Undergraduate Program Indigenous Nations and Native American Studies

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Indigenous Nations and Native American Studies Bachelor's Degree and Minor Overview

Portland State University is the only college in the state of Oregon to offer a major in Indigenous Nations and Native American studies.

The program focuses on studies and practices of Tribal critical race theory, decolonizing methodologies, traditional and cultural ecological knowledge, and contemporary themes. Contemporary themes include:

  • community health
  • food sovereignty and the cultivation of first foods
  • Indigenous land management
  • community development
  • resilience
  • Indigenous futurisms
  • self-determination

We offer students the opportunity to:

  • Engage with a diverse range of epistemologies (oral, visual and written), and discourses on tribal sovereignty and law, traditional ecological knowledge, models of Indigenous leadership, Tribal critical race theory, and decolonizing methodologies.
  • Explore inside and outside the classroom through community-based learning including Indigenous ecological practices, collaborative research on natural resource management and environmental sustainability.
  • Examine and reflect upon resistance movements up to and including Red Power and Standing Rock, that assert and reaffirm Indigenous sovereignty and community resilience.
  • Understand and address through critical theory, community engagement and discourse, the historical context and contemporary issues impacting social, economic and environmental justice in Tribal and urban American Indian/Alaska Native/First Nations communities.
  • Analyze and reflect upon their own identity, allowing students to forge an individual pathway of reflective decolonization alongside peers in an environment that encourages self-examination.
  • Develop an understanding of Indigenous relationships today and in the past with the environment: land, water, animals, plants, weather/climate, seasons, cosmology/Indigenous astronomy, through food, medicine, craft, art, storytelling, governance, education, policy-making and ceremony.

Our students go on to careers in nonprofits, education, social services, Tribal government and academia.

"What happens in Indigenous Nations Studies truly changes the world, one-warrior student at a time." -- Cornel Pewewardy, Founding Director of the Indigenous Nations Studies Program

Degree Details

Location Definitions:

On campus:
100% on campus
100% online
Combination of online and on campus
  • BA
    Bachelor of Arts
    On campus
    Total Credits
    Start Term
  • BS
    Bachelor of Science
    On campus
    Total Credits
    Start Term
  • m
    On campus
    Total Credits
    Start Term

Indigenous Nations and Native American Studies Bachelor's Degree or Minor: Why PSU?

Portland State is the first four-year institution in the state of Oregon (and only the third in the region) to establish a major in Indigenous Nations and Native American Studies. Portland, Oregon has one of the largest Urban Native American populations in the United States and Portland State is uniquely positioned to partner with the many governmental agencies, Tribal and Native organizations, and nonprofits that are headquartered in the city. Several of which have inter-governmental and cooperative agreements and grants with the PSU Indigenous Nations Studies program. Community partners were integral in encouraging the establishment of the major which is reflected in the significant community-based component of the program.

Sustainability is a central aspect of Indigenous Nations and Native American Studies internationally, and a core theme of the program at Portland State. Sustainability — particularly its interrelated cultural and environmental components — is inextricably connected to Native worldviews around the need to protect and cherish the ecological systems of the Earth, and the need to embrace self-determination and sovereignty. Sustainability is not only critical to the survival of the planet in environmental terms; it is critical to the survival of Indigenous peoples in cultural, political and physical terms. Students will take several courses that deal with sustainability issues, engage in partnerships such as the one with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and connect with faculty who are experts in this area.

The Portland State Indigenous Nations and Native American major offers a focus on Native, Indigenous and First Nation peoples and Nations of the Northwest and Alaska. The program overall, has a global Indigenous view.

Our expert faculty are international scholars who work with Native peoples across the globe. They bring their knowledge, scholarship, and rich experiences into the classroom. Through mentorship, our faculty and staff provide students with the support you need to grow as a person and as a professional. Courses in this major will encourage you to analyze and reflect upon your own identity. Much of what students gain from the program happens outside of the classroom through engagement with a cohort, the community, and faculty. All of these components contribute to the deconstruction and building of identity, self and Native/Indigenous/First Nations peoples. This will allow you to forge your own pathway of decolonization alongside your peers.

Here, you’ll find an interwoven community of both Native and non-Native students. PSU’s Native American Student Community Center is unique in the United States. Native staff, faculty, community members and students guide and serve the Center. It houses four active student groups:

  • American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES): The goal of this student group is to increase the representation of American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Pacific Islanders in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Using a “full circle of support” model, AISES programs serve the organization’s members as pre-college and college students, professionals, mentors, and leaders.
  • Healing Feathers: The purpose of Healing Feathers is to promote wellness to Native American/Alaska Native students of Portland State University and community members.
  • Pacific Islanders Club (PIC): A student organization that educates and gathers PSU students who are familiar with and interested in the pacific island heritage. We represent the different Island Nations located in Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.
  • United Indigenous Students in Higher Education (UISHE): Assists American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Indigenous Peoples in maintaining cultural values, while pursuing their educational goals.

What can I do with a bachelor's degree or minor in Indigenous Nations and Native American Studies?

With a bachelor’s degree in Indigenous Nations and Native American studies, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of issues that American Indian/Alaska Native/First Nations communities face. There is discourse that society is in a post-colonial state, but these problems persist and are part of the daily lives of Indigenous peoples.

Many of our students go on to work with Native populations in a variety of fields including:

  • education
  • social services
  • sustainability
  • Tribal government
  • nonprofits
  • local, state, and federal agencies

Recent graduates have gone on to work organizations and agencies across the region and country, including:

  • Metro Regional Government
  • City of Portland
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • Intertribal Timber Council
  • Columbia River InterTribal Fish Commission
  • Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board
  • Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA)
  • Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA)

Featured Courses

  • NAS 201 Intro to Native American Studies
  • NAS 344 Indigenous Women Leadership
  • NAS 346 Contemporary Issues in Indian Country
  • NAS 392 Indigenous Ways of Knowing
  • NAS 426 Tribal Critical Race Theory
  • NAS 442 Decolonizing Methodologies
  • NAS 407 SEM Traditional Ecological Healing Practices


  • NAS 301 Intro to Native American Languages
  • NAS 399 Indigenous Sciences
  • NAS 342 Indigenous Gardens and Food Justice
  • NAS 411 Nationhood: Tribal Sovereignty, Governance & Policy
  • PSY 410 Native American Psychological Healing
  • SW 465 Intro to Indian Child Welfare and Indian Child Welfare Act
  • NAS 410 Decolonizing via Indigenous Art


Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).