Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar: Native Americas: Facts and Fictions

Course Number: 66-xxx

How did Indigenous people respond to the challenges of populating the American hemisphere and creating complex, diverse and dynamic cultures, languages and political entities? How did they survive, adapt to, and resist the conquest and colonization of their lands, and ensuing social and cultural dislocations? How have they resurged politically, culturally, artistically and intellectually in recent years? This course considers the history, experiences, and perspectives of native populations across the Americas. It seeks to reckon with the facts of the Native American experience, while challenging the fictions of stereotypes and narratives that have often relegated Indigenous people to the social and cultural margins of the nations in which they now live. After introducing students to a few of the myriad Indigenous groups of North, Central and South America, we will then survey the implications of the era of European conquest and colonization. We’ll consider the implications of the rise of new nations in the Americas, as new and intensifying campaigns of violence were unleashed against Indigenous populations. We will consider the rise of Native American civil rights and political and cultural sovereignty movements from the late 20th century forward, as they coalesced into major political challenges to native marginalization, and demands for recognition and reparation of historical injustices. Finally, we will explore how contemporary Indigenous artists, authors, and political and social activists are reimagining indigeneity (the condition and experience of being Indigenous) in ways that demonstrate how indigeneity is not a fixed kind of identity, not one that is confined or defined in any way by a static conception of tradition, but rather one that challenges the present and reimagines the future in dynamic and creative ways.

Semester(s): Spring