January 22, 2017

University of Minnesota approves tribal admin, governance program

University, tribal officials collaborate to develop much-needed master’s program

DULUTH, Minn. – With the help of Midwest tribal leaders, the University of Minnesota Duluth has developed a first-of-its-kind Master of Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG) degree program.  The first MTAG open house for prospective students will take place Friday, April 22.

The program seeks to train future American Indian tribal leaders and managers through coursework in the principles of sovereignty, ethics, law, management, budgets and leadership.  Tribal language and cultural elements will also be weaved into coursework throughout the program.

“This program will prepare students to apply their skills to manage the daily realities of tribal governance,” said Tadd Johnson, chair of the American Indian Studies Department and MTAG program director at UMD. 

“We know talented young people who would like to work in tribal government,” said Billie Mason, commissioner of education of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.  “This new degree program will provide the training and development students need to effectively serve their people and build a career.”

The two-year master’s degree program will begin in late August 2011 and will feature weekly online meetings and face-to-face weekend meetings at the UMD campus every three weeks.  The curriculum and schedule will allow students to continue working while pursuing their degree.

Collaboration with tribes

Indian tribes are sovereign nations, with the right to govern themselves and their territories.  In recent decades, tribes have positioned themselves to provide an even wider range of programs and services for their members than ever before.  As a result, the roles and responsibilities of tribal administrators have increased substantially.

“This program is a logical and positive result of the growth and success of self-governing tribal nations in the areas of economic development, administration, and self-sufficiency,” said Johnson.

In preparation for the program, UMD officials conducted extensive consultation sessions with tribal administrators, elected officials, and organizations in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest to make sure the program’s curriculum reflected the growing responsibilities of tribal administrators.  The university received statements of support for developing the program from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, which is an organization that represents 35 tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan.

“UMD developed this program by asking tribal governments what was needed,” said Chief Executive Marge Anderson of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Johnson and other UMD program advisors will work with tribal governments on an ongoing basis to improve the program, ascertain best practices, and assist tribes in providing their administrators with the best education available in this region for the development of future tribal leaders.

“There is an ongoing need for a partnership between Indian tribes and the university as we train tribal administrators,” said Johnson.  “We will call upon tribal officials to offer expert advice and training to faculty and students throughout the program.”

UMD was one of the first universities to recognize that American Indian studies is a unique discipline.  Since 1972, UMD has taught generations of students the importance of the history, language and culture of Native Americans. 

“UMD believes in the future of Indian tribes, and we hope this program will help develop  tribal administrators who will use the best practices for governance on reservations,” said Johnson.

Open houses

UMD will host open houses for the MTAG program on April 22, May 13, and June 3.  The open houses will be held from 3-6 p.m. at 116 Cina Hall on the UMD campus.

Applications can be submitted online at www.umdmtag.org.  Click on the “Apply Yourself” button.  You will need to submit an application form, an unofficial undergraduate transcript, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement (300 words maximum).  Applications will be accepted until June 15.

More information about the MTAG program and the application process is available at www.umdmtag.org.