About Center for Tribal Studies

About Us


The Center for Tribal Studies offers a variety of services to enhance the academic experience of students in a supportive environment that values the traditions of American Indian cultural heritage. The Center facilitates program development, cultural enrichment, student support, and professional development opportunities for the University community.

The Center serves all students, but administers many programs that are specifically designed to increase the educational attainment of American Indian populations. By nurturing educational leadership, cultural enrichment, and professional development among students, leaders and scholars emerge, many of whom will serve in professions benefiting tribal governments and communities.


The beautiful two-story brick building located at 320 Academy in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, was built in 1867 by the Baptist home Mission Society. Built on the 160-acre site provided as a Baptist Mission by John B. Jones, the Baptist Missionary and later Cherokee Agent, it served as a mission home and women's dormitory until 1880 when it became the Indian University.

On February 9, 1880, Almon C. Bacone founded the first Indian University in the United States. Rev. Bacone had moved to Indian Territory from Rochester, New York in 1878 to teach at the Cherokee Male Seminary in Tahlequah. Frustrated in his efforts to teach religion at the Male Seminary, Bacone opened a privately funded Christian school which attracted students from all over Indian Territory. Indian University opened its doors with three students, but by the end of 1880, the university's enrollment had grown to 56. Indian University offered a wide range of courses from the primary grades through a four-year baccalaureate degree.

Five years later, on June 4, 1885, Indian University was relocated to Muskogee. It was later named Bacone College in 1896 to honor the founder, Almon C. Bacone. The Tahlequah site was used for the Cherokee Academy elementary and secondary grades until 1908 when the building was sold to private owners.

Restoration plans were begun in 1975 by Dr. Garold D. Holstine, former Bacone College president, and a group of concerned citizens who formed Indian University, Inc. On July 6, 1976, the Indian University site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1979, two prominent Tahlequah citizens, Jack Kaufman and Bill Hinds, purchased it as a holding action until adequate restoration funds became available. The historic structure was transferred to the Oklahoma Historical Society in November, 1982.

Because of the building's significance to Indian education, NSU began investigating ways to acquire the property for the University. In December of 1987, the Oklahoma Historical Society deeded the property to Northeastern State University. The building was restored to its original condition as much as possible. Work was completed in February 1990, and the building became he Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies.


The mission of the Center for Tribal Studies is centered upon Northeastern State University's commitment to excellence in academic quality, scholarly engagement, leadership, cultural enrichment, and service. The Center for Tribal Studies mission has an interdisciplinary focus that also recognizes the diversity of tribal nations, communities, cultures, and languages. The mission serves the following purposes:

  • To implement student programs that support and nurture personal development and academic success in higher education.
  • To partner with tribes in programs that meet educational, professional development, and other mutually beneficial needs.
  • To facilitate appropriate design and implementation of research and other projects on issues and concerns which impact the quality of life for tribal peoples.
  • To facilitate symposia, conferences, and forums that present issues and topics relevant to American Indians and other tribal peoples.
  • To partner with the NSU Sequoyah Institute and other campus programs to facilitate prominent guest lecturers and cultural events.

The Center for Tribal Studies vision is grounded in the rich history and heritage of three important educational institutions: The formal system of tribally supported schools in the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory; the Indian University, the first higher education institution west of the Mississippi River; and Northeastern State University, founded in 1909 following Oklahoma statehood.


The vision of the Center for Tribal Studies is to continue the legacy of NSU as a leader in American Indian education, one which is innovative and responsive to the educational needs of tribal nations, communities, and individuals. With high expectations for succeeding generations of American Indian students to earn college degrees, the vision will ensure a continuation of attention to learning opportunities and experiences which promote leadership development, professional preparation, civic responsibility, and cultural stewardship.

The Center for Tribal Studies is further committed to the values which promote equality, compassion, respect for human dignity, and nondiscriminatory practices in the richly diverse university environment.