M.A. in Native American Studies

Native American Studies offers a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Native American Studies with an inter-disciplinary approach which makes the best possible use of university resources. The program allows each graduate student the opportunity to select a course of study that combines Native American Studies and a student's particular area of interest (e.g., history, business, literature, political science). The 30/31-credit program is designed so that each graduate student could complete the program within three to four semesters of concentrated work. Students will be expected to attend at least two full semesters on campus. Students who have completed the graduate certificate in Native American Studies may transfer 9 credits of classwork to the Master's degree. The program's mission, purpose, and objective emphasis is to graduate, in a timely manner, knowledgeable professionals and academicians well grounded in Native American issues and scholarship.

The Master's program offers two plans: Plan AThesis Option or Plan BProfessional Paper/Project Option.

Plan A requires course work, oral defense of a research prospectus, a written thesis, and an oral defense of the thesis. This option is preparation for doctoral work in Native American Studies or a related field of study.

Plan B requires course work, oral defense of a research prospectus, and completion of a professional paper or project. The non-thesis option is preparation for employment in tribal, state, or federal government, a small or large business, and/or a tribal college.


Candidates are not required to complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test, but may do so if they feel it will strengthen their applications. The closing date for receipt of completed applications is April 15 for Summer, July 15 for Fall, and November 15 for Spring. For detailed Graduate School requirements, please see the Policies and Procedures online. Successful applicants must have their applications accepted by The Graduate School (with departmental endorsement) before an individual is considered a graduate student at MSU.

A bachelor's degree or equivalent from an accredited institution is required for admission to the Master's program in Native American Studies. The Graduate School recommends that prospective applicants reach out to the Native American Studies Department by email or phone call in order to ascertain the suitability of the program for the applicant. 

Each applicant must submit the following during the online application process through The Graduate School (which includes a non-refundable $60 application fee) :

  1. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is optional for students who feel it may strengthen their application.
  2. Official transcripts from all institutions attended (students must have a minimum GPA of 3.00 for the last two years of undergraduate study). The applicant does not need to submit transcripts from a degree awarded from MSU.
  3. Two academic writing samples, demonstrating the applicant's graduate-level research and writing capabilities.
  4. A 2-5 page statement of purpose and goals which includes applicant's experience and knowledge of historical and contemporary American Indian issues, work background, and how the M.A. in NAS will help the applicant reach long range goals, and benefit American Indian peoples/communities.
  5. Three letters of recommendation addressing the applicant's potential as a graduate student, preferably by academic sources. The applicant will be prompted to submit contact information of their recommenders directly in the online application. 
  6. A current curriculum vita or resumé.
  7. International Applicants ONLY: Mandatory English proficiency test score are required for all applicants who are not U.S. Citizens are are not from countries where English is the "official" language. Minimum scores required are as follows: TOEFL [80], IELTS [level 6.5] or PTE [54].

Limited slots are available, and admissions are competitive. 

Deadlines & Assistantships

For students applying for graduate teaching assistantships, the application deadline is April 15 for the following academic year. 

For all other applicants, the deadline is July 15 for fall and November 15 for spring semester. Applicants must be formally accepted by The Graduate School with departmental endorsement from Native American Studies.

Financial Assistance

Graduate Teaching Assistantships, awarded on a competitive basis, are available in NAS to formally admitted graduate students. The GTA includes a 6 credit tuition waiver and stipend. Selected graduate students will teach a section of Introduction to Native American Studies and/or other NAS courses. A prerequisite for application is the successful completion of NASX 530 Federal Law and Indian Policy. See the Graduate Assistantships sections on the Graduate School website for detailed information on appointment criteria.

Further Information

For further information regarding the program, contact Native American Studies at (406) 994-3881 or e-mail Megan Gourneau at megangourneau@montana.edu. In addition, you may refer questions to The Graduate School. Students are expected to be familiar with the degree requirements of both the department and The Graduate School. 

Master's Degree Requirements

Plan A – Thesis Option, 31 credits required:

  • 10 credits minimum Thesis (590) credits
  • ½ of total credits must be at 500 level
  • Maximum of four (4) Independent Study (592) credits

Plan B – Non-thesis - Professional Paper or Project, 30 credits required:

  • Maximum of 6 Professional Paper/Project (575) credits
  • 15 credits minimum at 500 level
  • Maximum of six (6) 570 credits
  • Maximum of six (6) Independent Study (592) credits
  • Pass/Fail – Maximum of 3 credits allowed (excluding thesis)

Requirements for both Plan A and Plan B:

  • 490, 492/470, 494/400, 498/476, 588, 589 credits – Not allowed on the program of study
  • 594/500, 598/576, 592/570 credits – May not exceed 1/3 of total credits required for degree (10 credits)
  • Non-Degree/Reserved credits – Maximum of six (6) to nine (9) credits allowed depending upon admissibility at the time the course(s) were taken. (See graduate catalog)
  • All Course work credits may not be more than six (6) years old at time of graduation.
  • Transfer credits – May not exceed 9 total credits on program.
  • Grade performance for courses on Program of Study – Grades below “C-“ must be repeated. “I” grades must be resolved before graduation.
  • 3 credits (minimum) Registrar Registration required during term of comprehensive exams, defense of thesis, and graduation.
  • 3 credits (minimum) Registrar Registration required for continuous enrollment. Continuous enrollment applies to all master’s students who have passed a comprehensive examination or students who have completed program content coursework (excludes thesis credits).

Required Content Courses

NASX 530Federal Law and Indian Policy3
NASX 540Theoretical Positions in NAS3
NASX 541Critical Approach to NAS Methods3

Graduate classes in Native American Studies

The Following upper division and graduate level courses are offered in Native American Studies:

NASX 405Gender Issues in Native American Studies3
NASX 415Native Food Systems3
NASX 430American Indian Education3
NASX 440Montana Indian Literature3
NASX 450History of American Indians3
NASX 470Indigenous Planning: Strategic Economic and Human Development Approaches3
NASX 476American Indian Policy and Law3
NASX 490RUndergraduate Research1-6
NASX 490ZUndergraduate Research1-6
NASX 491Special Topics1-4
NASX 492Independent Study1-3
NASX 494Seminar1
NASX 498Internship/Cooperative Educ2-12
NASX 505Proseminar Native Amer Studies3
NASX 515Native Food Systems3
NASX 520Fem/Gender Theories IN NAS3
NASX 521Tribal Government: Yesterday & Today3
NASX 523Am Indians/Minority in High Ed3
NASX 524Contemporary Issues in American Indian Studies3
NASX 525Indigenous Philosophies/Sacred Ecologies3
NASX 530Federal Law and Indian Policy3
NASX 540Theoretical Positions in NAS3
NASX 541Critical Approach to NAS Methods3
NASX 550Native Americans: Dispelling the Myths3
NASX 551Native North America: Art, Agency, Activism3
NASX 552Indigenous Nations of Montana3
NASX 553Indigenous Literature and the West3
NASX 560Native American Lit Tradition3
NASX 570Indigenous Planning: Strategic Economic and Human Development Approaches3
NASX 575Professional Paper1-6
NASX 589Graduate Consultation1-3
NASX 590Master's Thesis1-10
NASX 591Special Topics1-4
NASX 592Independent Study1-3
NASX 594Seminar1-4
NASX 598Internship1-6



Walter Fleming

Associate Professors

Matthew Herman

Kristin Ruppel

Assistant Professor

Gail Small

Professor Emeritus

Wayne Stein