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Gain a Better Understanding of Tribal Government

Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Master of Science in Native American Leadership online program offers a distinctive curriculum developed by tribal leaders to prepare graduates for success. The program builds a broad range of versatile leadership skills that you can apply in business, government and non-governmental organizations.

The program is unique, and the precise combination of skills it develops is unavailable anywhere else, according to graduate Carrie Gray, Choctaw Nation Next Step Initiative Director. Whether you seek a future in tribal leadership or as a business leader with entities that maintain relationships with tribal nations, it is a good idea to develop a strong foundation of knowledge in how tribal governments work.

The Leadership Opportunity

There are currently 573 sovereign tribal nations (otherwise known as tribes, bands, nations, pueblos, communities and Native villages) that have a formal relationship with the U.S. Government. Their collective jurisdiction spans 36 states and a square footage of total land that would make Indian Country the fourth largest state in the nation. Yet there is a severely underserved niche in formal postgraduate education to develop the leadership skills needed by these nations and the organizations they do business with.

Amanda Johnson, a program graduate and Director of Childcare for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma says, “You learn about leadership, but you learn it from a tribal perspective.” To meet the need for tribal nation leadership, this degree program highlights skills including communication, presentation, critical thinking and problem-solving. Students also gain an understanding of the complex culture and history influencing modern Native American communities.

Whether you are of Native American heritage or you want to have a positive impact on the welfare of tribal communities, the curriculum of this SOSU online program provides a foundation for your success. Some of the fundamental concepts and disciplines students learn in this program include:

  • Traditional and Modern Concepts of Indian Educational Leadership
  • Tribal Government Leadership
  • Decision-Making and Legislation
  • Nation Rebuilding
  • Administration and Planning
  • Diversity of Native American People’s Cultures and Histories

Why Tribal Governments Exist and What They Do

Tribal nations ceded millions of acres of land that gradually became the United States as we know it today, both by force and by agreement. The U.S. Government has affirmed the right to sovereignty or self-governance of these tribes through treaties, legislation, executive orders and laws. These create a federal “trust responsibility” that not only protects the tribes, but provides for federal assistance to ensure that they can thrive.

To that end, each of the 573 tribal nations has its own autonomous government that maintains the power to enact and enforce laws, tax citizens and set up its own courts. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Tribal Government Services fund supports and assists the tribal governments in administering programs and developing the tribes’ economies. This program requires leaders with specialized knowledge in tribal governments.

Because the tribes operate within U.S. borders and are built on constitutional principles, they share common interests with the states where they are located. Their interconnection with state residents, such as those of Oklahoma, have resulted in the formulation of the Tribal-State Relations Project. This collaborative partnership is essential to education, law enforcement, public safety, emergency management and many other issues essential to the well-being of both U.S. and tribal citizens. This program has grown quite large and complex, and represents another area of leadership need served by this SOSU program.

As these institutions and the tribes they support flourish, the leadership opportunities for graduates of the SOSU M.S. in Native American Leadership grow along with the tribes.

Learn more about Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s online Master of Science in Native American Leadership program.


National Congress of American Indians: Tribal Governance

National Congress of American Indians: State/Tribal Relations

U.S. Department of the Interior: Indian Affairs, Division of Tribal Government Services

US Legal: Tribal Governments

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