The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) is located in the heart of Oklahoma, built upon land donated by a Chickasaw tribal member. Located between the Five Civilized Tribes to the east and the Plains Indian Tribes of the west, the region around USAO is home to over 40 federally recognized Indian tribes. As a state-supported liberal arts college serving a rural population, USAO has long attracted a large number of American Indian college students (13% of enrollment). USAO’s decades long commitment to an American Indian Studies degree program and its development of an American Indian Arts degree program provide a rich academic context for the development of new approaches to the study of American Indian humanities.
The American Indian studies program provides knowledge of the traditions and history of the first Americans and an understanding of the unique relationship of the government of the United States to the tribes and individual American Indians. Its curriculum has shifted to accommodate changing contemporary requirements of students. Greater emphasis has been placed on acquiring quantitative skills and on study in financial management and intergovernmental relations.
The goal of the American Indian studies program is to develop a diverse student body to include American Indians from the many tribes in Oklahoma and the nation. In addition to traditional on-campus offerings, the program also offers extension in-service and mid-career training.
As an academic program, American Indian studies is designed to advance USAO’s interdisciplinary, liberal arts mission and further enrich the IDS experience. Students may also pursue a course of study which combines liberal arts with professional education. Thus, students are advised to select a second major especially suited for acquiring marketable skills for entry into a chosen career upon graduation. Several degree combinations are possible with the guidance of appropriate faculty advisors. Click HERE for more information.
The American Indian Arts and Humanities Project involved renovation and restoration of historic Addams Hall and the original Steam Plant. Both facilities will generally address the educational and cultural needs of North American Indian peoples by housing the proposed Meredith Indigenous Humanities Center (MIHC). They will also specifically serve Oklahomans by including the related functions of an Oklahoma School of Native American Art (OSNAA).
The MIHC has two functions. First, it will afford the indigenous peoples of North America opportunities to learn about themselves through study and reflection using their own histories, literature, language, oral traditions, and related art forms. Second, and most importantly, it will house a permanent forum for a critical and comparative dialogue between Native American, Western, and other ways of thinking and knowing and forms of expression. This transforming discourse will exist as the basis for formulating integrative educational models relevant to the culturally specific development needs of Native Americans in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. The MIHC will further serve to coordinate efforts throughout North America for implementing and sustaining these interdisciplinary teaching-learning models.
The OSNAA addresses the concern of Native American leaders statewide that formal mechanisms are not available in Oklahoma devoted to preserving and teaching traditional and contemporary art forms. Native American arts are inseparably linked to community-based song and dance, oral traditions, literature, and language, and the lively influences of traditional lifestyles. It is imperative, therefore, that native sons and daughters have access to opportunities in Oklahoma to systematically study and use traditional art forms as they creatively define the essence and direction of their own living cultural experiences.