The Native American Novel
Meredith K. James, Eastern Connecticut State University
This course will examine how Native authors have adapted the Western genre of the novel and how they have, over the last three centuries, developed strategies to combine traditional storytelling with Native issues, contemporary of their historical eras. Because Native American novels are the most widely read and most studied genre of American Indian literatures, this course will also focus on how the literary scholarship regarding Native literature has changed throughout time. We will look closely at the development of Native American novels, beginning with a discussion of current Native American literary theory. There will also be lectures which focus on Native American literature as a whole and on early novelists such as John Rollin Ridge (Cherokee) and Sophia Alice Callahan (Muskoke Creek). We will largely focus on the evolution of the novel form in twentieth and twenty-first century Native American literary discourse.
The majority of the texts for this course are contemporary Native literature, but you will also be introduced to various historical events and how they shaped Native peoples’ views of themselves. This class will also examine the ways in which Native American authors respond to mainstream American popular culture. We will be reading literary texts as well as other texts including literary theory, films, television shows, histories, advertisements, and contemporary art.
Métis Identity and History in Canada
Joseph Wiebe, University of Alberta, Augustana
This course traces the history of Métis people from their beginnings in the seventeenth century. It focuses on the concept of ethnogenesis to explore thematic issues in Métis history. The course explores the various factors involved in the emergence of distinctive Métis cultural and political identities, why they developed where they did and not elsewhere, and therefore why they are set apart historically and politically from other various communities of people with mixed Indigenous and European descent. It further investigates the changing social and economic landscape of “mixed race” people within the broader racial ideologies in Canadian society during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Topics for examination include fur trade, migration, political activism, labour, religion, gender, family life, warfare, material culture and the relationship of Métis people to the Canadian state.
Native American Life Writing
Caroline M. Woidat, State University of New York Geneseo
What is at stake in the act of recording Native American lives, memories, and experiences? How does life writing shape an understanding of self and others, of an individual’s place and purpose in history and in ongoing social, moral, and political struggles? This course explores the varied forms and purposes of Native American life writing in different historical and cultural contexts, with an emphasis upon Native constructions of identity and storytelling that challenge Euro-American conceptions of selfhood and history. We will examine the ways that Native American authors have resisted and adapted Euro-American literary genres—by creating life writing of witness and protest, for example, and by experimenting with the use of formal techniques that draw upon Native oral traditions and art.
While literary texts will be our primary focus, we will also consider examples of life writing in diverse media such as pictographs, ledger books, photographs, film, and social networks. Students will compare the practice and politics of life writing across disciplines such as cultural anthropology and history, and across various literary forms. Native life writing often blends and blurs the lines between some of the genres that we will study: autobiography, biography, as-told-to narrative and collaborative life history, letters, memoir, fiction, poems, legends, stories, children’s literature, and essays. Students will deepen their critical understanding of life writing through different types of writing assignments: they will develop analytical responses to the course texts while also creating life writing of their own in letters, journals, and other forms.
Native Strategies for Survival, 1880-1920
Kevin Whalen, University of Minnesota Morris
This course explores the events and policies that sought to eliminate American Indian communities and cultures and the strategies that American Indians developed to survive. Students gain insight into a pivotal time for the “incorporation” of the U.S. and ongoing tensions between unity and diversity that characterize the nation’s political economy and social structure. Of special interest are Native political voices, federal Indian education, and Indigenous migration and wage labor. Students will gain an understanding of the Euro-American and some Native American cultures in the late 19th and early 20th century and the role of material as well as cultural factors in shaping the interaction of the U.S. with native nations in a specific historical context. Students will also strengthen their abilities to analyze primary sources and evaluate historical arguments. Assessment of student progress will be based on primary source-based writing excersizes, discussion, and a final paper.
Native Children’s Literature
Roxanne Harde, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
Books for children shape their understanding and expose them to particular explanations about the world. The power and promise of literature for young people lies in its ability to both instruct and delight its audience by teaching them histories (and her-stories), enabling them to hear voices that are too often silenced, entertaining them, and allowing them to find their way to understanding even the most complex situations. In the Native North American context, those situations are often rooted in the long-term effects of colonialism. What happens, then, when we put stories for children and young adults by First Nations people about Native experience, history, and tradition at the center, rather than at the periphery? How can these stories offer children both truth and reconciliation? Do they suggest strategies of decolonization and cultural survivance?
This course will study a diverse body of literature for children and young adults written by North American First Nations authors. Our analysis will be informed by and rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing and of understanding the world. Lisa Brooks (Abenaki) demands that critical writing be “an activity of sustenance, transformation, and conversation” (237). Students in this course will thus work towards analysis that is focused on participatory engagement with picturebooks and fiction for young people. I will guide students in crafting a method of reading that is grounded in the traditions and concerns of North American First Nations people. We will attend to the ways in which these texts present the oral tradition, locate themselves in specific tribal territories and cultural practices, connect their narratives to the environment, and re-present Indigenous histories.
There will be several required texts for the course, but the bulk of the material will be delivered electronically, as will my discussions of key concepts and texts. Students will be required to participate in a discussion board, make frequent entries in their reading journal, and submit two short essays and a research paper.
ANTH Special Topics: Connecting Archaeology and Native America
Sarah Baires, Eastern Connecticut State University
Explore the theory and methods of archaeological research from the beginning of the discipline to today’s new directions in the field. Examine how archeologists learn about the past from the material things and places that people leave behind. Additionally, develop an understanding of the relationship between archaeologists and Native Americans by learning about archaeological ethics, federal laws that govern archaeological research, and how Native American social/political movements impact and change archaeology. Apply the archaeology skills learned in class during a two-week summer archaeological dig gaining valuable hands-on experience in excavation.
FNS 242, First Nations Values and Spiritual Beliefs
Chip Beal, University of Wisconsin-Superior
There is a resurgence of Native honor and respect for foundational values and spiritual beliefs of Native Americans across Indian Country. This course will explore the foundational values and spiritual beliefs of Native Americans from around North America. It will look at the resurgence in specific tribes including Ojibwa, Delaware, Cherokee, Lakota, and Navajo. The spiritual world of the Ojibwas will be central to the course because of UW-Superior’s proximity to the Ojibwa people (we are within 100 miles of 10 different Ojibwa reservations.) It will also look at periods of pan-Indian spiritual revival up through today. The goal of this course is to bring about a general understanding of the core values of America’s first peoples which has kept them unique and has kept these peoples and cultures from completely assimilating and melting into American culture.
For the full syllabus, click here.
Philosophy 492: Indigenous Thought and Knowledge
Dr. Janet Wesselius, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
This course introduces the student to both historical and contemporary forms of indigenous thought in North America. In particular, we will focus on the issues of “knowing differently” and of what indigenous thinkers call “the spiritual dimension” of their thought. Thoughtful reflection about knowledge and reality is common to all cultures. However, indigenous thought is no more homogenous than other cultures; each engages in these reflections with different interests and a different set of assumptions about how to approach this material and what sorts of questions to ask. Likewise, the students in this course come from a variety of backgrounds and majors that reflect these differences. One of the goals of the course is to create a space for “inter-philosophy” dialogue: to allow people with different philosophies and world views to talk to each other. A related goal is to provide students an opportunity to engage with “word warriors”, those aboriginal people who “do the intellectual work of protecting and empowering indigenous ways of knowing” (Dale Turner, 2006) and “Socratic settlers”, those non-aboriginal people who practise “persistent dialogue” (John Ralston Saul, 1997). No specialised philosophical background is presupposed. So, students are asked and expected to listen thoughtfully to others with different perspectives, interests, and approaches while at the same time be prepared to share and discuss their own.