Spring 2023

Rethinking Pocahontas: An Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies

Listed in: , as EDST-240  |  American Studies, as AMST-240  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-243


Kiara M. Vigil (Section 01)


(Offered as AMST 240 [Pre-1900], EDST-240 and SWAG 243) From Longfellow’s Hiawatha and D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature to Disney’s Pocahontas and more recently Moana to James Cameron’s Avatar, representations of the Indigenous as “Other” have greatly shaped cultural production in America as vehicles for defining the nation and the self. This interdisciplinary course introduces students to the broad field of Native American and Indigenous Studies, by engaging a range of texts from law to policy to history and literature as well as music and aesthetics. Film will also provide grounding for our inquiries. By keeping popular culture, representation, and the nature of historical narratives in mind, we will consider the often mutually constitutive relationship between American identity and Indian identity as we pose the following questions: How have imaginings of a national space and national culture by Americans been shaped by a history marked by conquest and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples? And, how have the myths of conquest become a part of education and popular representations to mask settler colonial policies and practices that seek to “erase in order to replace” the Native? This course also considers how categories like race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion have defined identities and changed over time with particular regards to specific Native American individuals and tribal nations. Students will be able to design their own final research project. It may focus on either a historically contingent or contemporary issue related to Native American people in the United States that is driven by a researchable question based on working with an Indigenous author’s writings from the Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg (or KWE for short) collection of Native American Literature books in the archives of Amherst College.

Spring semester.  Professor Vigil.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: collaborative group work, independent research, oral presentations, readings and discussions, visual and aural analysis, interpretation of archival materials.

AMST 240 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM CHAP 201
Th 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM CHAP 201

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Indians in Unexpected Places University Press of Kansas Deloria, Philip Amherst Books TBD
Domestic Subjects: Gender, Citizenship, and Law in Native American Literature Yale University Press Piatote, Beth Amherst Books TBD
Picturing Indians: Native Americans in Film University of Nebraska Press, 2020 Liza Black TBD
Cinematic Comanches: The Lone Ranger in the Media Borderlands University of Nebraska Press, 2022 Dustin Tahmahkera Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2023, Spring 2024