Like indigenous peoples around the world, American Indians possess a special relationship to their local environment. How is this historical relationship to their lands and waters – and to the plants and animals that can be found there – unique? This course examines how this relationship has changed over time as American Indians adapted to altered environments and new conditions, including migrations, involvement with markets of exchange, overhunting, dispossession, conservation, and mainstream environmentalism. How and why has the popular view of American Indians’ relationship to the environment changed? What environmental challenges do today’s American Indian nations face, and what are the historical dimensions of these challenges? Through lectures, readings, and discussions, we will investigate several historical and contemporary case studies that explore these themes.
In this course, students will understand:
- The diversity of ways that different indigenous peoples relate to and interact with the environment.
- How American Indian relationships to the environment have changed over time.
- How stereotypes of American Indians took shape and how non-Natives have drawn upon these assumptions for their own purposes.
- How American Indian peoples and nations have engaged changing relationships with the environment to shape their own identities.
- The value of the environment to indigenous peoples today.