Indigenous Studies Graduate Programs

Students interested in studying indigenous populations may pursue several different kinds of graduate programs in indigenous studies. Learn more about the available programs, common courses and admissions requirements.

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Students can pursue graduate certificates, master's degrees or doctoral degrees in indigenous studies, as well as master's or doctoral degrees in American Indian studies. These degree programs typically culminate in a final project, such as a portfolio or a thesis/dissertation. Find out more about some of the different program requirements here.

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Information for Graduate Programs in Indigenous Studies

Graduate programs in indigenous studies can focus on American Indians and/or discuss other indigenous populations, but either way they usually cover a wide range of topics, such as the culture, language and history of these populations. Some programs, especially at the doctoral level, offer different concentrations, such as law and policy, education, languages, literature and more, and coursework often varies based on these concentrations. However, let's look at some of the more common courses offered in these programs.

Indigenous Issues

Courses in indigenous issues may focus on issues in the United States or broaden their examination to include other areas in the northern hemisphere. These courses explore a wide range of issues that affect indigenous populations, such as education, alienation of land, government policies, language loss and more. Courses in the subject typically serve as a foundation for more advanced coursework and might discuss the history of these indigenous populations, including colonization and decolonization, to provide a broader background for students.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Students in traditional ecological knowledge courses explore the relationship between ecology and the social sciences. These courses often include readings to study ecological processes and concepts and how they affect habitation in various areas. Students also examine how climate change and other ecological changes cause social changes and adaptations.

Indigenous Economics

Some economics courses focus on how economies begin and their effects on social relations, while others focus on particular indigenous populations and their economic systems. Those that focus on indigenous populations examine how these populations developed and then tried to maintain their economic systems after contact with Europe, and how this now affects modern problems. Courses that focus on economic anthropology discuss topics in market economics, economics of development and political economy.

Native American Literature

As the name suggests, students in these courses examine a range of Native American literature. Students read a variety of pieces from different genres that were written by or were written about Native Americans. Content also comes from different tribes, and some of these courses may be considered a capstone course.

North American Native Languages

Most courses in native North American languages examine the linguistic anthropology and general linguistics of the continent. Students study the history and structures of these languages, as well as the linguistic theories surrounding them. Other topics include syntax, phonology, grammar, language socialization, semiotics and more.

Common Entrance Requirements

Similar to many graduate degree programs, those at the master's and doctoral levels in indigenous studies usually require applicants to submit official transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and a resume/CV with their application. Students applying to master's programs usually need a bachelor's degree, while those applying to doctoral programs need a master's degree, and some programs may not require applicants to submit GRE scores if they have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Many graduate degree programs in indigenous studies also ask students to submit a writing sample that can vary in length requirement from about 10 to 20 pages. Some doctoral programs also require students to submit a critical essay in addition to their writing sample.

Students can pursue a graduate certificate, master's degree or doctoral degree in indigenous studies to learn about the culture and history of different indigenous societies. These programs typically require a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation.

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