White Mountain Apache dancers (Fort Apache Reservation, AZ) perform during the 2009 US Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images).
AIS/HSTAA 210: Inconvenient Indians and "the American Problem"
American Indian History since 1815
Professor Josh Reid | Fall 2018
With the US victory at the end of the War of 1812, American Indian nations east of the Mississippi River faced an “American problem,” i.e., an expansive nation state and people intent on acquiring indigenous lands, waters, and resources. Unlike previous eras, Native nations could no longer manipulate alliances with other European powers and competing colonies to their advantage. Instead, they faced the settler colonial expansion of the new United States alone. More troubling, non-Native officials and citizens largely saw no place for indigenous peoples, much less Native nations, in the body politic or even within the territorial boundaries of the United States. Indians had become inconvenient and in the way of US expansion, of the development of resources and industry, and of the general progress of American civilization. Native peoples west of the Mississippi faced different situations. Some lived in lands claimed by the Spanish empire, while others engaged successfully in various forms of the land-based and maritime fur trades in the intermountain and far wests. Large swaths of the Great Plains were the homelands of other expansive indigenous powers. It took another few generations until these indigenous peoples became engulfed by the United States and hence inconvenient.
Yet indigenous peoples—these inconvenient Indians—did not sit idly by, waiting for the United States to eliminate them bodily or culturally. Instead, they fought back in a variety of ways legally, diplomatically, and violently, and sought a range of cultural and economic opportunities that allowed them to survive and even thrive, at times. Indeed, the measure of self-determination that many American Indian nations have today is due to the efforts of savvy indigenous leaders and activists. As illustrated by ongoing Native activism, indigenous peoples continue to confront an aggressive nation state, international corporations, and populace that still see Indians as inconvenient.
This course examines the histories of indigenous peoples of North America from the nineteenth century to today. Students will explore a range of topics, including settler colonialism, indigenous power, American Indian–US relations, and Native governance and activism.
In this course, students will understand:
- The diversity of the American Indian experience throughout the history of the United States.
- The ways American Indian individuals, communities, and nations used commerce, diplomacy, and/or violence to confront the expanding settler colonial power of the United States and its lethal results.
- How to interrogate and complicate the notion of victimization of American Indians.
- The role of indigenous historical agency in enabling American Indian communities not only to survive, but also to thrive.
- The range of historical and contemporary challenges American Indians continue to face today.
The complete digital copy of the syllabus is now available.