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 2014)
  • Classroom: Genome Sciences 1373
  • Days/Hours: 2-3:15 pm Tues/Thurs
  • Instructor: Jean Dennison
  • Office: Alumni 409E
  • E-mail:
  • Office Hours: 10 -10:50 Tues/Thurs


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: stereotypes, sovereignty, economy, citizenship, art, and politics. 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) critically interrogate the stereotypes associated with American Indians; 2) discuss the history and current forces of settler colonialism in the United States; 3) discuss 21st century American Indian processes of nation-building.


All required readings will be provided on Sakai. While these readings are generally under 40 pages per week, they are complex academic works and will thus require multiple readings. All films are available for viewing in the Media Resource Center in the Undergraduate Library and through Sakai.


Course Requirements

Participation (200 points)

Participation in the course is a major component of this class. If you do not attend class or cannot talk articulately about class lectures, weekly films, and the assigned readings, your participation grade will suffer. Class discussion will occur throughout the week, but will be required whenever reading is due. The participation grade will be broken into two parts and graded based on your performance during the two halves of the semester. For excused absences, the professor must be notified ahead of time. You are only allowed two unexcused absence before your participation grade will suffer. For each unexcused absence (over the two allowed) students will be deducted 20 points. For non-participation, students will be deducted 10 points per discussion class. If you have an emergency that takes you away from class, please let the professor know as soon as you can.

Question Posting (100 points)

For 10 of the classes where readings are due, students are required to write one discussion question on the reading assignment due that week. All questions must be posted to the appropriate place (Assignments / Questions Posting) on the course's Sakai page by 9:00 am on the due date. These questions will not be accepted late and are intended to show students' abilities to meet deadlines. If students do all 12 postings, they will get extra credit.

You do not need to answer the questions. The goal of these questions is to show your engagement with the reading. Some weeks your questions will be graded for completion (0 or 10 points per question) and others weeks they will be graded more rigorously. These weeks' questions will each be graded on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being 'exceptional', 8 being 'adequate', and 6 being 'needs improvement.' Adequate questions are usually longer than three sentences, illustrate a comprehensive understanding of the reading, and are likely to provoke good class discussion. Exceptional questions take this further by directly quoting the reading and connecting it to relevant concepts from course lectures and/or films.

Case Study: Mascots (100 points)

Using material from the case study "Should Indian Sports Mascots Be Repealed," the class will stage a debate. After being divided roughly in half, you will work with students in your large group to prepare for a debate. Each side will begin with a 25 minute presentation, followed by a 10 min questioning period from the other side. Students will be graded on both the research behind and presentation of their individual segment/questions, as well as how convincing of a case their side makes. Each student should upload their presentation slides to Sakai before class, but the presentation should be collected and work as a whole.

If you are in the group arguing to keep mascots, make a clear case for why they shouldn't be banned. Using arguments put forward in Arthur 2012, Jawort 2012, Dolley 2003, and other sources, address these issues: Why is the symbol important? What steps will you take to try and appease American Indian communities?. How might representations shift to be less offensive? What are the possible issues that might arise? How will you deal with the opponents? What steps would you take to educate the community concerning Native American Awareness through mascots?

If you are in the group arguing against keeping the mascot, use material from Arthur 2012, Fryberg 2008, NCAI 2013, and other sources to argue why NA mascots should be retired. Using arguments put forward in these readings, talk about why the symbol is detrimental to both American Indians non-Indians. Describe what steps you will take to force the retirement. How will you deal with the opponents? What steps would you take to educate the community concerning Native American Awareness through and after the retirement process?


Case Study: Sovereignty and Economy (100 points)

Groups of 3-4 students will give a ten-minute visual presentation at a staged community meeting, taking a stand on whether or not the tribe discussed in the case should open a casino. Each presentation should include a detailed plan for the future of economic development in the area and what the money will be used for. Three sources should be cited in the presentation in addition to the information taken from the case. All sources should be cited on the slide with a bibliography at the end of the presentation. After the presentation other students (acting as community members) will ask questions of the presenters. One member of the group must upload the presentation to Sakai prior to class. Students must fill out a peer review on Sakai the day of their presentation or they will lose all 10 points of their peer evaluation grade.

Case Study: Citizenship (150 points)

Using material from the case study "The Will of the People: Citizenship and the Osage Nation" students will write a position paper and participate in a role-play exercise.

Paper (50) – This 1-2 page paper should articulate your position for the role play by addressing ALL the questions outlined here. It must be double-spaced, with 12-point Times font, and one-inch margins. Students should paste their papers into the provided space in Sakai assignments prior to the class for which it is due.

Role Play (100) – As part of this case, students will enact the highly charged debates over citizenship that took place during Osage community meetings. Students will be graded based on the realism of their presentations.


Final: Art and Decolonization (200)

Each student will curate an exhibit of 5 American Indian art objects, using the objects to speak to the process of decolonizing happening in Indian Country today. Each "exhibit" should have a theme within the larger topic of decolonization. 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 challenge the forces of settler colonialism. Students can choose from the artists listed here, or find others, but the exhibit should reflect class issues and discussions. Students will need to do independent research on the theme of their exhibit and on each art object. All sources must be cited using the Chicago Author/Date citation style.

Images (25) – Students must upload to Sakai their choice of images as well as a brief paragraph describing their theme and how this work contributes to the process of decolonization.

Sources (25) – Students must upload their 12 citations (Chicago Author/Date citation style) of the academic sources/interviews they will use in their final paper.

Paper Outline (20) – Students should provide a detailed outline of their 6-12 page paper, including quotes/summaries from their 2 academic/interview sources they will use in each of their six sections (cited using the Chicago Author/Date citation style). The first section will introduce the exhibit, explaining how the objects work together toward the theme of decolonizing. The rest of the sections will discuss one of the art pieces, discussing their content, artist, form, and unique contribution to your theme of decolonizing.

Paper (90) – Two pages of written text should be devoted to introducing the exhibit, explaining how the objects work together toward the theme of decolonizing. Then write short descriptions of each piece (1-2 pages) discussing their content, artist, form, and unique contribution to your theme of decolonizing. The introduction and each of the pieces must pull from at least two separate scholarly sources to situate the pieces, both from class and from your own research. 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 must be turned in prior to class on the due date.

Presentation (40) – Students will give 5-7 minute in-class presentations. These presentations should summarize their research findings and include images of their exhibit. The presentations must be uploaded to Sakai before class on the due date.


Film Presentation (150 points)

Students will work in small groups to present an assigned film. Students should create a visual presentation that provides a context for the film and includes clips or other references to the film itself. Throughout the presentation, the group should include questions for class discussion about the film and larger topic, including any relevant class lecture and readings materials. The presentation should take up 45 minutes of the class period. Students must sign up for their presentation date on the Sakai Wiki by class on 8/26, or they will lose 20 points. One member of the group must upload the presentation to Sakai prior to class. Students must fill out a peer review on Sakai the day of their presentation or they will lose all 30 points of their peer evaluation grade.

Extra Credit Events

Around the University there are various expressive culture events that can be attended for extra credit. Approved events will be announced through the course's sakai assignments page at least one week before they occur. To receive extra credit, students are required to attend the event and write a one-page three paragraph essay. The first paragraph should describe the event, the second connect the event to a concept from lecture, and the third should connect the event to a film or reading from the class. Students can earn up to 15 points for each event listed on the sakai page. The extra credit reports are due on the appropriate sakai assignment page two weeks after the event.




  • 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: 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 Accessibility Services, Division of Student Affairs. They will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to me when requesting accommodation.



  • 8/19 – Intro to class and syllabus; View in Class: The Indian Store. Discussion. Class interviews. Discussion of academic strategies.
  • 8/21 – Settler Colonialism Lecture; Discuss reading.

Indigenous Civilizations and Representation

Federal Indian Policy

Case Study: Mascots

Case Study: Economic Development

Case Study: Citizenship

Final: Art and Decolonization







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