IASSA was founded in 1990 in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a meeting held in conjunction with the 7th Inuit Studies Conference. The creation of IASSA follows the suggestion, made at the Conference on Coordination of Research in the Arctic held in Leningrad in 1988, to establish an international association to represent Arctic social scientists.

From its foundation in 1990 until 1992, IASSA's secretariat was housed at the Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. The following three years the secretariat was situated at the Arctic Center, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland. Then from 1995 to 1998, it was housed at the Department of Eskimology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. From 1998 to 2001, the secretariat was located at the GÉTIC (Groupe d'études inuit et circumpolaires) of Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada. From 2001 to 2004, it was at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Department of Anthropology. From 2004 to 2008 it was at Ilisimatusarfik, the University of Greenland, Nuuk, Greenland. From 2008 to 2011 it was located at the Stefansson Arctic Institute in Akureyri, Iceland. The years 2011-2014 University of Northern British Columbia, in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada was housing the Secretairy. Currently, the Secretariat was housed at ARCUM at Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden between 2014 and 2017. Since 2017 the IASSA Secretariat is located at the ARCTICenter, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, USA.

IASSA Presidents:

Andrey N. Petrov (2017-2020)
Peter Sköld (2014-2017)
Gail Fondahl (2011-2014)
Joan Nymand Larsen (2008-2011)
Yvon Csonka (2004-2008)
Peter Schweitzer (2001-2004)
Gérard Duhaime (1998-2001)
Jens Dahl (1995-1998)
Ludger Müller-Wille (1990-1995)