Professor Elise Boxer and students around table seminar discussion

Native American Studies

Broaden your knowledge of tribal nations and issues as you become an effective leader and communicator in our multicultural world. 

Why Study Native American Studies?

As a Native American Studies major at USD, you will learn about the histories, languages, cultures, arts, sovereignty and contemporary status of American Indian nations and peoples. Through educational opportunities in the classroom and community and research opportunities beyond the classroom, you'll develop effective communication and research skills – skills that will serve you well in establishing mutually beneficial and enduring cross-cultural relationships throughout your life and career.

The Native American Studies program at USD uniquely prepares students interested in working with tribal nations and communities and complements other disciplines such as anthropology, art history, English, health sciences, history, and Lakota language and psychology. You will gain a valuable foundation for a variety of careers, including those in the public sector; non-profit organizations; tribal government, corporate and private companies; journalism; education; health and social services and more. You'll also be set up for success in countless graduate and professional programs, including law, education, and public policy.

Become a responsive and effective leader who is ready to work with tribal nations and communities as a Native American Studies major.

Degrees & Offerings

Native American Studies (B.A.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

A degree in Native American Studies provides you with a multi-disciplinary education grounded in anthropology, art history, health sciences, Lakota language and more. With courses ranging from Lakota Culture and Traditions to Federal Indian Policy, the Native American studies program provides you with an understanding of the histories, languages, cultures, arts, sovereignty and contemporary status of American Indian nations and peoples. This program is well suited for students interested in a double major.

Native American Studies: Lakota Studies (B.A.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

In addition to taking the core requirements of the Native American Studies major, you can opt to specialize in Lakota studies. This specialization will enhance your knowledge of Lakota history, culture and governance and includes advanced Lakota language classes.

Native American Studies

  Vermillion Main Campus

A minor in Native American Studies will help you develop critical thinking and communication skills that will serve you in any career. This program is a great complement to a variety of majors, including criminal justice, communication studies and legal studies.

Program Details






Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.

Student Opportunities

As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.
Students Interacting at a Tiospaye Event
Students Interacting at a Tiospaye Event.

USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including Tiospaye, which encourages Native and non-Native students to get involved in school activities. We support students in their academic pursuits, promote Native life on campus and serve as a welcoming place for students, faculty and community members from all walks of life.

We create a Tiospaye (extended family) of university and community members to give students a home away from home and encourage South Dakota schools, universities and tribal colleges to work together to promote Native student higher education.

Explore Student Organizations

The Native American Studies program provides an intellectual environment where teaching and research are based on the priorities and knowledge of South Dakota's Native communities. Your experience is grounded within the fabric of South Dakota, the whole of North America and the global Indigenous experience.

Our faculty and students interact with and conduct research for Native governments, Native-based community organizations and other organizations that serve Native Country. These experiences will help you become a communicator and leader who is prepared to bring people together and understand others' needs in our multicultural world.

Additionally, the program emphasizes the continued effort of the university to establish respectful partnerships with Native nations at the local, regional, national and international levels. 

USD is home to faculty and staff, scholars and community members who bring valuable insights into the lived experiences of Native American people. You'll have the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on research projects; many of our students go on to present their research at academic conferences across the country. 

There are a number of other resources on the USD campus in Vermillion available to you as well if you are interested in conducting research or expanding your knowledge about Native Country:

  • The W. H. Over Museum, located on the grounds of the University of South Dakota, collects, preserves, documents, exhibits, researches, studies and interprets objects relating to natural and cultural history, primarily of South Dakota.
  • The South Dakota Oral History Center houses a vast array of audio recordings, documentation and equipment for research purposes – an invaluable resource for communities rooted in a rich oral tradition.
  • The Joseph Harper Cash Memorial Library holds an array of printed sources for research pertaining to Native American history and culture.
  • The Herman P. Chilson Collection includes books, maps, pamphlets and print materials relating to local histories, South Dakota history, Native American cultures and United States western expansion.
  • The Institute of American Indian Studies (IAIS) at USD connects students, faculty and staff with opportunities to study the history, culture and language of the nine federally-recognized tribes in South Dakota. 
USD regularly welcomes Native American speakers and scholars to campus to share their research, expertise and lived experiences. Through the Native American Studies Speaker Series, you'll have an opportunity to hear from nationally renowned Indigenous scholars right here on campus. The annual Joseph Harper Cash Memorial Lecture was inaugurated in 1995 to promote education and awareness of American Indian culture and issues.
USD offers a range of scholarships for students, including scholarships specifically for Native American students and Native American Studies majors. The Native American Studies program strives to recognize and reward outstanding students for their accomplishments and potential through scholarships and funding.

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in Native American Studies.
Historic Photo Placed Over Current East Hall Building


At the University of South Dakota, our Department of History houses numerous disciplines that exist at the intersection of curiosity, research, writing, storytelling and the human experience. Find the answers to your questions about people, events, institutions and values with the guidance and support of our exceptional faculty.


Get to know the professors and staff of the Native American Studies program.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Elise Boxer

Elise Boxer

Director-Inst of Amer Indian
Students studying at Native American Cultural Center

Find Your Home at USD

The University of South Dakota provides a welcoming home for Native American students and those interested in learning about Indigenous cultures. Through the Native American Cultural Center, gatherings like an annual Wacipi and additional events and resources across campus, you can connect with the Native community and find culturally-relevant experiences that enrich your education.
Opening ceremony of Wacipi

Connect with Native American Communities

USD's Native American Studies program maintains close relationships with South Dakota's Native American communities. You will learn from those relationships through cultural workshops, a Native American Studies Speaker Series, immersion and community outreach. 

Alum Success Story

Success story Tamee Livermont smiling.
As a Native American student who was removed from my culture during the beginning of my time at USD, I will forever be grateful to this program. Through this degree, I did not only learn about relevant educational knowledge, but I learned a lot about myself and became more grounded in my culture.

Tamee Livermont

B.A. Native American Studies, Medical Biology '18

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