Washington State University is launching an online certificate program in American Indian studies next year, with the goal of broadening understanding of native history and culture.
The online courses are aimed at several audiences, including professionals who interact with tribal governments or tribal business enterprises, said Michael Holloman, coordinator for the American Indian Studies minor and certificate program.
“We recognize that a lot of people have jobs that put them in contact with tribes, and they have not had a lot of education about tribal cultures,” he said. “It can be extremely beneficial both ways.”
But Holloman also thinks the 18-credit, non-degree program will appeal to people on far-flung Indian reservations who want to learn more about their own history and culture, as well as members of the general public.
“This allows us to reach out to people who might never come onto campus,” said Holloman, who is also an associate art history professor at WSU and an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. “Technology has created the opportunity for these bridges to be developed.”
Avista Corp. is an example of the type of company whose employees might benefit from the program. The Spokane-based utility interacts with seven tribes in the Inland Northwest, said Toni Pessemier, Avista’s American Indian relations adviser.
Many of the interactions are related to natural resources, such the federal relicensing agreements for Avista’s dams, or transmission lines that cross through reservations. But Avista is also the service provider to some native communities, including the entire Spokane Reservation, Pessemier said.
Each year, top Avista executives meet with the Spokane Tribe’s governing council to discuss issues of interest. But formal training is another way to increase cultural understanding, she said.
Core classes in the certificate program cover American Indian history, politics and law. Electives include gender roles and contemporary cultures. For more information, visit http://online.wsu.edu/cert/AIS.aspx.
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