This course surveys Native American/Indigenous North American histories from creation through the U.S. Civil War, tracing the complex ways that tribal nations and communities have shaped North America. It also introduces foundational methodologies in Native American and Indigenous Studies and strategies for pursuing decolonizing scholarship and action. Beginning with the diverse Indigenous societies that inhabited the Americas millennia before Columbus’s arrival, it discusses the cultural complexity of Native peoples, nations, and worldviews rooted in particular ecosystems and homelands, as well as accounts of beginnings and migrations. It addresses how Native peoples confronted grievous epidemics resulting from the “Columbian Exchange,” and contended with Euro-colonial projects of “discovery” and colonization. Indigenous nations’ multifaceted efforts to maintain sovereignty and lands through eras of pervasive violence and removal are discussed, as well as the important yet under-recognized ways that Native communities negotiated the tumultuous era and conflicting allegiances of the Civil War. The course centers on Indigenous actors-intellectuals, diplomats, legal strategists, knowledge keepers, spiritual leaders, artists, and others-and consistently connects historical events with present-day debates over land, historical memory, education, and activism. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to engage with original materials pertaining to Native histories in the Williams College Archives/Special Collections and Art Museum. While the scope of the course is continental and transoceanic, it devotes significant attention to the Native Northeast and the particular Indigenous homelands in which Williams College is located.
Format: lecture; discussion
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
active participation in class discussion, several short essays based on readings and discussion topics, museum/archives exercise, final essay
first- and second-year students
Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
This course intensively explores Native American/Indigenous North American histories, experiences, and forms of critical and creative expression, as well as responses to and engagements with Euro-American settler colonialism. It guides students into methodologies central to Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS), and gives opportunities for oral and written reflections on NAIS approaches to historical themes and sources, as well as decolonizing methodologies more broadly.
HIST Group F Electives - U.S. + Canada
HIST Group P Electives - Premodern