HIST 1015 Native American Women: History and Myth





Tiya Miles
Teaching Fellow: Sarah Sadlier
Tuesday/Thursday, 1:30 PM - 2:45 PM ET

This combined lecture/discussion course explores histories of women from diverse Indigenous nations within the current boundaries of the United States. The course traces multiple themes that intersect Native women’s lives: concepts of family and intimate relationships; spiritual understandings and notions of tradition; gender roles and cross-cultural gender difference; processes and kinds of colonialism, conceptions of land and effects of land dispossession; cultural negotiation, change, and continuity; public representation and misrepresentation; and personal, familial, and “tribal” perseverance. We pay considerable attention to the methods and sources employed in historical inquiry about Native women, discussing challenges and dilemmas that often arise. The class will centrally address questions of method and meaning. What do we know about Native American women of the past, and how do we know it? What constitutes “history” and “myth” in the study of Native American women? From whose perspective do we define these working terms? Whose testimony and what kinds of documentation can we view as reliable in the study of this subject? What myths about Native women have predominated in American culture and why? How have these fabrications affected Native women’s lives? And finally, how have representations of Native women in the past been leveraged ideologically in broader American society in the past and present?

              The form of our inquiry and exchange in this class will borrow from pronounced elements of Native women’s historical experience. We therefore interweave storytelling and active listening (facets of the oral tradition) into lecture, and we emphasize the diversity and multivocality of Native women’s experiences by holding a high regard for our own diverse locations and voices. Our class highlights Native women as knowledge producers as well as the subject matter of our study; therefore, many of the primary accounts we read were written by Native women of the past, and much of the scholarship we read is produced by Native women of the present.