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UMD Master of Tribal Administration and Governance

Tadd Johnson

On February 10, 2011 the University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved a new UMD graduate program, the Master of Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG).

The program seeks to train future American Indian tribal leaders and managers through coursework grounded in ethics. It focuses on tribal governance and the management issues encountered on a reservation as well as the complex relations among tribal, state and the federal governments. The curriculum includes classes on principles of tribal sovereignty; tribal budgets, finance and accounting; principles of tribal management; federal Indian law; and leadership and ethics.

Students in the program may already serve as tribal administrators, council members, or tribal leaders. The curriculum is based on the roles that tribal administrators, leaders and professionals play in formal and informal situations that support tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Traditional language and culture is an important thread throughout the program.

The two-year program, which begins in Fall 2011, features face-to-face meetings at the UMD campus once every three weeks. Interaction with experts in each area of the curriculum will include special guests as well as UMD faculty, staff, and students. The classes at UMD are offered from Friday night until Saturday afternoon. In order to accommodate working professionals and support existing commitments to families and home communities, a portion of the program will be offered on-line.

Tadd Johnson, professor and chair of the Department American Indian Studies, will direct the graduate program. He said, “The low-residency schedule was essential to allow American Indian tribal members from throughout the Midwest to attend.”

Brian McInnes, assistant professor in the Department of Education, played a significant role by designing the Leadership and Ethics course, which he will teach. UMD is the only university in the country to offer this unique masters program focused on tribal leadership development. Dean Paul Deputy and former Associate Dean Tom Peacock of UMD's College of Education & Human Service Professions played a key role in the early meetings on the concept.

Tribal Collaboration

The program scope was developed by UMD through extensive consultation with tribal governments throughout the Midwest from 2009 through 2010. Johnson and Rick Smith, director of the American Indian Learning Resource Center, spent months meeting with leaders of American Indian tribes.

American Indian Studies faculty members: Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark and Linda Grover
The UMD American Indian Learning Resource Center

College of Liberal Arts Dean Susan Maher also has been actively involved in the development of this program. She is especially impressed by the support from the American Indian community. “In October 2010, the 35 tribes of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes passed a resolution specifically supporting the program,” she said. “All of the tribal governments from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa are advocates for this new offering."

Input on Program Development

Karen Diver, chair of the Fond du Lac Band of Minnesota Chippewa and a UMD alumna, was instrumental in the development of MTAG. “Karen crystallized what others were saying,” Johnson said. “Tribal leaders wanted the master’s degree to train future tribal managers to be able to identify the mission, budget, and personnel needed for any project a tribe may encounter. The current curriculum emanated from those requirements.”

Many approved of UMD’s approach. Chief Executive Marge Anderson of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe said, "UMD developed this program by asking tribal governments what was needed.” Barb Brodeen, executive director for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, agreed, “The Bois Forte Band is pleased that the degree program reflects our ideas and wishes.”

Assisting the tribes and students was an important goal. “Many of our talented young people would like to work in Tribal Government. Thanks to UMD’s collaboration with Indian leaders and educators, this new degree program will provide the training and development both current employees and students need to effectively serve their people and build a career," said Billie Mason, commissioner of education of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.

Smith noted that the elected leaders of tribal governments frequently come from the ranks of the tribal administrators. “UMD may be training some of the next generation of tribal leaders under this program.”

Johnson also noted that the collaboration between UMD and tribal governments "will continue in the days and years ahead as the needs of Indian country change."

Most importantly, Johnson believes that an increasing focus on American Indian Studies is vital. "UMD was one of the first institutions of higher learning in the country to recognize that American Indian studies was a unique discipline," Johnson said. "Since 1972, UMD has taught generations of students the importance of the history, language and culture of Native Americans. Now, we are taking another bold step."

About the Program Director

Tadd Johnson, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Bois Forte Band is a 1985 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. He has served as a tribal administrator, a tribal attorney, a tribal court judge and has taught numerous courses on Federal Indian Law and American Indian History. From 1990-1995, he served as counsel and staff director to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources in the Office of Indian Affairs and the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. During the Clinton Administration, Professor Johnson was appointed by the President to chair the National Indian Gaming Commission. He has served as a faculty member of the National Judicial College, has served on the Board of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and is co-producer and co-host of the PBS program "Native Report."

The university is recruiting students for the first cohort to begin in August, 2011. Students interested in the new program should contact Tadd Johnson. The deadline for applications is April 1, 2011. Late applications will be accepted through June 15, 2011.

To apply for the program, contact:

Tadd Johnson
116 Cina Hall
1123 University Drive
Duluth, MN 55812-3011

Written by Cheryl Reitan with Mandee Kuglin.

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Last modified on 04/22/11 02:37 PM
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