ABERDEEN, S.D. – NSU Honors student and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal member Jaeden Shaving chose Northern State University because Lara Nelson, Director of the NSU American Indian Circle Program, had several conversations with him that made him “feel like someone actually cared about me and my future, and she did a lot to educate me about the variety of opportunities, including scholarships, the Cangleska wašté pre-orientation program, and peer mentoring, that I had at my disposal.” Shaving is excited the university added a new academic opportunity starting in fall 2020: a minor in Native and Indigenous Studies.
Northern State University’s Native and Indigenous Studies minor is an interdisciplinary program featuring Lakota language classes, experiential learning opportunities including a traveling classroom, and new courses in Native Identity and Resiliency, Global Indigenous Media, and Federal Indian Law. The American Indian Advisory Committee (AIAC), led by Nelson and comprised of students, faculty, administrators, and community members worked together to revise a dormant American Indian Studies minor into an engaging, interdisciplinary minor.
Nelson said the new minor will offer a diverse range of academic subjects that will appeal to Native and non-Native students. Students can add the minor in Native and Indigenous Studies to any major. The 18 credits will give them a more robust cultural lens that is inclusive of the fastest growing demographic segment of South Dakota and the region.
“Northern’s Native and Indigenous Studies minor helps students draw connections among local Native American experiences and global indigenous cultures on a broad range of topics,” Nelson said. “The faculty teaching courses in the minor come from different disciplines – sociology, communication studies, history, and law, which ensures our approach is interdisciplinary.”
Dr. Pamela Monaghan-Geernaert, Assistant Professor of Sociology and a member of the AIAC, will teach the first course this fall, Contemporary Native and Indigenous Life. The readings in the course include case studies from local Native American tribes and from around indigenous peoples around the world. “By taking classes in the minor, I think I will learn a lot about the history of our people and how to reach out and connect today” explained Shaving, “I’m really interested in helping the Native American population, especially the young people, succeed. Whether that success is found by going to college, starting a business, or just continuing our traditions and keeping our culture alive, I want to be able to give people the opportunities to do so.”
The other two required courses for the minor include Federal Indian Law, which will be taught in spring 2021 by an attorney with more than 25 years of experience in Indian law, and History and Culture of the American Indian, which will focus primarily on North American Indians from before European contact to the present, emphasizing regional Dakota cultures. Students pursuing the minor can choose 9 electives from a range of interdisciplinary courses.
Northern’s AIAC reviews and advises on policy, practices, academic offerings, and programing to support NSU’s Native American students. Nelson credits the input and advise from elders and community members, including Native students at NSU; the sustained support for the minor from faculty on the American Indian Advisory Council; and, support from NSU Administration, including Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Mike Wanous and Associate Vice President Dr. Erin Fouberg.
Along with Nelson, Monaghan-Geernaert, Shaving, and Wanous, other committee members include:
- Dr. Steven Usitalo, Professor of History
- Dr. Dave Grettler, Professor of History
- Dr. Amber Henderson, Assistant Professor of Marketing/Management
- Layton Cooper, NSU Director of Admissions
- Jani Kovach, academic advisor for School of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences
- Gordon Treetop, community member
- Justice Swift Red Hawk and Tayzia Claymore Knight, student representatives
Registration for the fall 2020 course, Contemporary Native and Indigenous Life, is now open. Students and community members interested in registering for this course or pursuing the Native and Indigenous Studies minor should speak with their academic advisor or contact Nelson at Lara.Nelson@northern.edu.
About Northern State University
Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $55 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.