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Native American Studies

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Welcome to the Department of Native American Studies

The Department of Native American Studies—one of the leading such programs in the nation—attracts and serves students of diverse backgrounds and academic interests who are committed to using distinctly Native American perspectives to place the sovereignty of Native nations and the cultures of Native peoples at the center of academic study. 

The Native American Studies curriculum is, at the same time, focused and flexible. We currently support intensive study in four interrelated areas of emphasis that are interdisciplinary in nature - History & Culture, Native Languages, Indigenous Community Planning, and Tribal Governance & Leadership. Students work closely with faculty to combine areas of emphasis according to their own scholarly and professional goals. 

NAS offers three degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as two graduate certificate programs.

The first degree in Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma was awarded in 1996.  Since then, nearly 400 students have earned bachelor's degrees, with either a major or minor in NAS, and master's degrees. NAS Alumni have distinguished themselves in a wide range of careers some of which include: tribal government, law, health policy, filmmaking and media, historic preservation, language revitalization, and education.

Who We Are


The University of Oklahoma Department of Native American Studies recognizes the complexity and diversity of Indian Country. And significantly, we are representative of that diversity. Our faculty, staff, students, and alumni are both Native and non-Native. We represent federally recognized tribes, state-recognized tribes, and unrecognized tribes. We are citizens of dozens of tribal political entities and are related through kinship and cultural practice to many, many more indigenous communities. Some among us are tribally enrolled citizens; others are not. Some are fluent speakers of our Native languages; others are not. Some engage in traditional religious practices; others do not. Some powwow, some stomp. We are urban, reservation, and rural. We are local and global.  Our complexions vary; our gender expressions and identities vary. We hold many divergent philosophies and perspectives, and we welcome the vigorous and collegial debate of those perspectives.

Together, we are committed to using distinctly Indigenous perspectives to place the sovereignty of Native nations and the cultures of Native peoples at the center of academic study and community-engaged research.

Together, we are committed to providing a deeper understanding of the unique political status of tribes and to examining contemporary tribal issues, as well as tribal cultures and histories.

Together, we represent and embrace the complexity, vibrancy, and diversity that is Indian Country.

Star Quilt as Symbol and Vision

Native American quilts are a powerful example of the ways that Native peoples have taken practices of cultural dispossession (quilting in Indian boarding schools) and turned them into practices of cultural sovereignty. The star quilt, historically associated with the Sioux, has become a Pan-Indian symbol.  It can be used as a gift of honor, an object of art and beauty, or a practical item of warmth and comfort.  Like the star quilt referenced here, Native American Studies at OU will be pieced together by many hands; will be used by many for many purposes; will be vibrant, diverse, and complex; and will be symbolic of cultural tradition, cultural change, and cultural sovereignty.


Native American Studies became a fully-fledged academic department in 2015; however, the roots of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma reach back to the earliest days of the institution. As early as 1915, American Indian students called for the creation of a museum focused on American Indian histories and cultures on OU’s campus. The students’ idea of a dedicated physical space took hold, and in the 1920s and 1930s, OU Press editor Joseph Brandt and OU President William Bizzell sought to construct an American Indian institute at OU. They envisioned a place that would house classroom space for university courses focusing on American Indian topics and in which the university could host regular conferences focusing on contemporary American Indian policy and socioeconomic concerns. Although the vision for a campus building has not yet been realized, three new courses were inaugurated in the early 1930s, making OU one of the first colleges to make American Indian subject matter a curricular focus. Through the decades to follow, OU continued to nurture its institutional resources focused on Native Americans. These efforts have resulted in the addition of significant special collections, numerous faculty members, and enhanced curricular offerings. As well, the seeds planted by OU’s Native students so many years before continued to grow, and in response to the continued activism by OU’s Native students and community, the Native American Studies program officially became a degree-granting academic unit in 1994 and an academic department in the College of Arts & Sciences in 2015.

The University of Oklahoma located 20 miles south of Oklahoma City in Norman, is the flagship comprehensive university in the state.  Oklahoma is home to 39 tribal nations, each of which has a distinctive culture, history, and government.  OU is ideally situated to serve the educational needs of Native and non-Native students, providing a place for students to deepen their understanding of the unique political status of tribes and to examine the contemporary tribal issues, as well as tribal cultures and histories.  OU is home to many significant Native resources including the Western History Collections, the Fred Jones Art Museum, the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, the OU College of Law and American Indian Law Review, the Native American Language Program, the American Indian Institute, and the Jacobson House Art Center.