Why You Can't Teach United States History without American Indians

Why You Can't Teach United States History without American Indians

Why You Can't Teach United States History without American Indians

Why You Can't Teach United States History without American Indians

Synopsis

A resource for all who teach and study history, this book illuminates the unmistakable centrality of American Indian history to the full sweep of American history. The nineteen essays gathered in this collaboratively produced volume, written by leading scholars in the field of Native American history, reflect the newest directions of the field and are organized to follow the chronological arc of the standard American history survey. Contributors reassess major events, themes, groups of historical actors, and approaches--social, cultural, military, and political--consistently demonstrating how Native American people, and questions of Native American sovereignty, have animated all the ways we consider the nation’s past. The uniqueness of Indigenous history, as interwoven more fully in the American story, will challenge students to think in new ways about larger themes in U.S. history, such as settlement and colonization, economic and political power, citizenship and movements for equality, and the fundamental question of what it means to be an American.

Excerpt

The mission of this book is to change how historians teach U.S. history. Repeatedly, we hear faculty proclaim that they would include Indians if they were more central to mainstream history. This book is a resource that should help college teachers see the connections between American Indian history and the entirety of American history and enable them to recast their survey history classes from this vantage point. We hope that readers will find strategies in this book for incorporating Indian experiences and perspectives more fully in how we teach and study U.S. history and that it will serve as a touchstone for more public debate about the purpose and content of American history courses as they are currently taught.

Until recently, historians commonly wrote about and taught U.S. history as if Indians did not exist, or, at best, they marginalized Indian people as unimportant actors in the national drama of revolution and democratic state formation. In the past few decades, scholarship in Native American and indigenous studies has witnessed remarkable growth, and works in Native history now reach a broader audience and have greater influence than ever before. Courses in Native American history have become common offerings in college curriculums, and most U.S. history survey textbooks include at least some discussion of Native history. Thus, most college-level students who enroll in survey courses in U.S. history today do learn more about North America’s Native people than they would have twenty or thirty years ago. And yet college instruction in American history still tends to treat Indian history as a sidebar to Euro-American expansion. Indian material is most substantial early in the course, during the initial stages of European exploration. Students then follow European settlement across the continent, learning about how Native Americans succumbed to epidemic disease and were pushed offtheir lands by white settlers. Students rush through centuries, listening to lectures and reading textbooks, with little time to digest the significance and implications of these events and few opportunities to comprehend how this narrative of Native marginalization and disappearance relates to the present day.

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