The Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the University of South Alabama are partnering to create the first Native American Studies program in the state.
The announcement to move forward with the historic partnership was made March 7 at a meeting of USA’s Board of Trustees.
“One thing we try to do is provide students with a new perspective,” USA anthropology chairman Dr. Phil Carr said. “The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is a nation within a nation, and now they’re just a short drive away. Our students can really take advantage of and benefit from this program.”
USA already offers courses related to Native American history, culture and literature.
Most of those courses overlap and are typically taken by anthropology and history majors.
However, the $500,000 Calvin McGhee Endowment will expand those programs with the goal of establishing a full minor degree.
Tribal archivist and USA professor Dr. Deidra Dees said the program could eventually include the study of political science, Native American law and the Creek language.
“Our goal is to build the program over the next three or four years through our continued efforts with the administration and the tribal council,” Dees said. “These courses have already been very well attended the past several years, and we hope to continue a strong showing of support from students.”
Dees said a majority of Native American studies programs are located in the Southwest or along the northern portions of the east coast.
Though other in-state universities also offer Native American courses, USA hopes to be the only four-year school offering a degree.
Robbie McGhee, the grandson of former chief Calvin McGhee, said it was an honor to help establish a Native American studies program at his alma mater.
“My grandfather had no education, but he always strived so that we could be educated,” McGhee said. “It’s amazing to have his namesake attached to (this) program.”