Five College Native American Indian Studies

Five College NAIS Certificate Program

The Five College Certificate in Native American Indian Studies is currently available to students at Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The Five College Certificate in Native American Indian Studies provides students with the opportunity to acquire a knowledge and understanding of the development, growth, and interactions of the indigenous peoples and nations of the Western Hemisphere. The program emphasizes the many long histories of Native American Indians as well as their contemporary lives and situations. A holistic and comparative interdisciplinary approach underlies the Certificate Program's requirements, enabling students to become familiar with the diversity of indigenous lifeways, including cultural forms, institutions, political economies, and modes of self-expression. In addition to this broader perspective, the program places some emphasis on the Native peoples of the Northeast so that Five College students can become acquainted with the history, culture and presence of indigenous peoples in this region.

If you're planning to work with Indigenous people anywhere in the Western Hemisphere as a teacher or social worker, or in business or public administration, the Certificate Program is a good idea for you. The NAIS Certificate also gives you the right background for graduate study or research on Indigenous cultures.

NOTE: the certificate cannot be completed on-line. 


No application is necessary prior to beginning the certificate, but a student's program must be approved by the program advisor from her or his campus. At least seven courses are required for completion of the Five College Certificate in Native American Indian Studies: a foundation course plus six additional courses, with no more than three of the seven courses from a single discipline. Requirements are as follows:

  1. Foundation courses. Offered at various levels, foundation courses provide an opportunity to hear Native perspectives and are taught from a philosophical perspective that reflects Native Studies theories, pedagogies and methodologies. Currently, Anthropology 370 (U Mass) is the approved foundation course.
  2. At least six additional courses. Below is a list of courses currently approved by the Five College NAIS Committee as counting toward the certificate. The six additional courses must be selected from this list. (Courses not on this list may be approved for inclusion by campus program advisors in consultation with the Committee.)
  3. Grades. Students must receive a grade of B or higher in all 7 courses to receive a Certificate.
  4. When you complete your courses, please fill out the Application for Certificate and submit it by April 15 to Nate Therien, Five Colleges, Inc., 97 Spring Street, Amherst, MA 01002-2324, (413) 542-4000.

NOTE: This information describes the certificate offered through the Five Colleges. UMass Amherst also offers a certificate of Native American Indian Studies (requirements differ slightly). Please note that as of the 2013-2014 academic year, the UMass Amherst certificate is no longer available to many students; you should check with with someone at your institution to see if you are eligible for the certificate based on prior completion of qualifying courses. Students may seek either or both certificates. However, students at the four colleges should be sure to check with their advisor to see if their college will approve their following the certificate offered by UMass Amherst.