Native American and Indigenous Classes at Yale

Since the 1980’s, Yale College has offered courses in Indigenous studies. Students can take classes in a variety of topics. Every semester, courses are offered to students to develop greater knowledge in Indigenous studies. Below are undergraduate courses offered by Yale College.  
 

Intro to American Indian History

Course Structure: Lecture
Department(s): American Studies, Ethnicity Race, and Migration, & History
Distributional Requirement: Writing, Humanities & Arts
 
This course surveys American Indian history, beginning with creation traditions and migration theories and continuing to the present day. It also focuses on American Indian nations whose homelands are located within the contemporary United States. Complexity and change within American Indian societies, with emphasis on creative adaptations to changing historical circumstances. Professor Jay Gitlin originally offered this course as a seminar in 1985. Today, Professor Ned Blackhawk teaches this course in the fall semesters.
 

Indigenous Cultures in a Global Context

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): Ethnicity Race, and Migration
Distributional Requirement: Writing, Humanities & Arts
 

This course will explore and examine the cultural production of Indigenous peoples from Australia, South America, Africa, and North America through examination of music, art, entrepreneurship, podcasts, and other forms of expression with attention to their Indigenous identities and the discourses around modernity. Indigenous studies is dominated by historical approaches. While histories of Indigenous peoples are important, the contemporary practices, narratives, and politics of Indigenous peoples also deserve our critical attention. In an effort to illuminate Indigenous peoples experiences and forms of expression and grappling with both tradition and modernity, students will examine the ways in which Indigenous peoples around the world come at the same questions, challenges, and debates from their local, specific contexts.

 

Contemporary Native American K-12 and Postsecondary Educational Policy

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): Educational Studies
Distributional Requirement: Writing, Humanities and Arts
 

This course will explore current Native American educational policy issues, programming, funding, and success. Native American representation in policy conversations is often incomplete, complicated, or relegated to an asterisk resulting in a lack of resources, awareness, and visibility in educational policy. Native Americans account for roughly 1% or less of high school completion and college enrollment on campuses nationally. The invisibility of Native American communities contributes to the perpetuation of stereotypes and necessity for meaningful educational policies. In addition, Native American education, communities, culture, and language are most often viewed as relics and in a historical context. Emphasizing the existence of Native American people in contemporary educational systems is essential in changing the discourse and trajectory of Native American student success.

 

American Indians in Higher Education: Introduction to the Indigenous History of American Education

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): History
Distributional Requirement: Writing, Humanities and Arts
 
Education remains an essential element in Native American history, a complex arena full of conflict, resistance, adaptation, and social change. Charting the centuries-long relationships between Native Americans and Euro-American institutions of higher education, this seminar seeks to expose students to the educational history of Native North America. Through in-class assignments, discussion, and sets of experiential campus and off-campus tours, this class both introduces the educational history of Native North America and links it with the broader political history of federal Indian law and policy. Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Seminar Program.
 

 

Black and Indigenous Ecologies

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): English
Distributional Requirement: Writing
 
Who gets to define the meaning of ecology, along with the earth we stand on, and how is this definition bound up with the legacies of colonial power, empire, slavery, and other forms of racialized oppression? And what new modes of ecological thought might emerge once we engage with the perspectives of indigenous peoples and communities of color—traditionally excluded from dominant environmentalist discourses—and their alternative ways of thinking and imagining a relation to the earth? Through readings in anthropology, geology, critical race studies, philosophy, literature, and poetry, this course explores the ecologies and counter-ecologies born of anti-imperial opposition, from 1492 to the present. Struggles for liberation, as we will examine, are never separable from struggles for land, food, water, air, and an earth in common. From Standing Rock to Sao Paulo, the Antilles to New Zealand, and Mauna Kea to Lagos, we will engage with anti-colonial and anti-racist attempts to craft an image of the earth no longer made in the ecocidal image of imperialist Western Man (or the anthropos of “Anthropocene”), and to imagine a future to be held and composed in common by all.
 

Writing Tribal Histories

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): American Studies, Ethnicity Race, and Migration, & History
Distributional Requirement: Writing, Humanities & Arts
 
This course introduces students to a selection of recent scholarship with an emphasis upon “tribal” histories. Writing Tribal Histories investigates such adaptation as well as resistance and domination and does so from the perspective of particular Native communities and nations. After such a survey, the course encourages students to fashion their own history of a particular tribal community, nation, extended family, or individual. This course is offered in the spring semester by Professor Blackhawk. 
 

Indians and the Spanish Borderland

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): American Studies, Ethnicity Race, and Migration, & History
Distributional Requirement: Writing, Humanities & Arts
 
This course centers the experiences of Indigenous peoples during centuries of relations with America’s first imperial power, Spain. Exploring the complex history and legacies of Spanish and Indigenous mixtures, the focus of the course revolves around “borderlands.” Students will develop historical understandings of borderlands, engage with legacies through individual research, and engage in representations of Indigenous peoples and Spanish borderlands. 
 

Indigenous Poetics and the Politics of Resistance

Course Structure: Seminar 
Department(s): English 
Distributional Requirement: Writing, Humanities & Arts
 
This course interrogates the deep historical relationship between political resistance and poetic expression within particular Indigenous communities, reading broadly on poetics and Native and Indigenous studies. Texts and inquiries span from non-alphabetic writings and Indigenous understandings of communal and political life, to the recent flourishing of formally innovative collections by Indigenous poets working on issues like climate justice, sexual violence, police brutality, and language revitalization. Poets include Heid E. Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe), Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner (Marshallese), Layli Long Soldier (Oglala Lakota), Deborah Miranda (Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen), and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Nishnaabeg). This course is offered in the spring semesters by Professor Hickey. 
 

Federal Indian Law and Policy 

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): Ethnicity Race, and Migration, & History
Distributional Requirement: Writing, Humanities & Arts
 
Unlike other American ethnic and racial minorities, American Indians maintain constitutionally recognized political and legal relations with the federal government. As “domestic dependent nations,” Indian tribes fall outside the jurisdiction of most state, county, and municipal governments, and Indian people are often citizens of both the United States and their respective tribal nation. This course surveys the history of federal Indian law and policy. Beginning with the political achievements obtained by Indian communities over the past four decades, the course moves throughout American history, identifying the changing and often contentious nature of federal Indian law and policy. This course is offered in the spring semester by Professor Blackhawk.
 

Indigenous Feminisms

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): Womens, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Ethnicity, Race, & Migration
Distributional Requirement: Humanities & Arts
 
This course examines a wide array of Indigenous feminisms.  Rather than think of Indigenous feminisms as one static thing, we will inspect the field from multiple viewpoints and perspectives.  We will draw from various thematic and transnational contexts across the Americas and Native Pacific in order to analyze the scope and significance of such knowledges, particularly as they relate to broader theories and practices of decolonization.  We will begin by examining the foundational inquiries and methods of Indigenous feminist scholarship.
 

Early Native American Print Practice

Course Structure: Seminar
Department(s): English
Distributional Requirement: Humanities & Arts, Writing
 
This course is designed as a broad survey of Native North American print practices through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its organizing principles are animated by the tensions in Colonial and Indigenous literature. Specifically, at its heart this course is an interrogation of the abuses of power that hide behind the purportedly humanitarian aims of “the literary.” We will engage with Native American and Indigenous literary theory, especially as these thinkers address the colonial history of literary pedagogy and the racist logics that undergird binaristic distinctions between written/oral and literary/non-literary. Here we will contextualize works by well-known Native writers within their cultural and political moments, understanding that these individuals wrote during an era when terms like “civilized,” “Christian,” and “literate” were used almost interchangeably to justify genocidal policies directed at those who the state declared unfit for the distinction. One question we’ll return to throughout the semester: how does this legacy make its way into our present?
 
Native American Language Program
 
 
The Yale Native American Language Program established in fall 2015, allows Indigenous students to refine & learn their language. Classes are typically conducted over video chat and meet twice a week. Instructors of the classes are typically fluent speakers of their languages. The Native American Language Program is currently undergoing accreditation. Students may soon receive a language credit from Yale College.
 

Indigenous languages taught through the Native American Languages Program:

  • Diné
  • Anishinaabe (being offered Spring 2021)
  • Lakhóta
  • Mvskoke
  • Chahta
  • Cherokee (being offered Spring 2021)
  • Mohegan
  • Mohawk
  • Hawaiian
  • Chickasaw 
  • Salish
  • Klallam 
  • Western Shoshone
  • Cheyenne

For more resources about Native American and Indigenous Studies at Yale for graduate students, please visit the Yale Group for the Study of Native America website.