KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — With the help of three local tribes, Western Michigan University has approved a graduate certificate program on Tribal Sovereignty.

The certificate will become an ongoing part of WMU’s Master of Public Administration program and will include three courses.

Matthew Mingus, WMU’S Director of the Graduate MPA and Ph.D. programs, said including the certificate option within the MPA program was an easy decision and one that came after years of work.

“Moving this certificate into the graduate curriculum is the first concrete action from relationships formed over the last four to five years, and we are honored that the program is unique to this region,” Mingus said in a statement.

The concept for the course series was first introduced in 2019, when WMU issued a Land Acknowledgement Statement and established a relationship with the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, the Pokagon band of Potawatomi Indians and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians.

The three tribal governance courses were endorsed by the three tribes and introduced in the fall of 2021. Now, they will become a permanent offering.

Both the tribes and WMU officials believe it will help members of the local indigenous community to better prepare for operating within tribal administrations.

“Students can engage with various tribal entities through subject matter experts and content endorsed by each tribal nation,” Pokagon Band Tribal Council Secretary and course instructor Sam Morseau said in a release. “The inclusion of digital storytelling allows our narrative to be preserved and protected for generations. Not only will this assist the students and wider community partners in understanding our story, but also allows professional development and networking opportunities.”

The three courses are “Tribal Development and Diversification,” “Tribal Governance: Sovereignty through Self-Determination” and “Tribal Governance: Foundations for Federal Indian Policy.”

All three are graduate-level courses. There is no specific order in which they need to be completed.