ENGL 200 L: All Our Relations: Northwest Indigenous (Hi)Stories in Context
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Craig S. Womack: "I say that tribal literatures are not some branch waiting to be grafted onto the main trunk. Tribal literatures are the tree, the oldest literatures in the Americas, the most American of American literatures. we are the canon. Native people have been on this continent at least thirty thousand years, and the stories tell us we have been here even longer than that, that we were set down by the Creator on this continent, that we originated here. For much of this time period, we have had literatures. Without Native American literature, there is no American canon."
This class centers Indigenous voices, particularly Native American and First Nations voices, in order to tell a different story of North America, a truer story of North America, and specifically that of the Pacific Northwest region. In this class, we will explore how North American Indigenous ways of knowing and North American Indigenous literatures construct each other as well as express each other, and offer a way of knowing North America that is different from the stories and histories of the United States and Canada that construct our national identities. Starting from an interrogation of North American history and colonialism, we move through an introduction to Indigenous ways of knowing and of conceiving land, history, and storied relations, in order to come to a closer examination of our relations in the Pacific Northwest. Insights from related North American Indigenous contexts help inform an understanding of the histories and stories of the Indigenous Nations in our own region. At the same time as we acknowledge the presence and importance of all Indigenous relations and insights, and of some shared Indigenous experiences in the larger North American region, tribal specificity will show to be key. Indigenous peoples have always maintained that each tribe is unique, that they are sovereign nations, much like the independent states. They adapt to their landscapes, thus they have differentiations with their environment, which creates a uniqueness. These unique Indigenous communities build relationships across differences through trade, marriage, potlatches, and other cultural activities such as the Canoe Journeys (which are specific to the Coastal and Coast Salish Peoples in the U.S. Pacific Northwest). A first coming to grips with the broader history of the relationships between the US and Canadian nation-states and the Indigenous Nations will prepare us for an honest and open engagement with the stories and histories of our local Indigenous nations and their relations to the land, to each other, and to other nations.
In order to satisfy the W requirement, this class will rely heavily on writing to support your analytical work. In addition to the mid-term and final papers, you will also write weekly 1-page reading responses, and a number of in-class free writes.
“The people deserve their land; the land deserves its people”