Photo courtesy Dr. Stanley Knick, director of UNCP’s Native American Resource Center
University of North Carolina Pembroke students at a pow wow held in the fall of 2013.

50 Years Later Native American Studies Still Evolving: 6 New Programs

Tanya H. Lee

Native American and American Indian Studies have been part of the landscape in higher education for half a century. The field has taken academic learning about American Indian communities out of the realm of anthropologists looking from the outside in to describe indigenous cultures into the realm of Native American scholars who themselves interpret the history, cultures and languages of Indian peoples.

Out of this new perspective has grown a vibrant academic community of Native scholars, intellectuals and leaders who help shape the future as the field continues to evolve, often spurred by tribes' financial donations.

New developments in Native American Studies include the following:

The University of Minnesota Duluth has just added a Master of Tribal Administration and Governance degree, says Tadd Johnson, Bois Forte, assistant to the director of graduate studies and head of the American Indian Studies Department. The program grew out of two years of consultations with tribes. It was approved by the university’s board of regents in 2011 and graduated its first class of 25 students in 2013 with Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Interior Department giving the graduation address.

The course of study for the masters, aimed at future and current tribal leaders, includes best practices in accounting and budgets, management and strategic planning. “An applied degree is what the tribes wanted,” Johnson said. Beginning next fall the program will be offered entirely online, again at the behest of tribes.

“The further away from Duluth the tribe was, the more they wanted an online program,” Johnson said. The next step, scheduled for the fall of 2015, will be a B.A. in Tribal Administration and Governance, also available online.

Assistant Director for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn spoke to the first class to graduate from the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Master of Tribal Administration and Governance program in 2013. To his left is UMD Chancellor Lendley Black; to his near right is Vice Chancellor (for Student Life) Lisa Erwin; and to his far right is Kjell Knudsen (former dean of the Business School). (Photo courtesy of Brett Groehler)


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