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Course Descriptions

AASP 303/AFAM 480 – Black Studies, Native Studies, and Asian Settler Colonialism

This course examines the conversations between within and across Ethnic Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies. What are the central paradigms of Black Studies, Native Studies, and Asian American Studies and how do they conceptualize relationships among race, indigeneity, diaspora, immigration, and White supremacy, and settler colonialism? Beginning with recent books that theorize Black and Indigenous people, we draw into this conversation theories of Asian settler colonialism from the Pacific that disrupt binarisms of White/Black; settler/native; Black/Indigenous. What methods do these texts prioritize? What are their central questions? And how can we draw from research to better illuminate shared politics of liberation?

Anth 211 – Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

course decription TBD

Anthro 328-0-20 – The Maya

What was life like for the ancient Maya people who inhabited what is now Central America? This course examines one of the best-known pre-Columbian civilizations in the New World: Ancient Maya civilization. The course will focus on the achievements of the ancient Maya - one of the most advanced civilizations in history - prior to the Spanish conquest in ca. 1500 AD. We will look at archaeology - from temples, cities, and hieroglyphic writing to farmers' homes and fields - to explore ancient Maya daily lives.

The course will begin with the words of the ancient Maya. We will read excerpts from the Popol Vuh, the Sacred Book of the Quich? Maya. We will then study and learn to decipher in a rudimentary fashion, the ancient Maya hieroglyphs, to gain insight into Maya beliefs, religion, and worldview. The course will then turn to archaeology's material record of buildings, temples, and artifacts to learn about aspects of ancient Maya life that were not written down and types of people, like everyday people, not recorded in written texts. Major topics will include the rise of ancient Maya civilization and the ancient Maya social, economic, and political systems, subsistence, and religion. The course concludes with an in- depth study of daily life in the ancient Maya world. We will explore what it was like to be a Maya farmer living in the small Maya farming community of Chan in Belize, and discover the lessons of sustainable lifestyles that we can learn from ancient Maya farmers.

ANTHRO 390 – Nationalism and Archaeology in the Americas

What role has archaeology played in the emergence and consolidation of modern nation-states in the Americas? Across the world, states use monuments and archaeological artifacts to present national narratives in museums, ancient sites, and online platforms. In the Americas, nation-states have controlled who has access to the material remains from the past while transforming buildings, historic places, monuments, and artifacts into national patrimony. In the process of creating national patrimony, nation-states often estrange Indigenous communities from their landscapes and their cultural heritage. In this course, we will examine the role of archaeology in the creation and preservation of national identities in the Americas from the 18th century to the present. In weekly readings and discussions, we will learn about the institutionalization of archaeology as a state-sponsored discipline, the development of archaeological sites as national monuments and tourist destinations, the display and interpretation of artifacts in museums and heritage sites, and the monopolization of tangible cultural heritage by the state. Ultimately, we will evaluate the intersections of identity and politics throughout the history of Latin America.

Eng 374 – Studies in Native American Literature: Native Chicago

The 2018 publication of Tommy Orange’s award-winning novel There There led some commentators to remark that the novel opened a new chapter in Native American literary history by taking place in a city rather than on a reservation. The novel shows that cities are not non-Native spaces but Native homelands that carry and contain kinship relations and histories. But literatures by Native people in cities are hardly a new phenomenon, as Native people have been engaging with and creating urbanity at least since the metropolitan cities known as Cahokia (near St. Louis), Etowah (in Georgia), Etzanoa (near Witchita, KS) and Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).  This course focuses on Native American literatures from and about Chicago in order to examine how Native literature and art create, influence, and engage cities as Indigenous homelands.  We’ll examine how Native writers used autobiographies, short stories, plays, poems, pamphlets, and scrapbooks to grapple with the questions raised by colonization, and we’ll read these texts alongside Native American and Indigenous Studies scholarship that will help us to examine how Native writers “remap” Chicago within Indigenous literary and artistic histories.

ENVR_POL 390-0 - 23 – Maple Syrup and Climate Change

As the earth's climate changes, maple trees and the maple syrup industry in the U.S. and Canada are being affected, in both good and bad ways. The class will cover these effects, their impact on Native American and non-Native communities, the maple syrup industry, and maple species themselves through articles and readings. This class is on site and will practice Northwestern's social distancing protocols. In the event of a Stay-at-Home Order, the course will meet via Zoom and we will adapt our field observations and sap collection accordingly. Students will work in groups, to collect data from three maple species on campus and examine sugar ratios, sap flow rates, and ambient temperature and precipitation. There will be a focus on species differentiation, soil science, and campus micro-climates. Students would also learn about how to utilize outdoor space as an informal science classroom and community science methods. The final product for the class would be a group data report. A copy of the report will go to facilities management to be added to their campus tree inventory.

ENVR_POL 390-0-24 – Political Research Seminar: Science and Knowledge in Global Climate Governance

Contact the department for further information.

ENVR_POL 390-0-27 LEC/ AMER_ST 310-0-30 SEM/ HUM 325-4-20 SEM – Parks and Pipeline: Indigenous Environmental Justice

This seminar explores how the relationship between the United States and Indigenous people has shaped the environments, ecosystems, and physical landscapes we live in today. Through engagement with a variety of digital resources including maps and digital media, we will learn how the environment of what is now the United States was managed by Indigenous people before and throughout colonization, how Indigenous people have been impacted by the environmental policies of the United States, and how Indigenous resistance and activism have shaped both the environmental movement in the U.S. as well as contemporary Indigenous political thought. In discussion, we will break down the politics, economics, and ethics of this history, challenging ourselves to think critically about the land we live on and its future. In lieu of a final paper, this course will include a digital, public-facing final assignment.

EVNP 390 – Land, Identity, and the Sacred: Native American Sacred Site Protection and Religious Rights

This class takes a multidisciplinary approach to examine Native American religion and philosophy which involves the intersections of anthropology, religious studies, cultural resource management and preservation, land management, and ethno-ecology. We will focus on Native American sacred sites and cultural landscapes and their relationship to land, ceremony, history, and identity. Central to the class will be a focus on the sacred aspects of tribal identity and the role that landscape plays in the creation and maintenance of these identities. The class will focus on specific regions and Native American communities and how the Sacred manifests within these communities and is enacted through ecological and economic relationships, cultural maintenance and preservation, language and philosophy, and land management principles. The course includes lectures and discussions based off of class readings.

GBL_HLTH 301 – Introduction to International Public Health

This course introduces students to pressing disease and health care problems worldwide and examines efforts currently underway to address them. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the course identifies the main actors, institutions, practices and forms of knowledge production characteristic of what we call "global health" today, and explores the environmental, social, political and economic factors that shape patterns and experiences of illness and healthcare across societies. We will scrutinize the value systems that underpin specific paradigms in the policy and science of global health and place present-day developments in historical perspective. We will focus on social determinants of health, settler colonialism, colonialism, health and human rights, global health ethics, ecological determinants of health, and an overview of public health disciplines.

GBL_HLTH 320-1 – Qualitative Research Methods in Global Health

This reading intensive course will provide a theoretical foundation and the skills central to qualitative methods for public health research. We will focus on developing and conducting focus groups and individual interviews. Course assignments will provide the opportunity to exercise these skills and those necessary to developing a research proposal, ethnographic field notes, and data collection tools. Further, students will learn the benefits and challenges associated with transcribing, managing, coding, analyzing, and presenting qualitative data. Central to this course is the ethical and methodological issues related to creating qualitative data with people through their stories.

GBL_HLTH 390-21 – Special Topics in Global Health: Community Based Participatory Research

Oftentimes we hear of research done on communities. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a research paradigm that challenge researchers to conducted research with communities. In this reading intense discussion-based course, we will learn the historical and theoretical foundations, and the key principles of CBPR. Students will be introduced to methodological approaches to building community partnerships, research planning, and data sharing. Real-world applications of CBPR in health will be studied to illustrate the benefits and challenges. Further, this course will address culturally appropriate interventions, working with diverse communities, and ethical considerations in CBPR.

GLB_HLTH 390-0-22 – Special Topics in Global Health: Native Nations, Healthcare Systems, and U.S. Policy

Healthcare for Native populations, in what is currently the U.S., is an entanglement of settler colonial domination and the active determination of Native nations to uphold their Indigenous sovereignty. This reading-intensive, discussion-based seminar will provide students with a complex and in-depth understanding of the historical and contemporary policies and systems created for and by Native nations. We will focus on the legal foundations of the trust responsibility and fiduciary obligation of the federal government outlined in the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court decisions. To gain a nuanced perspective, students will study notable federal policies including the Snyder Act, the Special Diabetes Programs for Indians, Violence Against Women Act, and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Additionally, state policy topics will include Medicaid expansion and tobacco cessation and prevention.

GNDR_ST 363 – Queer Indigeneity

What is indigeneity and how can it help us rethink gender and sexual (non-) normativity? This course critically explores Indigenous ways of knowing in contrast to traditional views of gender and sexuality. By introducing and relying on decoloniality and queer of color critique, the focus of this course will be two-fold. First, we will analyze how contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality are contested by indigeneity, and how they operate within colonial processes and legacies. Second, we will focus on the ways scholars from Indigenous and Native Studies have theorized gender and sexual non-normativity in relation—and sometimes in response—to scholars in Queer and Trans Studies. Students will engage primary and secondary sources from various disciplines and media and will develop analytical and theoretical skills while expanding their knowledge on gender and sexual minorities beyond western epistemologies.

HIST 300 / LEGAL_ST 376 / HUM 370 – Development of American Indian Law and Policy

In this course, we will conceptualize Native peoples as nations, not merely racial/ethnic minorities. Students will learn about the unique legal landscape in Indian Country by charting the historical development of tribal governments and the ever-changing body of U.S. law and policy that regulates Indian affairs. We begin by studying Indigenous legal traditions, the European doctrine of discovery, and diplomatic relations between Native nations and European empires. We then shift our focus to treaty-making, the constitutional foundations of federal Indian law, 19th century U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and the growth of the federal bureaucracy in Indian Country. The course devotes considerable attention to the expansion of tribal governmental authority during the 20th century, the contemporary relationship between Indian tribes and the federal/state governments, and the role of federal Indian law as both a tool of U.S. colonial domination and a mechanism for protecting the interests of Indigenous communities.

HIST 300-0-22 – Native America: American Indian History to 1763

In this course, we will explore how Native Americans shaped and responded to the major events in North America history in the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries, particularly the encounter between North America's Indigenous peoples and the European and African newcomers. We will analyze as much as possible from Indians' own perspective: their cultural, economic, and material engagement with the "new world" inaugurated by European colonialism. The primary aim of this course is to prepare each student to discuss verbally and in writing the major themes and problems of early American Indian history.

Hist 300 – Red Power: Indigenous Resistance in the U.S. and Canada, 1887-Present

In 2016, thousands of Indigenous water protectors and their non-Native allies camped at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in an effort to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. That movement is part of a long history of Native activism. In this course, we will examine the individual and collective ways in which Indigenous people have resisted colonial domination in the U.S. and Canada since 1887. In addition to focusing on North America, we will also turn our attention to Hawai‘i and the U.S. territories. This course will highlight religious movements, intertribal organizations, key intellectual figures, student movements, armed standoffs, non-violent protest, and a variety of visions for Indigenous community self-determination.

Jour 367 – Native American Environmental Issues and the Media

This course introduces students to Native American environmental issues, such as treaty-based hunting, fishing, and gathering rights; air and water quality issues; mining; land-to-trust issues; and sacred sites. We focus on how the media cover these issues and how that coverage contributes to the formation of public opinion and public policy. Students read and analyze newspaper and on-line news reports and view broadcast news stories and documentaries about Native environmental issues. We pay particular attention to tribal sovereignty, which often is at the cultural, political, and legal core of these disputes.

Jour 390 – Media history: the Native Experience


POL329 – US Environmental Politics

Description TBD

ANTH 101-6-21 – First-Year Seminar: Natives Beyond Nations

No description available.

SOC 277 – Intro to Native Studies

Provides an overview of the culture and history of Native groups and how these histories influence modern Native America. Explores the current economic and social experiences of Indians and tribes.

Courses Primarily for Graduate Students

Anth 490 – Materialities

In recent years, there has been a tremendous burst of theoretical and philosophical work loosely grouped together as “New Materialisms” or ‘the ontological turn”.  After decades of focusing on the text, scholars in a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, history, literature, and religious studies, have suddenly discovered things.  In this course, we will explore some of the New Materialist and ontological theoretical literature, with a focus on how these ideas have been put into practice by ethnographers and archaeologists.  Students will be encouraged to use insights from this literature to develop their own research practices. 

Hist 300-0-22 – Global Indigenous Histories

[course description TBD]

Graduate-level Courses Available to Undergraduates

GBL_HLTH 390-24 – Native American Health Research and Prevention

Native nations in what is currently the United States are continuously seeking to understanding and undertake the best approaches to research and prevention with their communities. This course introduces students to the benefits and barriers to various approaches to addressing negative health outcomes and harnessing positive social determinants of health influencing broader health status. Important concepts to guide our understanding of these issues will include settler colonialism, colonialism, sovereignty, social determinants of health, asset-based perspectives, and decolonizing research. Students will engage in a reading-intensive, discussion-based seminar, drawing upon research and scholarship from a variety of disciplines including public health, Native American and Indigenous Studies, sociology, history, and medicine. This course does not focus on nor teach traditional Native medicine or philosophies as those are not appropriate in this predominately non-Native environment.