American Indian Sovereignty and Activism in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Two of the biggest misconceptions about American Indian peoples in the United States is that they 1) have disappeared, and 2) are just like any other racial group. Instead, American Indian nations are sovereign nations that are still here. This seminar will explore American Indian history through the less common lens of sovereignty and nationhood, focusing on what happened to American Indian peoples following the end of the so-called “Indian Wars” and why a series of federal policies in the late 19th and early 20th century continue to shape whether Native sovereignty is respected or ignored in the continental United States today. We will consider major policies and events like the creation of Indian reservations, the allotment of Indian land, the recognition (or lack thereof) of tribal governments, and the relocation and migration of Native people to urban areas. Accordingly, we’ll also consider how American Indian nations and activists have responded to these events. We will end by examining how a few of the contemporary issues facing Native people today, such as pipelines, missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the frequent adoption of Native children, are linked to the ongoing struggle to defend Native sovereignty.