AMST 146
Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies Spring 2025
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

Consider just the last few years… during the 2016 presidential campaign then-candidate Donald Trump called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” a disparaging reference to Warren’s claim to Native American heritage. In 2017, Los Angeles became the largest US city to rename “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Indigenous-led resistance to oil pipelines continues in multiple locations, and in 2022 Washington DC’s professional football team abandoned their old name, a racial slur for Native Americans, rebranding as the Washington Commanders. Struggles in Indian Country over politics, natural resources, and representation have become increasingly visible. This course will prepare students to better understand contemporary indigenous issues. Course content will actively work against the myth that Native American history ended in 1890 with the end of militant Native resistance to US expansion. Instead, we will ask: Who are indigenous peoples? How is their status and identity determined? How do Indian nations sit within and in relation to state and federal governments? What are the pressing issues of the present moment? What are the histories that make sense of those issues? How do we explain that curious American urge to claim “Indian blood” and to create novels and films about Indians? Course topics will include colonialism, tribal sovereignty, Native American art, literature, and culture, activism and “Red Power,” struggles over natural resources, gender and sexuality, representations of indigenous people in popular culture, and more. We will enrich our classroom activities with visits to the Williams College Special Collections and the Williams College Museum of Art. This course offers a broad introductory survey of these and other issues as it explores the development and current state of the interdisciplinary field known as Native and Indigenous Studies.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 3350
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Assignments will include weekly discussion, responses to assigned readings, short papers, and essay exams for the midterm and final.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: American Studies majors or first- and second-year students
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: This course focuses on race, indigeneity, and the ongoing forms of colonialism that infringe on the sovereignty of indigenous nations. Students in the course are asked to explore how difference, power, and inequality have shaped the history of the United States and other settler-colonies.
Attributes: AMST Arts in Context Electives
AMST Comp Studies in Race, Ethnicity, Diaspora
AMST pre-1900 Requirement

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