Portland State University students could soon be able to major in Indigenous Nations and Native America Studies, pending approval from the school’s board of trustees and from Oregon’s Higher Education Coordination Commission.

The university’s Faculty Senate approved the new major Monday. If the state approves the program, PSU would be the first university in Oregon to offer such a major, said Dr. Winston Grady-Willis, the interim director of Indigenous nations studies at PSU. 


Chemawa Indian School

Chemawa is supposed to offer an academic home preparing students for college or careers in a safe and stable place. But an OPB investigation found the school is breaking its promise.

“(Indigenous and non-indigenous students) have been saying it is time for this to happen, for there to be — in terms of an academic major — a sophisticated and systematic attempt to really understand indigenous experiences,” Grady-Willis said.

The major would offer courses on indigenous women in leadership and tribal “critical race theory.”

Several students and faculty contributed to the crafting of the proposal to the university, according to Grady-Willis, who said his involvement was minimal.

HECC said it has not yet received a proposal for the major at PSU, though Grady-Willis said approval from the university senate was a big milestone. 

“Folks here are really stoked by the fact that we’re able to do something here in Indigenous nations studies in the school of gender, race and nations that hasn’t been done in the state of Oregon yet,” he said.

Grady-Willis said the major could be available to students by the end of the 2019-2020 school year.