Last Updated: June 2024

The WINHEC Logo, with the organization acronym and what looks like a blue individual with arms outstretched up toward the acronym.

The Native American Studies Department received accreditation from WINHEC in 2022.

About WINHEC Accreditation 

The Department of Native American Studies is currently engaged in the process of accreditation under the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC). This has meant developing our own inter-tribal model of Indigenous Student Well-being and, Indigenous Research Standards, while advancing Montana’s signature Indian Education for All act and constitutional provision in higher education. The NAS Department's accreditation with WINHEC increases MSU's credibility with Indigenous communities while addressing issues of cultural relevance in Indigenous education and research.

We began this journey in 2008, earning provisional accreditation with WINHEC. In 2018, we resumed our efforts, seeking renewed accreditation, which was granted in 2022 for an initial 5 years with annual benchmarks. We report annually to the WINHEC Board of Accreditation and provide evidence showing improvement toward each benchmark, and look forward to an interim site visit review at 5 years (2027). If, at our 5-year review, we can show that we are successfully meeting WINHEC’s and our own high standards, then we will be granted the remaining 5 years of full accreditation.  

Learn more about WINHEC and current WINHEC accredited institutions on their website. 

Philosophy and Vision

As we introduce our mission, Indigenous vision, and philosophy, first and foremost, we acknowledge our place, our first teacher. We acknowledge and honor, with respect, the Indigenous custodians on whose traditional territories Montana State University now stands and whose historical relationship with the land continues to this day. We ask the spiritual ancestors to forgive our intrusion and humbly ask for their guidance.

Montana State University is situated on Indigenous traditional territories near a major crossroads for Plains and Plateau Native nations - a historically significant homeland in a valley where people of many bands and nations came to hunt bison, trade, celebrate and visit. Today, the tradition is continued through MSU's nationally recognized commitment to Native students, their education, communities, and nations through the exchange of ideas.

Making MSU a home away from Home

The Department of Native American Studies is engaging tribal communities around the question of "What is the highest education we can offer Indigenous students?" Collectively, we are examining how the Department can build an educational space that is 'home away from Home'a protected and nurturing space that supports Native communities’ values for their students’ education.

A map of Montana showing arrows drawn from all of the recognized tribal regions in Montana toward MSU.

Our Mission

The Department of Native American Studies was established to provide and advance quality education for and about American Indians of Montana, the region, and the nation. In fulfilling this mission, the Department is committed to meeting the changing needs of Montana's Indian tribes and all Montana citizens through excellence in teaching, research, and service.

Our mission, pictured as four puzzle pieces in a circle, containing: Teaching, Research, Student Service, and Public Service.

Our Accreditation Process with WINHEC 

The Department of Native American Studies is the first academic unit in a Predominately White Institution (PWI) to receive WINHEC accreditation. This affirms that our programs are grounded in traditional cultural values and assures applicants that the Native American Studies Department privileges Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing, while maintaining high expectations of quality in teaching, scholarship, outreach/service, integration and cultural programming.

This is our Student Well-Being Model, pictured as four quadrants, beginning on the right hand side of the image and going clockwise: Knowledge, Relationship, Land, and Sovereignty. There are four layers of qualities to each quadrant descending in a spiral toward the center, which is home. The Knowledge quadrant, from outer to inner-most, contains Personal Story, Community Story, Language, and Teaching. The Relationship Quadrant: Connecting, Healing, Contributing, and Resilience. The Land Quadrant: Acknowledgement, Time Spent on the Land, Tending, and Celebrating. Finally, the Sovereignty quadrant: Locating, Law, Indigenizing, and Survivance.

Our model idealizes paths to student well-being by articulating the identity work of Native students, faculty, and staff on their paths to belonging within MSU's communities.

This is a diagram displaying our cultural values in a star pattern, featuring eight branches. Clockwise, from the top of the star, the are Humility, Spirituality, Kindness & Inclusivity, Honesty, Family, Humor & Respect, Hard Work, and Generosity. All of these branches converge in the center where home is pictured.

Through intention and effort, the American Indian Hall is a home for students. We believe our Cultural Values are at-practice in the home, and that these values begin with Spirituality and end with Humility, in a continuous cycle.

Indigenous Research Standards

Our Indigenous Research Standards are intended to assist MSU faculty and staff as we foster and facilitate working relationships in Montana Indian Country. It is intended to be much more than a directory; rather, this section sets a tone for true partnerships. MSU-Tribal Community-Based Participatory Partnership respects preferences that are consistently expressed by tribal leadership, tribal colleges, and Native communities.

Community Feedback- We need your help!

Every Native community and culture knows what each student (person) needs as a foundation for life. MSU NAS is interested in knowing what you want us to instill, build, and protect for you (or your students) at MSU.

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Basic Information
Please list any tribal community affiliations you might have.

Further Information

 Please contact the Native American Studies department at [email protected] for more information.