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Introducing the MA in Indigenous Community Development

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  • Details

    Program Objectives

    The Master of Arts with a specialization in Indigenous Community Development Studies program focuses on the concept of a mutual learning exchange between cultures within and beyond North America. The program is multidisciplinary and strives to develop each co-learner’s heart and mind through the disciplines of anthropology, missiology, theology, Bible, church history, ethics, and spiritual formation. The program is holistic in scope, seeking to create opportunities for co-learners to gain both knowledge and experience appropriate for the 21st century. The Acadia Divinity College faculty is dedicated to equipping men and women for meaningful engagement with cultural diversity, including global and local cultural contexts. Our unique program provides teaching from alternative epistemologies and pedagogies that assist co-learners to create informed paradigms beyond traditional Western models. Guided field experience is crucial to the co-learner’s success. This program is offered in partnership with Acadia Divinity College offering an almost entirely Indigenously taught program.


    Our unique program provides teaching from alternative epistemologies and pedagogies that assist co-learners to create informed paradigms beyond traditional Western models. Furthermore, it offers three optional choices: Course Completion Option, Project Option, or Thesis Option.

    Integral to the MA-INCD program is the guided field experience(s) with a development agency either domestically or internationally. This gives you the experience needed to fully understand the realities of the field while being mentored by people already effecting change in the world. You will have the opportunity to take what you have learned in the classroom and apply it directly to the issues you will face in your future career as a development facilitator.


    The North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS), in conjunction with Acadia is dedicated to equipping men and women for meaningful engagement within their own communities, other local cultural contexts as well as globally. The MACD has been designed and tailored for Indigenous people, those serving in Indigenous communities, and others simply interested in a non-Western approach to community development education. Indigenous leaders – academics and community practitioners alike, have developed it. In fact, the majority of instructors for the MACD are Indigenous North Americans. Our unique program provides teaching from alternative epistemologies and pedagogies (anthrogogies), as well as practitioner skills that assist co-learners in the creation of informed paradigms for community development beyond traditional western models.


    Courses are available in flexible, accessible formats. Continue to live in your communities from online-hybrid options. Intensive summer courses provide face-to-face classroom experience. Wrap-around conference courses related to the NAIITS Annual Symposium stimulate learning with Indigenous theological learners. . Elective courses allow you to further tailor the program to your own learning and ministry environment.

    Mutual Learning Community

    Join with colleagues in your program that are currently working in Indigenous contexts. Grow in your leadership capacity as you build relationships and experience one-to-one and small-group mentorship. Any on-site courses are offered within the educational environment at Acadia, located in the beautiful semi-rural environment of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada

  • Course Framework

    Biblical Studies (9 credit hours)

    Hebrew Scripture Foundations
    A general introduction to the historical, sociological, and theological context in which the Hebrew Scriptures came into existence, this course will provide the student with an understanding of the major emphases of the texts. In addition, the student will be introduced to themes in the Hebrew Scriptures that find parallels in what has been coined by some as the “Old Testament of Indigenous Peoples.”

    New Testament Foundations
    A general introduction to the historical, sociological, and theological context in which the New Testament Scriptures came into existence, this course will familiarize students with the content and structure, distinctive theology, and introductory matters of the New Testament. in addition, the student will be introduced to the nature of the early Christian community, its transitions and changes from a strictly Hebraic construct as found within the Jewish community, and projections made for its future development.

    Community Models in Scripture
    This course is a theological and exegetical exploration of how the Scriptures speak about community, how they present and promote particular values and praxis of community, and what examples of community appear in both testaments. This understanding is critical to any program focused through the lens of a biblically-informed worldview. Finally, the course will seek to enable understanding of the nature of community in the early church and its implications, if any, on our thinking about the holistic development of community within the Kingdom of God.

    Theological Studies (9 credit hours)

    Theology I: Indigenous Perspectives
    The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the tasks and tools of Christian theology, including the development of a common theological vocabulary, so as to understand the nature of Christian faith and acquire the capacity to converse with others in shared terms. An introduction to Indigenous theological terminology will be introduced in the latter part of the course as a bridge to THEO 6503 Theology II: Theology and Ethic of the Land.

    Theology II: Theology and Ethic of the Land
    During this course students will be immersed in the wider creation in a retreat context with reading prior to and following the retreat. The experience of the beauty and hope of God as immanent within creation will be considered through Indigenous understandings of the land, and the relationship between science and faith. Students will engage current issues such as agriculture, conservation, land use and consumption of natural resources, gaining an understanding of the dual expressions of Indigenous and Hebrew constructs of shalom through which God blesses creation.

    Ethics in Intercultural Context (Directed Reading and Research)
    This course is an intercultural, contextual introduction to central issues in Christian ethics, with attention to the way in which moral reflection interacts with philosophy and culture. The course explores biblical-theological foundations for ethics, the role of scripture and Jesus’ example in ethical formulation, and deals with major contemporary topics including gender, sexuality, marriage, euthanasia, war, bioethics, wealth and poverty.

    Creation and Transformation (Directed Reading and Research)
    The centre of Christian theology is Jesus Christ in whom is united Creator and creation. This course will focus on the scriptural and ecclesiastical traditions concerning the person and work of Christ in transforming creation alongside Indigenous understandings of the Creator/creation relationship. This will provide the basis for a discussion about the implication of Christology for the transformation of the creation community through each lens. Thus, the course will seek to engage the ideas represented by the councils, and creeds of past theologians, and then move to examine the theological praxis that resulted in colonial and post-colonial contexts.

    Student Formation (12 credit hours)

    Indigenous Research and Writing
    This course covers all aspects of research and writing at an academic level. The student develops their voice as an academic writer by learning how to identify and use rhetorical strategies in writing. The course will also explore the specific needs or concerns of Indigenous writing and research methods including protocol. Other topics covered are: proper citation and bibliography formatting, grammar, crafting solid thesis statements, building a line of reasoning and other organizational strategies of formal research papers, finding and interacting with quality primary sources and how to synthesize and interact with secondary sources in an academic essay. 

    Indigenous Symposium Seminars
    In order to foster deeper relationship, more effective academic engagement, and an overall greater involvement within the NAIITS community, students are required to attend two symposia as they progress through their studies. They will be required to participate in the concurrent seminar, and complete required assignments. Students will only register for the course at the time of their second Symposium following which, grades assigned to first and second Symposium work will be recorded.

    Indigenous Practice of Andragogy
    Andragogy is the study of methods, epistemologies, philosophies and contextual understandings of education that pertain to and enhance an adult-focused learning environment. This course will introduce the student to andragogical method as a theological framework and a contextual teaching practice, exploring the theological, philosophical, and pragmatic underpinnings of teaching. The course will also introduce the student to a variety of strategies to advance their development as a teacher.

    Indigenous Spirituality and Formation
    Indigenous understandings of the nature of the spiritual and of spirituality differ in many respects from those commonly held within Western traditions of Christian faith. The focus of the course, therefore, is to introduce the student to the ways in which Indigenous people participate as followers of Jesus in a manner that is authentic to their own cultural understandings, seeking to encourage spiritual growth and development from within such an Indigenous framework. This course will also discuss the appropriation of what has been perceived to be Indigenous spirituality by non-Indigenous people as well as a brief focus on what can be effectively learned from Indigenous understandings of the spiritual.

    Area of Specialization (24 credit hours)

    Asset-based Development
    The course is an introduction to asset-based planning and design as a human and organizational capacity-building approach. Asset-based Community Development (ABCD) seeks to locate, underscore, and emphasize, in a selective way, the life-giving forces and successes within an organization, group, or community. The course will focus on different ways of engaging life within communities and organizations, while exploring the skills of community development facilitation for practitioners. Several tools used in asset-based planning and development will be carefully examined with a view to creating proficiency in both their theory and practice.

    Theory and Praxis in Development – History and Method
    This course begins with a brief examination of historic relief and development theories, focusing in on a more careful examination of post WWII models and their evolution through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s toward the Transformational Development models of the 1990s and beyond. The continued emphasis on Modernization and Westernization in contemporary practice will create a frame around a discussion of alternate ideas for community health and well-being. The cost-benefit between asset- and deficit-based methodologies will emerge through the examination of the biblical and theological issues raised when applied to human systems and communities.

    Indigenous Leadership Development
    This seminar course will introduce students to concepts of leadership, organizational change theory, and skills required to lead organizations and communities in the context of changing demographics. The emerging practice of diversity as central to leadership theory and practice, the holistic nature of diversity, social justice within a diverse society, and the role these have in contributing to effective and appropriate leadership will be explored to gain an informed understanding. Reflection on multicultural, and intercultural perspectives and partnerships, specifically, those between Indigenous Peoples and Western culture is a focal aspect of this course. Leaders require knowledge, skill and attributes that support inclusion and promote unity.

    Family and Social Systems
    Indigenous family contexts have changed dramatically over the course of the centuries, since contact. Family systems, including parenting, intergenerational roles and relationships, as well as governance and provision for need, have come under significant stress, as a result. Proposed remedies over the 20th and into the 21st centuries have attempted to accommodate traditional Indigenous ways within invasive Euro-centric systems. This course examines the impact of cultural and social forces upon the family system including major systems theories, strategies, and techniques of engaging family and family relationship in the midst of shifting dynamics and demographics. Issues of family and inter-generational conflict as well as the ethical considerations of intervention are also examined.

    Colonization and Decolonization
    This course focuses on contemporary theories regarding colonization and decolonization emerging out of Indigenous studies, critical ethnic studies, and post colonialism studies. Attention is paid to the relationship between race, colonialism, and gender. Students will explore how these theories intersect with Christian theologies and spiritual practice. This course will consider the critiques made by Indigenous and postcolonial scholars of the methodological approaches used in the humanities and social sciences for their complicity in colonialism. It will examine various attempts to “decolonize” methodology and to construct Indigenous and postcolonial methodological approaches to society and community. Students will work to develop their own philosophical and methodological approaches to decolonization.

    Cultures and Systems Change
    The experience of Christianity has been culturally devastating for Indigenous peoples. Through exploring the process of decolonization and indigenization, this course will examine how Indigenous people live a biblically-informed Christian faith in the context of Indigenous cultures. Jesus, as a change master in a complex cultural system, is the model for guiding effective and lasting change. This course utilizes perspectives and tools for interpreting and guiding a cultural system towards deep change. Insights from various disciplines, such as anthropology, social psychology, and organizational science, will stimulate the exegesis of culture in fresh ways.

    Cultural Anthropology
    Trajectories in the study of anthropology have been helpful and hurtful, particularly to Indigenous people globally. In this course, participants will explore a variety of historical anthropological theories. The course will explore anthropology as a discipline, and invite other worldviews to contribute to the shaping of anthropological theory and practice for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

    Community Field Placement
    The student will work in a community agency or non-profit organization as a field placement, selected jointly with their supervisor. This should be a setting focused on community transformative development where possible, from a primarily asset-framed perspective. The placement will be chosen so as to provide the optimum opportunity for a contributory learning experience in Asset-Based Community Development


    Studies in a Holistic Gospel (Directed Reading and Research)
    The course will explore how the body and soul dualism, out of which much Christian mission operated in the past (i.e. saving souls only), has proved inadequate and damaging to many First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples in Canada. In this course, participants will explore and participate in developments in Christian missiology, in order to provide a more robust understanding of the nature of the gospel.

    Indigenous Survey (Directed Study)
    This course provides students with an opportunity to pursue an interest in a particular topic related to Indigenous peoples. The goal is to expand the student’s depth and breadth of knowledge in a specific area, including Indigenous History, Indigenous Philosophy, or Indigenous Religious Contexts.

    Social Construction of Identity (Directed Reading and Research)
    This course examines critically the social construction of ethnicity and identity within First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities, as well as the implications for broader community social responses to those identities. Students will study the myths and realities surrounding the development of racial, ethnic, and cultural categories in North America and learn how social, political, and economic forces have shaped the experiences of different ethnic groups. Students will also be introduced to the concepts of socialization, social interaction, identity formation and self-fashioning; the social construction of class, gender and race, age, and deviance; and other social phenomena.

  • Scholarship Applications

    Scholarship Application

    While not guaranteed, NAIITS attempts to offer a tuition-directed scholarship for the MA program(s), which is made available through the generosity of faculty and friends. If you believe you might qualify for the scholarship, you are encouraged to apply according to the following guidelines.

    $100 per credit hour taken per award period deemed eligible to a maximum lifetime
    award of $5000.

    Requirements for Consideration

    1. North American based scholarship awards are directed primarily toward Native North American, then other Indigenous peoples – in that order. Non-Indigenous students may apply and be considered, but will not be guaranteed.

    2. Scholarships will be awarded solely at the discretion of NAIITS faculty and/or administration, which may make other awards as deemed appropriate.

    3. Students must be enrolled or accepted into one of the NAIITS degree programs.

    4. Students must be enrolled full time in two consecutive semesters for the year in which the scholarship is being awarded. Full-time status for degree programs is considered reached at 6 hours per semester.

    5. Students must reapply for scholarships each year. NOTE: Subsequent withdrawal from courses to below the above level, or failure to complete courses in the semester for which the award is given will disqualify the applicant from reapplying for one full year.

    6. Applications must be received by March 1st to be considered for the April 30th awards and by July 1st to be considered for the August 30th awards respectively.

    7. Students who are applying for other student aid in their country of residence must complete and file required documents personally – they will not be filed by NAIITS.

    NOTE: Successful applicants are not prevented from applying for scholarships from other sources of funding.

    Download the Scholarship Application form here

  • Apply Now


    We are excited about your interest in studying in the NAIITS/Acadia program.

    For Admissions information please contact NAIITS at

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NAIITS - An Indigenous Learning Community
NAIITS An Indigenous Learning Community (formerly the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies) is one of two members of Indigenous Pathways (IP), a nonsectarian, non-profit organization dedicated to working together with the Indigenous community NAIITS’ focus within IP is the development and articulation of Indigenous perspectives in theology and practice. We encourage Indigenous learning styles and world views in our instruction as we facilitate the development of a body of work addressing biblical, theological, and ethical issues from Indigenous perspectives. NAIITS currently has five program partnerships offering graduate, and post-graduate degree or award programs.
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