American Indian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Contemporary Issues

American Indian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Contemporary Issues

American Indian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Contemporary Issues

American Indian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Contemporary Issues

Synopsis

"This collection of essays brings to college students and the general public a scholarly, yet accessible and provocative text in Native American Studies. The contributors draw upon their expertise in such diverse disciplines as economics, education, film studies, history, linguistics, literature, museum studies, popular culture, and religion. Each essay highlights a particular aspect of Native American experience, from the oppressive indoctrination of boarding schools to the successful strategic planning of Indian casinos to the exciting creativity of Native American literature. In addition, many of the essays introduce the reader to the disciplines through which we can approach this important and fascinating topic, engagingly taking the reader through the process of how historians or economists or literary scholars go about their work." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This collection of essays, addressing contemporary Native American issues and concerns, arrives at a crucial moment. More and more students and faculty now exhibit a surge of genuine interest in the classroom instruction of Native American topics. Yet, offering Native American--or American Indian, if you wish--subject courses and Native Studies programs ultimately involves questions about the agendas and budgets of colleges and universities. Such programs and courses, whether they already grant certificates or degrees or are in the process of evolving from idea to proposal, are forced to pursue building their own foundations and expansion at a time when many institutions, including their hosts, want to downsize curricular needs and reallocate intellectual and teaching energies to other academic or administrative areas.

Under these conditions, students throughout the United States and Canada clamor to enroll in the scattered, few, and momentary Native subject courses that are available, often learning of them at the last minute, as such offerings seem to be hidden in course listings or are brand new additions. Student enthusiasm is strongest when driven by their own predisposition to learn something valuable and accurate about Native peoples. They respond with open minds to issues affecting Native communities, for sooner or later they realize that so much historical "American law," for instance, deals with Indian treaties and land and resource rights issues that may involve their own towns and their parents' properties.

Academic departments find the large enrollments encouraging, and where there are no courses in Native literatures, histories, and expressive traditions, requests for their installment persist. Of course, critics at such institutions may target a particular course to allege its lack of scholarly foundation and purpose. They may disparage it for having no clear pedagogy except to allow venting for and about the downtrodden while catering to a pot-boiler mentality fomenting "political correctness." Although the integrity of academic benefits and the scholarly worth of Native Studies curricula may be under debate, Native students are the principal group desiring to learn about their collective presence on their own continent. Furthermore, they want others to appreciate how they respond to the political construct of "America." They face administrative obstacles less in outright resistance than primarily in the ineffectual efforts of institutions of higher learning to make a commitment to their academic and counseling needs. The inert campus bureaucracy of fact-finding meetings, proposals . . .

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