Aboriginal Studies Graduate Programs

Graduate programs in aboriginal studies are more commonly known as native studies in the US and can include coursework in economic development, research methods, and the transmission of indigenous knowledge.

Aboriginal studies are not found in the United States. Instead, this program is known as either Native American, American Indian, or indigenous studies within the U.S. You may also find broader graduate programs that allow for a concentration or minor in Native American studies.

Coursework Requirements

Native and indigenous studies can award either a master's or doctoral degree, and so the hours of credit coursework will vary depending on your degree plan. The following are some of the common courses you might find.

Research Methods

Research methods coursework introduces students to the process of researching indigenous peoples. This study involves becoming familiar with the theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues that can arise when studying indigenous peoples and their communities. This course examines how knowledge is constructed from study of these people. Students also become familiar with developing theories for researching indigenous groups.

Economic Development

In this course, students examine the financial realities facing tribal groups. This coursework introduces students to tribal economic development. Part of this study requires becoming familiar with the obstacles to such development. Students also examine the interaction between native groups, local authorities, and state and federal agencies with regard to how they influence economic development of a tribal group. Topics may also cover theories regarding how tribal economic development impacts the flourishing of a tribal government.


Coursework in indigenous or native education examines the modern state of education among native peoples. Students will learn more about the state of native education. This course also helps students come to a better understanding of how effective modern education is in the Native American context. At the end of the course, students should be familiar with the challenges posed to effectively educating native populations.

Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous knowledge is a survey course that looks at the transmission of knowledge within the indigenous context. Students become familiar with theories used in indigenous studies, often drawing from multiple disciplines in the process. The focus of this coursework is on examining native thought. This is done through a look at oral traditions, written texts, and other sources that have preserved indigenous knowledge.


Courses in literature ask students to look at native literature. Topics in this area can sometimes be divided into separate courses that focus on either early or modern native literature. These courses look at writers who have contributed to the body of native-produced literature. In some cases, this course can be used to assess a specific topic addressed in the larger body of native literature.

Admission Requirements

Although admissions standards may fluctuate slightly between schools, the following are some of the general requirements that you will be asked to meet for admission. Schools will often ask you to submit up to three letters of recommendation suggesting why you should be admitted to the program. You will be asked to submit a statement of purpose regarding why you are applying to the program. Unlike other college programs, you may not be asked to submit GRE scores, although they may be required at some schools.

Your work in a native or indigenous studies program will look at the economic development of tribes, the modern education system of indigenous peoples, and the literature of those peoples. This will prepare you with a thorough understanding of diverse elements of native culture.

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