Whether you plan to study First Nations in North America or research indigenous peoples throughout the world, you will find that there are a number of scholarships available, although you may need to be flexible in your expectations and approach to maximize the funds you can receive.
In the United States, most scholarships are offered directly through academic departments (sometimes referred to as Native American studies). Students can also apply for a few scholarships provided by specialized government-funded scholarship programs. While most scholarships are provided primarily to students with Native American or other indigenous ancestry, some funding is available for students of any ethnicity.
Here are ten scholarships available for students pursuing degrees in an indigenous-related academic field and culture in the U.S. and/or Canada.
Udall Undergraduate Scholarship
Students working toward degrees in Tribal Policy, Native Health Care and the Environment are eligible to apply for one of 60 Udall Undergraduate Scholarships of up to $7,000. Requirements for the scholarships differ. For example, if you are enrolled in your sophomore or junior year of college and your parent or grandparent is enrolled as a member of a state or federally recognized tribe or band, or you are a permanent U.S. resident or citizen and also a member of one of the First Nations of Canada, you are eligible to apply for a Udall Scholarship for Tribal Policy or Health Care. You do not need to have a family relationship or be an enrolled member of tribe or band to apply for the Environmental Studies Udall Scholarship.
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowships
A number of fellowships and other post-graduate funding programs are offered by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for studies in culture and social science, including indigenous fields of study. Many of the Mellon Fellowships are awarded through University departments, and the requirements, funding and other benefits change from year to year. For example, fellowships offered for the 2017-2018 academic years include the Indigenous Mellon Fellowship offered by McGill University in Montreal which pay recipients $52,000 CAD per year plus a research stipend. Wesleyan University’s Center for the Americas in Connecticut offers two fellowships a year in varying amounts through its Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows program.
Cornell University American Indian and Indigenous Program
Cornell University’s American Indian and Indigenous Program (AIISP) provides faculty advising to students in the program which helps them to receive scholarships, including the Ron McNair Scholarship program, which is offered to undergraduate and graduate students from non-traditional backgrounds. Additional funding, such as the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, is available for students interested in specific specialties, including environmental conservation.
UCEAP Indigenous Studies Scholarship
Geared toward students with a strong interest in Native American cultures who also wish to study abroad, UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center and the International Education Office offer a scholarship to up to three students enrolled in their programs to spend up to a year studying abroad in Australia, Canada, Mexico, or several regions in South America or Africa. Recipients must demonstrate that their travel semester or year will have a strong impact on their studies and need to submit a written report including pictures following their year abroad.
Northern Arizona University Scholarships
With a strong commitment to students, Northern Arizona University offers several scholarship opportunities for students in the Applied Studies program. Dean’s Scholarships are offered for students enrolled in the graduate Tribal Nation-Building certificate program, as well as the Thomas J. and Dolores C. Bellew Scholarship for Native Americans. Other funding is available through the University’s Foundation.
Sequoyah National Research Center (SNRC) at the University of Arkansas
Paid internships and service-learning opportunities along with the Native American Summer Internship program are offered through the Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. Students enrolled in Native American studies through the program may also receive on-campus lodging and stipends for research projects.
McNair Scholarship Program
While not specifically geared toward indigenous academic programs, the McNair Scholarship Program offered through the U.S. Department of Education, provides funding and many other types of support for non-traditional students, including Native American, African-American, and other under-served ethnicities in the United States and Puerto Rico. The program named after astronaut Dr. Ronald McNair, the second African-American in space, an accomplished scientist who lost his life while serving as mission specialist on the Challenger space shuttle.
American Indian College Fund Scholarships
Offering scholarships for qualified undergraduates and graduate students, the American Indian College Fund provides support for U.S. and Canadian students who are enrolled members, or have at least one parent or grandparent who is enrolled members of recognized tribes. The program provides funding for a TCU (Tribal College or University) or non-TCU undergraduate education, and also graduate education. The American Indian College Fund also provides student success services and counseling to qualified applicants.
Indigenous Studies Program at Northeastern State University
Located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the financial aid office of Northeastern State University assists prospective freshmen and currently enrolled students in obtaining scholarships and grants to provide funding for their education in the school’s Cherokee and Indigenous programs. Three different majors are offered in American Indian, Cherokee Cultural, and Cherokee Education Studies. Scholarships are offered for students who are of Native American, Cherokee, and non-indigenous ethnicity.
Undergraduate and Graduate Indigenous Programs at KU
The University of Kansas (KU) in Lawrence, Kansas, offers a Indigenous academic minor for undergraduates, and an M.A., a joint law degree, and graduate certificate programs in Indigenous academic Studies. KU also works in partnership with Haskell Indian Nations University, which is the oldest inter-tribal TCU in the United States. KU offers assistance in obtaining Udall scholarships, and provides counseling and support for students enrolled in the undergraduate and graduate Indigenous academic programs to help them obtain funding through scholarships, grants and loans.
Learn more about indigenous academic studies programs and scholarships through the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, offering information and resources for scholars of all levels, from undergraduate students to researchers and community members. The Bureau of Indian Education maintains a directory of scholarships for parents and students in the United States and Canada who are interested in indigenous studies.