Scholarships for Native American Studies

Study America’s Indigenous Populations

Native American studies examine the history, culture, and institutions belonging to the people who occupied the continent before the European settlers arrived. While America maintained an adversarial posture toward its indigenes, Native American traditions were strictly suppressed.

That state of affairs changed with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and there are now widespread academic efforts to preserve what remains of Native American society. Today many colleges have departments of Native American studies (partial list here), and consequently there are many sources of financial assistance available for your course of study.

Government Funding

native american scholarshipsMorris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation

Eighty Udall Scholarships of up to $5,000 each are given annually to sophomores and juniors who plan to work for Native American interests in one of the following three ways:

  • Environmental careers, such as policy, science, or urban planning
  • Tribal public policy careers, including tribal government, law, and education
  • Healthcare careers like administration, medicine, or counseling.

If your field is related to tribal policy or healthcare, you must be a Native American or Alaska Native student to be eligible. You can find details on eligibility here, and instructions on how to apply here.

College Scholarships

University of Montana, Native American Studies Department

The University of Montana’s Native American Studies Department offers several scholarships for Native American studies and others for Native American students. The former include:

  • The Alan P. Merriam Scholarship, for a full-time Native American student interested in Native American studies
  • The Bonnie Heavy Runner Scholarship, for a full-time Native American student interested in Native American studies or law
  • The Helen Roberti Humanities Graduate Scholarship, for a Native American doctoral candidate focusing on Native American studies.

You can find the application information here. With your application, you’ll submit a list of your accomplishments, a transcript, a reference letter, and verification of your tribal status.

University of New Mexico, Native American Studies Department

The University of New Mexico’s Native American Studies Department awards the Marguerite M. Drum Endowed Memorial Scholarship to full-time Native American students with a GPA of at least 2.5 and demonstrated financial need. Preference goes to applicants who intend to pursue Native American studies.

University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), American Indian Studies Program

The University of Illinois supports an American Indian Studies Program which administers the Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. The one-year fellowships go to scholars in American Indian Studies who qualify for the tenure track and wish to teach and conduct research at the school. In exchange for the $42,000 stipend, plus $5,000 in expenses, you must reside at the university full-time.

University of Southern California, Center for International Studies

The University of Southern California’s Center for International Studies offers the Hayward R. Alker Postdoctoral Fellowship, which is one of the resources recommended by the University of Arizona’s American Indian Studies department. The Alker is given to junior scholars who have recently received or are about to take their doctorates, and selection is based on scholarly accomplishments plus the merit of proposed research.

Yale University, Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program

Yale University’s Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program sponsors the annual Henry Roe Cloud Dissertation Writing Fellowship in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. The fellowship provides one year of support ($27,300 stipend plus health insurance) while you write your dissertation using Yale’s facilities, which will be very helpful in your research.

University of Arkansas (Little Rock), Sequoyah National Research Center

The University of Arkansas’s Sequoyah National Research Center (SNRC) awards two-year graduate fellowships to Native American students who wish to work in the center developing guides to the catalog of resource material. Sequoyah has a large collection of Native American writing and art, and working in its archives can be of great assistance in writing a thesis. You may contact SNRC for more information.

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowships

A number of schools receive these grants to support higher education in the humanities, and it’s common to see them used to fund postdoctoral work in Native American studies. Information on some of the universities which have handed out the fellowships for that purpose follows, with links to recent examples. Since universities can change the terms of the fellowships annually, you will sometimes notice those alterations in the current year.

Wesleyan University

Wesleyan reserved one of its two fellowships specifically for Native American studies in 2010-2011, and that discipline was still eligible for consideration in the 2012-2013 year. The stipend is $40,000.

Vassar College

Vassar’s 2006 Mellon fellowship in Native American studies paid $44,000 plus benefits, but the advantage of winning a Mellon goes far beyond the money and teaching experience. If you do some research on the biographies of Native American studies faculty members, you’ll see the Mellon prominently featured as a keystone of the curriculum vitae.


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