Western Michigan University launches new course on tribal governance

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University, in partnership with three local tribal nations, is adding a tribal governance course to its Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) program. The product of nearly two years of meaningful planning, the course was developed in partnership with members of the Pokagon, Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish and Nottawaseppi Huron bands of Potawatomi Indians.

"Current and historical issues of tribal sovereignty are generally not widely understood; this M.P.A. course will help fill that void, providing current and guest students a unique opportunity to delve into these issues with course instructor Sam Morseau, a content expert and member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi with deep roots in the local community," says Dr. Carla Koretsky, dean of Western's College of Arts and Sciences

"This course will serve not only as an introduction to tribal governance but will also allow people to start looking intimately at different aspects within tribal governance and how they link to federal recognition and future building," adds Morseau, Tribal Council secretary for the Pokagon Band. "This course is a testament of building collective knowledge and learning like we have done since time immemorial."

The course, "Tribal Governance: Sovereignty through Self-determination," debuts in spring 2022 and will cover topics such as Indigenous leadership, the path to recognition, nation rebuilding and sustainable sovereignty.

"Students will especially benefit from the opportunity to take a course developed and taught from a Native perspective," Koretsky says. "In addition, his course will feature Native guest lecturers with a breadth of content and lived experience that they will share with students."

The course offered early registration for a limited number of members of the three tribes before it opened to Western students. 

"This is a way for us to have an organized effort through multitiered collaborations to provide not only a professional development model for our tribal citizens but also provide awareness through the academic setting of Western Michigan University," says Morseau. "It is our hope that with our combined collaborative partnerships and relationships we continue to build upon the successes that we've had in terms of long-term sustainability, not only for the University but also for our tribal nations."

Western is looking at new ways to support, elevate and advocate Native American perspectives at the University with the launch of the Native American Affairs Council (NAAC). The group will work to establish programming and curriculum focused on Indigenous populations as well as build relationships between the University and tribal communities and empower Native American students. This tribal governance course is the first curriculum addition related to the NAAC. 

"My hope is to get through this initial course and continually build out the program. Each course will have a capacity-building component to it and a way to put what our students are learning into practice in our local tribal communities," Morseau says. "It's really my hope that we get some great service-learning projects and we can see immediate improvements to tribal governance through these cohorts. It's about aligning our students' passions with the awareness and knowledge of tribal perspectives."


We would like to recognize Western Michigan University is located on lands historically occupied by Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewadmi nations. Please take a moment to acknowledge and honor this ancestral land of the Three Fires Confederacy, the sacred lands of all Indigenous peoples and their continued presence.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.

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