It has been several years since I’ve taught the Native American history survey course at Geneseo, and at the end of this month, I will be teaching it for the first time with the new edition of the textbook Peter Olsen-Harbich and I published last fall. As I have mentioned in earlier posts on this blog, I no longer give grades on student assignments. Drawing inspiration from the teaching of Cate Denial at Knox College, I develop a rubric in collaboration with the students. In meetings at the end of the semester, and with reference to this rubric and the extensive comments and suggestions I will have written on the students’ work, students assign themselves a grade for the course. Usually, about half the students enrolled in the course are history majors, and the rest enroll to fulfill some part of the general education requirements, which have recently undergone a thorough revision at Geneseo. Any questions or criticisms, please let me know in the comments below. I am aware of the funky formatting below, but I have not been able to figure out an efficient way to make what I have included below look like the document that I will make available to the students on the college’s clunky learning management system.
History 261 American Indian History Fall 2023
Instructor: Michael Oberg Meeting Times: MW, 10:30-12:10, Newton 21 Office Hours: MW 12:30-1:45 EMAIL: email@example.com Phone: (585)245-5730 (office) Website and blog: www.michaelleroyoberg.com The website and blog are designed to complement the textbook. There is a review section for each chapter of the textbook. Click on the “Manual.”
- Required Readings:
- Michael Leroy Oberg and Peter Jakob Olsen-Harbich, Native America: A History, 3d. ed., 2022.
- Colin G. Calloway, ed., Our Hearts Fell to the Ground: Plains Indian Views of How the West Was Lost, 2d. ed., 2017.
- Frederick E. Hoxie, Talking Back to Civilization: Indian Voices from the Progressive Era, 2001.
- Francis Paul Prucha, ed., Documents of United States Indian Policy, 3d ed, 2000.
- Additional Documents and Articles available on JSTOR and as noted below.
Course Description: This course surveys the history of Native Americans in the region that ultimately became the United States. It traces the effects and consequences of the European “Invasion of America,” analyzes changes in and among native cultures in response to the arrival of Europeans, as well as native responses, resistance, and accommodation to European colonization. We will examine the role of Native Americans as players in the intercultural, imperial politics of the Colonial Period, their involvement in the American Revolution, and their response to the westward expansion of Anglo-American settlement in the decades after the American Revolution. We also will explore the historical background of the problems, issues, and challenges facing Indians in contemporary American society, and, in outline, the challenges posed to native peoples by Settler Colonialism. We will discuss the genocide that Indigenous peoples experienced and survived.
Participation: In my view participation is more than attendance. I expect you to arrive at each class meeting with the readings completed and that you will be ready to discuss what you hare read. This is not a lecture course, and your contribution to our discussions is an important part of the learning experience. Though participation is more than attendance, attendance is critically important. As you will see from the attached grading agreement, after four unexcused absences you will not be able to earn any grade higher than a D for the course. If, for some reason, you are unable to attend a class, please let me know in advance.
Writing Assignments: On two occasions over the semester, I will read your journals.You will write each week on short topics I assign you, but also on current events and on any outside reading you choose to do. I will provide you with these writing prompts in class.
I will also assign two short take home writing assignments, of no more than 1500 words in length. I will pose for you a number of broad questions that will force you to consider widely what you have read to that point in the semester, develop an argument and an effective answer, and to present that answer in writing with grace and style.
With any of these assignments, I encourage you to let me know if you have any questions. You should be clear on what I expect of you before you complete an assignment. Please use office hours, and if you cannot make these make an appointment to see me. I want to encourage you to ask for assistance and advice with your assignments.
I will write extensive comments in your journals and essays. I will also make comments on these papers about your class participation. I will ask you challenging questions, offer what I hope you will view as constructive criticism, and encourage you to push yourself as a writer and a thinker. But I will not give you grades, in the traditional sense, on this work.
I want you to benefit from this course. On the date of our first class meeting, we will discuss the standards for the class. You and I will work together to arrive at a set of expectations for the sort of work that will earn a specific grade. In your final journal, and in individual meetings or phone calls scheduled during Finals Week, we will discuss how well you think you did in meeting the agreed upon standards, and what your grade for the course ought to be.
28 August Introduction to the Course
Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, Introduction, Chapter One.
30 August The Columbian Encounter
Also, have a look at the Re-Envisioning Greater Cahokia Story Map. Students interested in Native American languages might look briefly at the materials placed online by the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island.
6 September When Indians Discovered Europe
11 September The Shatter Zone
Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, 33-44; Some images from John Smith’s Generall Historie are available here; Take a good look at John Smith’s Map of Virginia as well. Also, read the poem from Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony available here. For students who have the time and some familiarity with Disney’s “Pocahontas,” I encourage you to take a look at “Missing Mataoka,” which includes an alternative audio track to be played as you watch the Disney film. Take a few minutes to read John Rolfe’s letter to Sir Thomas Dale, justifying his decision to marry Pocahontas.
13 September The Shatter Zone, Continued. Reading: Oberg and Olsen Harbich, Native America, 49-59; Treaty of Middle Plantation (1677). Please read as much as you can of John Eliot’s Tears of Repentance, a history of his efforts to bring Christianity to Indigenous peoples in southern New England.
18 September The Iroquois League and Confederacy.
Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native American, 44-49, 59-79;Daniel K. Richter, “War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience,” William and Mary Quarterly, 40 (October 1983), 528-559 (Please locate this article on JSTOR, download a copy of it, and makes sure you have a copy with you on your computer for our discussion. If you are unfamiliar with JSTOR, please ask for assistance. Look on the library webpage and click on databases). One of the most important primary sources used by Professor Richter in this well known essay was a collection of writings by French Missionaries to New France known as The Jesuit Relations. You may follow this link to the Relations. I would like you to check Professor Richter’s sources occasionally, and look at how he uses his evidence.
20 September Life Behind the Frontier
25 September Native Americans and the Wars of the Eighteenth Century Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, 98-109; Proclamation of 1763.
2 October What Do We Make of the Revolution and Native Americans? Reading: Jeffrey Ostler, “’To Extirpate the Indians’: An Indigenous Consciousness of Genocide in the Ohio Valley and Lower Great Lakes, 1750s-1810,” William and Mary Quarterly, 72 (October 2015), 587-622 (JSTOR)
4 October Indians and the New American Empire Prophets of the Republic Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, pp. 129-157; Prucha, Documents no. 1-21.
11 October Native Peoples and Long Knives Reading: David A. Silverman, “The Curse of God: An Idea and its Origins among the Indians of New York’s Revolutionary Frontier,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser. 66 (2009): 495-534 (JSTOR).
First Paper Due
16 October The Mechanics of Dispossession: Or, How Chenussio Became Geneseo Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, 157-161; Prucha, Documents, Document no. 27, 29-34, 36-38; 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua; 1797 Treaty of Big Tree; Oberg, “The Treaty of Big Tree: Let’s Follow the Money”; and “Chenussio: The Indigenous History of Livingston County.”
18 October The Removal Crisis Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, pp. 162-174; Prucha, Documents, 39-45, 50.
First Journal Due
23 October The Indians’ West Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, 175-190; Calloway, Hearts, Introduction, Chapters 1-4.
25 October The Indians’ West, Continued Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, pp. 190-204; Prucha, Documents, nos., 51-66; Calloway, Hearts, Chapter 5; Angela Cavender Wilson (Waziyatawin), “Grandmother to Granddaughter: Generations of Oral History in a Dakota Family,” 20 (Winter 1996), 7-13 (JSTOR).
30 October The Plains Wars: Concentration and Enforcement Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, 204-214; Prucha, Documents, 67-81, 83-85; Calloway, Hearts, Chapters 6-8.
1 November Reformers and the Indian Problem Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, pp. 215-227; Prucha, Documents, no. 82, 97-98, 101-102, 104, 124; Hoxie, Talking Back, Introduction; Calloway, Hearts, Chapters 9-10.
6 November Wounded Knee Reading: Black Elk Speaks, (excerpt, available here); And this website based on Historian Justin Gage’s We Do Not Want the Gates Closed Between Us. (Take some time to understand Gage’s argument about the Ghost Dance movement and its consequences.
8 November The Nation’s Wards Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, 227-247, Prucha, Documents, nos., 105-112, 117-118, 120-123, 125-129, 132-134, 137; Calloway, Hearts, Chapters 11-12; Hoxie, Talking Back, Ch. 1-3.
13 November The Boarding School Experience Reading: The Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center
15 November The Search for American Indian Identity Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, pp. 247-263; Prucha, Documents, nos. 136, 138-144; Hoxie, Talking Back, Chapters 4-7, Afterword.
20 November From Termination to Self-Determination Reading: Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, pp. 263–275; Prucha, Documents, nos. 145, 147-149, 151-160, 162-163
27 November The War on Native American Families. Reading: Magaret Jacobs, “Remembering the ‘Forgotten Child’: The American Indian Child Welfare Crisis of the 1960s and 1970s,” American Indian Quarterly, 37 (Spring 2013), 136-159; Oberg, “Texas is Making Me Crazy.”
29 November The Struggle for Sovereignty: 1978 Reading: Prucha, Documents, nos. 167, 169-187; Oberg and Olsen-Harbich, Native America, 275-284;
4 December Native America in the Era of Self-Determination Reading: Oberg, Native America, Chapter 10; Prucha, 189-190, 201, 204, 207, 210-211.
Second Journal Due
11 December Final Class Meeting: Where Do We Go From Here? Reading: Oberg, “The Trump Administration and American Indian Policy: A Post-Mortem” and Michael Oberg and Joel Helfrich, “Why Deb Haaland Matters.”
14 December Final Writing Assignment Due, 8:00AM
18 December Meetings to Discuss Final Grades