Building Nations

A new graduate program offers specialized training in tribal leadership.

The Department of Applied Indigenous Studies at Northern Arizona University now offers a new online graduate program on Tribal leadership and Native Nation-building. NAU’s faculty constructed the program to benefit prospective tribal leaders and current tribal leaders and administrators who serve any of the 562 federally recognized Native American nations.

The head of the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies, Chad Hamill, said, “We’ve been hearing about the need for more specialized training. And so this really is a response to that call from tribal leaders.”

The Indigenous and Tribal Nation-Building, Leadership, Management and Administration Graduation Certificate requires a year of study comprising six online courses and a two-week summer intensive. Within the 18-credit course schedule are classes on indigenous law and policy, indigenous nation building, tribal environmental, and indigenous and tribal financial management. While a bulk of the program is online, the two-week summer intensive allows students to work alongside current tribal leaders.

Hamill and his faculty staff designed the graduate program to provide knowledge and skills that are uniquely specific to Native Nations. Included within the curriculum are the unique aspects of indigenous nation-building, the differences between public administration and tribal administration, and the definition of tribal sovereignty as it applies to federally recognized tribal nations.

Among the positions said to benefit from the program are department managers, finance administrators, public service administrators, and planners — any job that requires working knowledge of tribal law, tribal customs and tribal culture.

Hamill speaks confidently about the faculty members who will be teaching these courses. “We have a number of really wonderful folks that will be teaching this program,” Hamill said. Dr. Manley Begay earned his doctorate of education at Harvard and has focused on Native Nation-building for years. Dr. Karen-Jarret Snider specializes in tribal environmental management, and Dr. Michael Lerma specializes in tribal administration.

When asked if the program is only available to Native Americans, Chad Hamill responded saying, “No. We expect a majority of students who come through here to be Native American, but the program is not available exclusively to them.” Hamill cited the fact that across the country many people work jobs that benefit from extensive knowledge of tribal law and customs. For example, a utilities manager in a town bordering a Native Nation would benefit from knowing the correct means of orchestrating business partnerships with the neighboring tribe.

“Oftentimes people are thrust into positions without a lot of specialized training. And so we’re there to basically support them, to support folks that are working for the tribes currently and to also support those who wish to do that at some point in the future,” Hamill said. “The hope is that this will contribute to a resurgence of Native Nations across the country.”

The first semester of the Tribal Leadership and Native Nation-building Graduate program begins August, 2015. The application for enrollment became available March 15, 2015.