Service to tribal people in their communities and nations is the foundation of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Students majoring in the field will take all of the core classes, and students minoring will take several of them. For those who want to work with and for Indigenous peoples, these courses provide an indispensable theoretical and practical structure for applied service. Coursework is built upon concepts fundamental to critical Indigenous theory, such as political and cultural sovereignty, peoplehood, relationality, self-determination, and decolonization as each has developed among many Native peoples across many historical, political, and geographical contexts; then, through their internship and capstone work, NAS students will translate their academic preparation into real-world application through work with tribal communities and governments.
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The NAS Core: Critical Indigenous Theory and Methodologies
NAS Areas of Emphasis:
Indigenous people have increasingly taken control of how they are represented in the arts, film, literature, and media in general. This emphasis will equip students to assess critically how such representations can practically work for better or worse towards Indigenous peoples’ own goals. Students may elect to center their work in media and arts criticism, to pursue training in producing their own media and creative works, or to craft a combination of those approaches. Student who pursue this path will be well equipped for advanced graduate study. In addition, the skills acquired in this area of study translate to jobs in cultural preservation and revitalization, cultural tourism, publishing, education, fine arts, media production, film, museums, public relations, journalism, or advertising.
The political systems that tribal nations must navigate in the exercise of governmental and cultural sovereignty are unique, both domestically and internationally, and require specialized preparation, which this curricular focus provides. Creative and critical thinking skills relating to the practical work of improving the material well being of tribal communities are at the heart of this concentration, as are a focus on the foundation and skills for structuring political systems and programs in a manner that is consistent with a tribal community’s particular values and traditions. These courses prepare students to work in several areas related to policy matters, including tribal and federal government service, non-governmental advocacy, tribal economic development, and more. And this emphasis also provides students with an excellent gateway, if desired, for law school, public administration, business, health, and education.
This emphasis shapes connections among several branches of Native American Studies that focus on the development of an understanding of Native epistemologies or knowledge systems. Heritage languages encode many of these systems, and their development is a crucial and growing endeavor for many tribes across the nation. This course of study trains students for advanced graduate study as well as for work in key areas such as language, historic preservation, cultural preservation and revitalization, museums and archives, public history, and social justice/advocacy. With the broad approaches to several facets of Indigenous cultures available in this focus area, this emphasis cultivates a deeper understanding of Native ways of knowing, and doing that can inform any scholarly discipline or vocational pursuit.