HISTORY 1006: Introduction to Native American and Indigenous





Philip J Deloria 
Monday/Wednesday, 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM 

In the 2010 U.S. Census, 5.2 million people identified themselves as being of American Indian or Alaska Native descent.  Of these, 2.9 million identified themselves as American Indian or Alaska Native alone, about 1.7 percent of the nation’s population.  These demographics make it easy to ignore Native America.  And yet, American Indian people carry an importance in American culture and society that far outweighs the census numbers.  Anyone engaged in law, policy, energy, land management, and state or federal government will inevitably engage the tangle of Indian law and policy.  Anyone in the culture industries—film, arts, writing, museums, sports—will confront the curious hold that Indians have on American culture.  Anyone interested in international issues will confront questions about the histories and practices of conquest and colonialism on a global scale, particularly in other major settler states such as Canada, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand.  Native peoples find a central place in the recent history of social justice uprisings, COVID-19 challenges, and the practices of history, memory, and politics surrounding American monuments and memorials. 

This course offers a broad introductory survey of these and other issues as it explores the development and current state of the interdisciplinary field known as Native American and Indigenous Studies.   Who are the 2.9 (or the 5.2 million) American Indian or Alaska Native people, and how is their status and identity determined?  What are the pressing issues of the present moment?  What are the histories that make sense of those issues?  How do we explain that American urge to claim “Indian blood” and to create novels and films about Indians?  How do Indian nations sit within and in relation to state and federal governments?  Why should we have an entire academic field devoted to the wide world of Native America?  And how might we think of that field as it takes new shape at Harvard—some three and half centuries after the 1650 Charter committed the institution to "the education of the English & Indian Youth of this Country in knowledge; and godliness"?