Why would someone want to pursue the field of American Indian studies? I have asked myself this very question and came up with a couple different answers on my own, but decided to do a bit of research as well. Also in question is, why it would be important to have American Indian Studies as a field of study. I believe that having American Indian studies for a field of study would be a very gratifying experience during the learning experience and after obtaining a degree. I believe this to be true because as a graduate of American Indian Studies you can do many things to help the Indian-Non Indian relationship and also have the pleasure of bringing knowledge about American Indians to many students as well as people who aren’t students.
Don’t you think that it would be an incredible feeling to obtain a degree in American Indian Studies and be able to help the American Indians/Native Americans in so many ways? With an Associates degree you can get an entry level job with American Indian cultural or social agencies, including tribal agencies (1)
If you go on to obtain a masters degree than your options are way more open to what you can do with your degree. Some who are graduates of American Indian Studies have employment in these positions, include education: teaching in nursing programs, Indian studies and elementary and secondary schools; administration: directors of health care programs, tribal leaders; health care service providers: reservation and Indian health service; social work: reservation, school and county social services. (2)
There are many more important career options for graduates of American Indian Studies so it is not only limited to the above. Personally, I know that if I had a degree in American Indian Studies that I would love to have a job with some sort of museum where I could be around people who want to know about the history of Native American culture.
I feel that it is important to pursue the field of American Indian Studies because the men and women who are involved in this field are helping people to understand the Native American Culture and also helping the relationship between Indians and non-Indians.
Ever since the Europeans arrived in America there has been conflict, stereotyping, language barriers, and misinterpretations of historical events, like the fact that the Pocahontas did not save John Smith out of love, but saved him in order to adopt him as a kinsman to establish a relationship between the colonists and the Powhatans so they could live together in peace. (3) A person who has the knowledge to correct the wrong ideas and misinterpretations can help to correct these wrongs. Well, you say, one person is only a drop in the bucket. Well, I say that it all adds up, someday that bucket will get full and every drop counts when people are thirsty. One person can make a very big difference.
In an article I found in the American Indian Graduate Magazine online there is a piece on Steve Abbott, who was chosen as AIGCS Ambassador of the year. Steve Abbott says that “The award was a tremendous surprise; while I was truly honored, I had not expected it” Steve Abbott is the director for recruitment and student affairs at Harvard Universities Native American program. He recruits and conducts outreach for Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian students on behalf of Harvard’s graduate and undergraduate program. He also serves as a support person for Native American students on campus. (4)
This article about Steve Abbott just goes to show that there are some very personally satisfying jobs out there. Pursuing American Indian Studies is not a limited field and it is important for us to understand that every person who goes into the workforce or volunteers in this field is equally important to the contemporary field of American Indian Studies.
Also, pursuing a career in American Indian Studies can help American Indian students to understand their own culture. I think that it would be very gratifying to help student know their heritage better and to know where they came from. For students who aren’t of American Indian heritage, than it would be important for me to know that I helped them to overcome some of the above mentioned misconceptions.
In closing, the importance of being in the field of American Indian Studies has to do with the importance of the relationship of Indians and non Indians; it has to do with helping people to understand the culture of the American Indians better, and also to help American Indian students to learn more about their own culture. I believe that every person who enters this field is important, no matter what type of employment they choose to follow in the field.
(3)American Indian Studies. Clara Sue Kidwell & Alan Velie. Pg 44.
(4) http://www.aigc.com/04magazine/magazine.htm Current Issue, pg 30.