NSU to offer Native and Indigenous Studies minor this fall

ABERDEEN, S.D. (Press Release) – Gates Fellow and NSU Honors student Jaeden Shaving chose Northern State University because the NSU American Indian Circle Program, led by Director Lara Nelson, gave him opportunities to connect and find support on campus and in the Aberdeen community. 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 and be a good complement to any major. 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.”

The Program

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 the world. “I know my own history,” explained Shaving, “and I’m really looking forward to making connections to indigenous experiences from other parts of North America and more globally.”

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 white contact to the present, emphasizing regional Dakota cultures. Students pursuing the minor can then choose from a range of interdisciplinary courses to finish out the minor.

The Committee

Northern’s American Indian Advisory Committee reviews and advises on policy, practices, academic offerings, and programing to support NSU’s Native American students.  Nelson and Monaghan-Geernaert credit Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Mike Wanous with buoying their efforts to launch the newly envisioned minor when he joined the AIAC committee during his first month on campus in summer 2019.

Along with Nelson, Monaghan-Geernaert, Shaving, and Wanous, other committee members include:

  • NSU Professors of History Drs. Steven Usitalo and David Grettler
  • NSU Assistant Professor of Marketing/Management Dr. Amber Henderson
  • NSU Admissions Director Layton Cooper
  • Erin Fosher, School of Education clinical supervisor
  • Jani Kovach, academic advisor for art, theater and music
  • Gordon Treetop, community member
  • Students, Justice Swift Red Hawk, Tayzia Claymore Knight and Jaeden Shaving.

Register Now

Registration for the fall 2020 course, Contemporary Native and Indigenous Life, and spring 2021 course, Federal Indian Law, 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.