MU adds Native American indigenous studies minor

The new minor, available this fall, will focus on the political, social and economic factors of indigenous cultures.
Religious Studies Associate Professor Dennis Kelley led the force to create a minor for Native American indigenous studies at MU. Courtesy of MU Religious Studies Department

A new Native American indigenous studies minor will be available to students beginning this fall semester, through the religious studies department.

The minor’s curriculum will serve as an interdisciplinary overview of Native American studies, spanning subject areas such as anthropology, geography, business and religious studies while emphasizing an understanding of the Native American community.

Dennis Kelley, an associate professor in the religious studies department and the leading force behind the creation of the minor, said the courses will help prepare students to work in a world increasingly cognizant of indigenous issues and employment opportunities.

“American Indian and indigenous issues are emerging areas, in both the private and public sectors,” Kelley said. “Everything from health sciences and social work to law, business, administration. There are jobs out there for people that have information in their heads about indigenous communities.”

Kelley said that as indigenous communities around the world continue to grow, so will the importance of cooperating with them within economic and social spheres.

“Any kind of activity, business, health or otherwise, you have to be aware of the tribal arrangements and traditions that are involved there,” Kelley said.

Classes within the minor will look broadly at Native American communities through political, social, economic and historical lenses. These interweaving themes make it necessary to study indigenous groups holistically, Kelley said.

“In most indigenous communities, religious ideas are not separate from their economic, cultural, social ideas,” Kelley said.

Student interest in the department’s Native American studies courses contributed to the decision to establish the minor.

“There is an expressed interest from the students as evidenced by our classes being quite popular,” Kelley said. “People are interested and concerned about American Indian and indigenous issues both here and abroad.”

Although the minor has been approved, the curriculum is still being finalized.

MU is the latest school in the area to add an indigenous course of studies. The University of Kansas, University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Oklahoma have all offered degrees in Native American and indigenous studies for some time. Across the country, large state schools often offer some form of the discipline.

Kelley is working toward having a course catalog set by the end of the school year. The courses will be available to students in the fall.

Edited by Kyle LaHucik | klahucik@themaneater.com

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