Native American Studies
Salish Kootenai College and UM are working to change those statistics with a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a collaborative project, TRAIN TRaining American INdians in Environmental Biology. The goal is to increase the number of Indian students entering graduate school and careers in environmental biology.
To accomplish this, the project will focus on getting the word out in Indian country about the relevance of training in this field, formulating and sustaining collaborative relationships between UM and SKC, improving undergraduate mentoring at both institutions and educating UM faculty and students about minority issues.
Native American Studies Department
This past summer UM became one of only a handful of universities in the country to have a full-fledged Native American studies department, rather than a program.
The distinction is important, says department Chair Kathryn Shanley, because it recognizes that Native American studies is a field of study unto itself, honoring Native American perspectives and world views in ways that more general fields do not.
The roots of NAS extend back to the social activism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to Larry LaCounte (Chippewa), a former interim director when NAS was still a program.
Henrietta Mann Whiteman (Southern Cheyenne) became director in 1972, followed in 1990 by Bonnie Heavy Runner (Blackfeet), who guided NAS until her death in 1997.
Shanleys arrival at UM coincided with the change to department status. Previously she held a joint appointment in English and the American Indian program at Cornell University.
An enrolled member of the Nakota (Assiniboine) Tribe of Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Shanley is pleased to return to her home state and has definite ideas about what constitutes a strong Native American studies discipline.
The program should have a strong academic component, community outreach and student-support services, she says. Such a three-pronged approach means we can offer a mix that is different and broader than other departments on campus.
About 30 students are pursing a major in Native American studies, and another 40 are getting a minor in the field. About half of the total number are Indian. As the department grows and attracts more students, Shanley says, the curriculum will continue to evolve.
Native American studies is interdisciplinary, offering core courses in literature, oral traditions, history, religion, philosophy, politics, anthropology, art and ecology. Students majoring in NAS must complete a minor and are encouraged to pursue a double major, especially in such related fields as anthropology, history, political science, sociology or social work.
NAS also administers a number of endowed scholarships for Native American students, Shanley says. The scholarships are competitive and for varying amounts. The department also has an emergency loan fund for students and can offer other aid for particular needs.
The University of Montana is ahead of many [other institutions] in its more broadly shared vision of the importance of Native American subjects, Shanley says, and in supporting Native American students, our largest minority on campus.
To find out more, call (406) 243-5831 or visit the departments Web site: http://www.umt.edu/nas/.
In addition to the American Indian Business Leaders, there are a number of UM groups that offer advice and support to American Indian students.
The Native American Graduate Student Association is the newest such club on campus, providing a place to voice concerns and find support among students facing similar demands of graduate work.
The Native American Law Student Association brings together Indian and non-Indian students interested in the study of law as it pertains to tribes. The club is involved in many campus and community events and sponsors the annual UM Native American Film Festival.
The American Indian Science and Engineering Society is a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of Indians and Alaskan native college graduates in science and engineering. UMs AISES chapter provides peer support, mentoring, leadership opportunities and career guidance. Some scholarships are available through the national headquarters.
The Intertribal Diabetes Education Association, sponsored by the psychology department, encourages student involvement in research and educational outreach about the high incidence of diabetes among Indians and what can be done to prevent or mitigate the disease.
The Kyi Yo Native American Student Association began almost 50 years ago to promote awareness of Indian issues. Kyi Yo sponsors an annual education conference and hosts one of the largest student-sponsored powwows in the country.
To find out more, call: