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Native American Studies

The Breakdown

Perhaps it first began when you learned of the Inca’s architectural prowess with Machu Picchu.  Or maybe you were stirred by injustice after reading about the Trail of Tears.  Then again, you might be enamored with traditions like the pow wow and the sweat lodge.  Or perhaps you share some cultural roots.  Whatever the reason, you find yourself fascinated by Native American culture.  And that is precisely why you want to consider this course of study!

An interdisciplinary major, Native American studies offers students the opportunity to engage with all aspects of Native American history, culture and social struggle.  You’ll study a number of different tribes, from the Mayans of Central America to the Aleuts and Eskimos residing in the far north.  Through a variety of classes in anthropology, history, literature, music and political science, you’ll address their individual identities along with their relationships between other tribes as well as with colonists.  You will study how their societies and traditions developed and transformed.  And you’ll also learn how they became marginalized through a series of discriminatory acts and policies.  What’s more, you might even have the chance to study a Native American language.  Finally, you can expect a curriculum that is reading and writing intensive.    

Should you choose to major in Native American studies, you’ll discover it’s important to be open to different cultures and ways of thinking.  You will also find it beneficial to have strong communication and writing skills.  In addition, you should be great at analyzing and synthesizing information.  However, we recommend that you don’t operate based upon the Mayan calendar.


Nuts and Bolts

As a Native American studies major, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics including: American Indian Images on Film, Race and Ethnicity in Latin America, Sacred Texts: Navajo Creation, Continuity in Pueblo Communities, History of Native American Education, Colonialism and Development, The Myth and the Reality of the American West, Native American Literature, Ancient States and Empires, Archeology and Ethnology of Southwestern Indians and History of the Andes.

Decisions, Decisions

Native American studies majors are usually fascinated by different cultures and how they develop and evolve.  Therefore, it’s common for these students to also be interested in American studies, anthropology, Latin American studies, East Asian studies, Caribbean studies, sociology, archeology, African studies, Middle Eastern studies, history, philosophy, political science, international relations, comparative literature, art history and peace studies.

What's Next

All right, so at first glance Native American studies might not appear to be the most career-oriented of majors.  And you likely won’t see job postings specifically advertising for these graduates.  However, rest assured that the skills you hone and acquire can be applied to many an industry.  To begin with, many majors seek out positions within tribal administration or at non-profits focused on Indian affairs.  It’s also quite common for Native American studies majors to work within social services, public administration or community/urban planning.  Some may become educators or curators at museums focused on Native American art or culture.  Journalism is another popular route as are both education and law.  Truly, you can begin with a major in Native American studies and end up virtually anywhere.



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Don Munce