WMU to announce region’s only graduate certificate in tribal governance as it hosts Native American U.S. assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at talk

Contact: Deanne Puca
, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior

Bryan Newland

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University will host a talk by Bryan Newland, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior, as the University announces the creation of the region’s only Graduate Certificate in Tribal Governance. 

Newland, a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community in northern Michigan, is We Talk’s Spring Keynote Speaker. He will discuss how the traditional Seven Grandfathers teaching has guided his work in public service and helped him to engage across diverse communities on Thursday, April 13, from 3 to 5 p.m. in Room 4010 of the College of Health and Human Services.

The WMU Native American Affairs Council is coordinating with representatives from the three tribal nations in the region—the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi—to welcome Newland with a drum and traditional ceremony.

During the event, WMU will officially announce the creation of Its Graduate Certificate in Tribal Governance in cooperation between the School of Public Affairs and Administration and the local tribal councils of the Three Fires Confederacy. Implementing a certificate program in collaboration with three tribal nations allows the opportunity to provide tribally endorsed resources to increase capacity building within communities in southwest Michigan. Students can engage with various tribal entities through subject matter experts and content endorsed by each tribal nation.

"My heart is full seeing how pertinent Native American culture has become at Western Michigan University,” says Skyler Wolverton, president of the Native American Student Organization at WMU. “I am overjoyed that more attention is being brought to this beautiful way of life and that we have received so much support from various organizations, tribes and departments within the University.”

Western is currently planning cohorts that will include government, gaming and economic development corporations within each tribal nation. This will promote a collaborative to explore best practices in policies through the creation of service-learning projects.

“The inclusion of digital storytelling allows our narrative to be preserved and protected for generations. Not only will the certificate program assist the students and wider community partners in understanding our story, but it also allows professional development and networking opportunities,” says Samuel Morseau, citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and WMU faculty instructor for the graduate certificate program. “It has been an honor to see this dream come to fruition.”

Contact SPAA Graduate Programs Director Matthew S. Mingus by email or call (269) 387-8946 for additional information about the graduate certificate.

Newland’s talk is a free event that is open to the public and supported by We Talk’s partnership with the Fetzer Institute. Free parking is available in Lot 104 located at the College of Health and Human Services’ building at 1200 Oakland Dr. For questions, contact Emma Baratta. Find more information and RSVP

About Bryan Newland

A citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe), Newland served as tribal president from 2017 to 2021. Prior to that, he served as chief judge of the Bay Mills Tribal Court in the Upper Peninsula. From 2009-12, he served as a counselor and policy advisor to the assistant secretary of the Interior–Indian Affairs. In September 2021, he was sworn in as U.S. assistant secretary for Indian Affairs and became the department’s highest-ranking, Senate-confirmed official in Indian Affairs. In his current role, he works to strengthen the government-to-government and nation-to-nation relationships with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes.

About We Talk

More than 1,000 campus and community members have participated in We Talk programming since the initiative’s launch event in February 2020.  Activities have included visits by national speakers and a “Civility Tour” panel discussion, monthly free speech cafés featuring campus and community panelists and a conversational exercise that promotes connection and compassion: Moving Conversations @ WMU. Most events are recorded, published on YouTube and available to the public for use in the classroom, workplace and at home. Learn more about We Talk


The Fetzer Institute’s mission is to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world. Learn more and sign up for Fetzer’s newsletter

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