On any given day, a visitor to the website Indian Country Today will find, along with more uplifting fare, articles relating to the challenges facing Native North Americans today. Such challenges include Native peoples’ battles to retain control of land and natural resources; the pervasive dehumanization of Native peoples through a variety of persistent stereotypes; the repercussions of policies of forced assimilation and education; the role of both indigenous and Christian religions in present-day communities; and violence against Native individuals, particularly women. These contemporary issues are also old issues, stemming from the earliest contacts between indigenous Americans and European colonists. This research seminar will survey first contacts between Natives and colonists and trace the subsequent development of various colonial systems in order to better understand how natives and newcomers approached their encounters, negotiated their evolving relationships, and sought to resolve their many conflicts. Though the course will pay particular attention to North America from about 1492 through the American Revolution, we will also consider examples from the Caribbean and Latin America. Readings will include both primary and secondary sources, from the journals of Christopher Columbus and John Smith to the recent work of scholars interested in the dynamics of intercultural negotiation between Native peoples and colonists throughout the Americas. The first half of the semester will be spent exploring major themes and identifying individual research projects related to the subject, and the second will be dedicated to developing and completing those projects. Ultimately, this course will enhance students’ appreciation of the complexities as well as the diversity of what we now call “early America” and enrich their understanding of “later Americas” -- including the North America we now inhabit.
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