 1974 to 1976 Ames was president of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute which was established in 1968 with funding from the Indian Government to promote Indian studies in Canada. Ames retired from MOA in 1997, and received professor emeritus status in 1998. He remained involved with the Anthropology department at UBC, co-teaching undergraduate courses such as Humanities 101 on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, chairing the Dean of Arts First Nations Language Programme advisory committee, and helping to institute the Musqueam 101 seminar at Musqueam. In July 2002, Ames returned to MOA as Acting Director until 2004. Michael Ames passed away in February, 2006.
Ames received the Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1970, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1979, and a Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology in 1996. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1998. Ames also received the UBC Alumni Award of Distinction in 2005.
Ames published an extensive number of articles and books on a range of subjects including South Asian anthropology, First Nations issues, and museology.