"The Little Old Men spoke of these moves as one might speak of changing camping places, and each organizational step was a step away from the old, just as they walked away from the disorder of the old campsites."

-John Joseph Mathews (Osage)


  • Course: FYS Indian Country Today (Fall 2012)
  • Classroom: Alumni 0205
  • Days/Hours: 3:30-4:45 pm Tues/Thurs
  • Instructor: Jean Dennison
  • Office: Alumni 409E
  • Official E-mail: jeand@email.unc.edu
  • Office Hours: 2:00-3:00pm Tues/Thurs (email to ensure space)


This course examines current topics in American Indian country today through the use of films and interactive case studies. Working both alone and in groups, students will be required to research various topics including: American Indian treaty rights, stereotypes, sovereignty, health, economy, citizenship, and identity. They will also participate in engaged and situated discussions and write short position papers. In addition to introducing students to current topics of importance within American Indian Nations, this course will explore how these issues are debated within and outside Indian communities. Ultimately the course will seek to better understand the challenges facing American Indian Nations both internally and externally and look for creative solutions to these problems.


Upon completion of this course, students should be able to: 1) discuss the history and current forces of settler colonialism in the United States; 2) discuss current topics of importance within American Indian Nations; 3) conduct basic research on topics related to American Indian Studies.


All required reading will be provided on Sakai.  All films are available for viewing in the Media Resource Center in the Undergraduate Library or through Sakai. Online materials are made available for the educational purposes of students in Jean Dennison's Case Studies in American Indian Country class. No further reproduction, transmission, or electronic distribution of this material is permitted.


Course Requirements

Participation (240 points)

Beginning the second week of class, all students are required to participate in every class. If you do not attend class, then you will not receive any participation points. For each class students will receive from 0–10 points based on both the quality and quantity of their class participation.  If a student has not completed the reading, does not participate in discussions, or does not contribute to group projects, he or she will receive a poor participation score for that class. On days where there is no discussion or group work, students’ scores will be based on attendance.  At the end of the semester the participation scores will be added together to calculate the final participation grade.  Students can earn extra points by participating in all classes but will not be penalized for missing up to two classes. Excused absences must be approved ahead of time via email with the professor. Daily scores will be posted on Sakai so students can monitor their progress and make changes as needed.

It's in Our Treaty (50 points) Due: 9/6

Each group will give a ten-minute presentation based on the questions assigned as part of the case.  Students will be graded on the thoroughness with which they address the questions assigned to them and the creativity of the presentation. Students will also be peer-evaluated on their participation in the group.   

Should Indian Sports Mascots Be Repealed (75 points) Due: 9/20

Role Play – The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has convened to discuss next steps in the dispute with the Florida State Seminole and the ongoing efforts outlaw the use of Indian mascots. In an effort to entertain a wide range of options the NCAA has decided to let various interest groups present their perspective on the mascot issue. The interest groups are charged with thoroughly explaining their perspective to the NCAA, hoping to sway them in their policy decision. Students will be graded based on both the thoroughness of their research and realism of their presentations. Students will also be peer-evaluated on their participation in the group.

The Last Stand: the Quinault Indian Nation's Path to Sovereignty and the Case of Tribal Forestry (100 points) Due: 10/2

Each group will produce a marked-up map of their recommendations for timber harvest and provide a 5-10 minutes presentation to the class explaining why they think their package is the best direction for the Tribe, given the statement of the Tribal Council and the need to consider cultural concerns, especially with respect to cedar. You will need to explain the costs and benefits of your choice, objectives, and strategy as to how you will accomplish the objectives outlined in the case. One student from each must upload a digital copy of the map to Sakai prior to class. Students will also be peer-evaluated on their participation in the group.

Reclaiming Native Health Through Community (120 points) Due: 10/16

Each student will complete a 3-5 page research paper or equivalent project on a topic related to American Indian health and the lasting impacts of settler colonialism. The paper must use at least two academic sources and follow Chicago Author/Date citation style. It must be double-spaced, with 12-point Times font, and one-inch margins. Students are required to have someone else, preferably at the writing center, edit their paper prior to submission. Students will also give a 3 minute in-class presentation based on their research findings. Students must upload to Sakai their topic/academic sources prior to class on 10/11 and a digital copy of the paper prior to class on 10/16.

All In? Economic Factors to Consider in Native Gaming (100 points) Due: 10/30

Role-Play – Each group will give a ten-minute visual presentation at a community meeting taking a stand on whether or not the tribe should open a casino. Each presentation should include a plan for the future of economic development in the area. Two sources should be cited in the presentation in addition to the information taken from the case.  After the presentation other students (acting as community members) will ask questions of the presenters. Students will also be peer-evaluated on their participation in the group.

The Will of the People: Citizenship and the Osage Nation (165 points) Due: 11/8 (11/13 for OGRC group)

Role Play (100) – Because of Congressional law the Osage Nation had been forced into an alien form of government for a hundred years.  Recent legislation has recognized the Osage Nation’s sovereign right to determine its own citizenship and form of government.  As part of this case, students will enact the highly charged debates over citizenship that took place during Osage community meetings.

Paper (65) – For everyone but the OGRC group, this 1-2 page paper should articulate your position for the role play. It should address the questions outlined here. It must be double-spaced, with 12-point Times font, and one-inch margins. For the OGRC, your assignment is to individually come up with 2-3 questions that could go on a referendum for deciding citizenship. Students should paste their papers/referendum questions into the provided space in Sakai assignments prior to class it is due.

Issues in Contemporary American Indian Art (170)

Each student will curate an exhibit of 5 American Indian art objects, giving each object its needed context. Students will be graded on how their objects work together as an exhibit, as well as what the exhibit is able to communicate about how American Indian artists combat the forces of settler colonialism. Students can choose from the artists listed here, or find others. For each object, students should find at least two sources (can be non-academic), which must be cited using the Chicago Author/Date citation style.

Sources (30) – Students must upload to Sakai their choice of images and sources by 5pm on 11/20.

Paper (100) – One-two pages of written text should be devoted to introducing the exhibit, and one-two pages to each object. Each page should include a discussion of the setter colonial context dealt with by the exhibit/object. Each page must be double-spaced, with 12-point Times font, and one-inch margins. Students are required to have someone else, preferably at the writing center, edit their text prior to submission. A digital copy of the 6-12 page written text prior to class on 12/4 or 12/13.

Presentation (40) – Students will give 5 minute in-class presentations on 11/29 and 12/4. These presentations should summarize their research findings and include images of their exhibit. The .ppt presentations must be uploaded to Sakai at least 30 minutes prior to class on 12/4 or 12/13.



  • 930-1000 (points)          A
  • 900-929                       A-
  • 870-899                       B+
  • 830-869                       B
  • 800-829                       B-
  • 770-799                       C+
  • 730-760                       C
  • 700-729                       C-
  • 670-699                       D+
  • 600-669                       D
  • 599 and below              F


Honor Code

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has had a student-administered honor system and judicial system for over 100 years. The system is the responsibility of students and is regulated and governed by them, but faculty share the responsibility. If you have questions about your responsibility under the honor code, please bring them to your instructor or consult with the office of the Dean of Students or the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance at:http://honor.unc.edu. This document, adopted by the Chancellor, the Faculty Council, and the Student Congress, contains all policies and procedures pertaining to the student honor system. Your full participation and observance of the honor code is expected.

Plagiarism is the deliberate or reckless representation of another's words, thoughts, images or ideas as one's own without attribution in connection with submission of academic work, whether graded or otherwise. Students seeking more information are encouraged to take the online plagiarism tutorial. Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this class and will result in a failing grade for the class and suspension for one academic semester. Materials for class assignments should be produced specifically for this class unless prior approval from the professor is granted.


Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with Disability Services, Division of Student Affairs. They will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to me when requesting accommodation.

Personal Technology

Personal technology is allowed, so long as it is being used to take notes. At various times during class I will be walking around the room and will revoke everyone's privilege if they find people regularly misusing it.


Introduction to Course

Treaty Rights

  • 8/30 – Federal Indian Policy Lecture. Group work. Discuss Reading. Read for Class: Wiessner 1995.
  • 9/4 – Assign groups. Group discussions and preparation. Read for Class: Brown, Jovana J. 2007.
  • 9/6 - Presentations: It’s in Our Treaty. Discussion of case and peer review.


  • 9/11 – Culture lecture. Discuss Reading. Read for Class: Smith, 2009.
  • 9/13 – Discussion of film, view clips from Reel Injun, and assign groups. View for Class: In Whose Honor (46 min)
  • 9/18 – Group discussions and preparation. Read for Class: Arthur, Gary 2012.
  • 9/20 – Role Play: Should Indian Sports Mascots Be Repealed? Discussion of case and peer review.


  • 9/25 – Background lecture. Discuss Reading. Read for Class: Biolsi, 2005. Assign groups.
  • 9/27 – Group discussions and preparation. Read for Class: Stumpff, Linda Moon 2007.
  • 10/2 – Presentations: The Last Stand. Discussion of case. Peer review.


  • 10/4 – Introduction to Library Research:Lab #247 on the 2nd Floor of Davis Library
  • 10/9 – Discussion of case. Read for Class: Ackley, Kirstina 2008. Discuss citation.
  • 10/11 – Discuss Reading and research progress. Read for Class: O'Nell, 2004. Student topics due.
  • 10/16 – Papers due, Presentations: Reclaiming Native Women's Health Through Community.


  • 10/18 – No Class
  • 10/23 – Discuss case. Assign groups. Group discussions and preparation. Read for Class: Hai-Jew, Shalin. 2007.
  • 10/25 – Discussion of reading. Group discussions and preparation. Read for Class: Cattelino, Jessica 2010.
  • 10/30 – Presentations: All In? Discussion of case and peer review.


  • 11/1 – Background lecture. Discuss Reading. Read for Class: Simpson, 2000. Assign Groups.
  • 11/6 – Read for Class: Dennison, Jean 2007. Discussion of case. Group discussions and preparation.
  • 11/8 – Paper due (except OGRC) and Role Play: The Will of the People: Citizenship and the Osage Nation. Peer Review.

Art and Representation







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