Future leaders to work with tribes in American Indian Studies program

Students who enroll in the new American Indian Studies master’s program at Arizona State University this fall will delve into studies aimed at providing a comprehensive view of Native American life with the opportunity to work directly with tribes.

“The degree includes a number of different disciplines," says John Tippeconnic, director of the program. "It gives students an opportunity to focus on Indian concerns from an interdisciplinary perspective. It grounds students in Native American knowledge and experiences. American Indian Studies focuses on American Indian people and tribes, their experiences over time and into the future.”

Broadening the scope of American Indian Studies at ASU is a natural extension in Arizona where there are 22 tribes and one-quarter of the land mass is Native American land.

Also, Tippeconnic says, “Indian student numbers at ASU have really grown."

"There are a lot of smart and creative young people here. The master’s of science degree takes American Indian Studies to the next level and advances our vision of becoming the leading Indian studies program in the nation,” he says.

American Indian students who enroll in the program will gain a better sense of who they are, what came before them and what is to come in the future. Learning about the past and transitioning to the future can lead to the next generation of leaders in Indian country, Tippeconnic says.

“This program is evidence of how much American Indian Studies has matured as an academic field over the past four decades since emerging in the late 1960s," says David Martinez, associate professor of American Indian Studies. "The program is also proof that additional graduate-level opportunities are needed, especially for the American Indian student population, which continues to grow and is hungry for new ideas, new faculty and new courses, which will enable them to deal with a rapidly changing indigenous world.” 

Ten American Indian Studies faculty members, who all are members of tribal nations, will teach the initial courses that emphasize research, academics and opportunities to work with tribes. Students have the option of writing a thesis for their final topic or opting for the professional option where they work on concerns within a Native American community or organization.

The ultimate goal of the program, Tippeconnic says, is to improve the quality of life within communities. 

The master’s program is open to all ASU students who qualify and will initially start with a cohort of 10 students. Concentrations offered for the Master of Science degree in American Indian Studies are: visual and oral culture where students explore and contribute to American Indian culture and history through creative writing, literature, poetry, film, photography, performing arts and other means of communication; indigenous rights and social justice that explores historical dimensions of colonization on American Indian political, economic and cultural institutions; cultural and resource revitalization and sustainability, focusing on development and implementation of American-Indian cultural resources management processes and analysis; and tribal leadership and governance.

“This program promises to produce leaders and scholars who are well versed in such issues as sovereignty, self-determination, religious freedom, traditional knowledge and human rights,” says James Riding In, another associate professor in the program.

The deadline to apply for the new program is June 15.