New Course Launches Indigenous Studies Minor This Fall

Posted: August 12, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christina Mennella

A new course, NAIS 201, Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies, is being offered to students for the first time this fall.

The class, which will be taught once each academic year, focuses on the history, culture, politics and identity of Native American and indigenous cultures.

NAIS 201 will serve as the introductory and foundational course for the new interdisciplinary minor in Native American and indigenous studies, says Eric Anderson, an associate professor of English who will teach the class this fall. Students interested in pursuing the minor will be required to take the course.

Faculty members from the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology, English, History and Art History and Music will also be offering a broad range of complementary courses to support the program of study.

“This course introduces students to significant concepts, traditions, histories, cultures and methodologies that are rarely, if ever, represented in detailed, sustained, systematic ways in other Mason courses,” Anderson says. “At present, an extremely small number of courses [at Mason] focus entirely or primarily on native cultures.”

Anderson’s expertise with Native American and indigenous studies is apparent in his published work. The author of “American Indian Literature and the Southwest: Contexts and Dispositions” (University of Texas Press, 1999), he has written numerous book chapters and scholarly articles on native populations. Currently he is working on a book titled “On Native Southern Ground.”

Although the course will focus primarily on Native American cultures living in the continental United States, indigenous cultures from other regions of the world will be included periodically.

“NAIS 201 opens up a new and intriguing option for students, from a variety of majors, seeking a deeper understanding of the intellectual and cultural paradigms and traditions that inform diverse native cultures in the Americas,” Anderson says.

“The course will be of interest to students in history, anthropology, religion, philosophy, public policy and other disciplines that enter into a productive dialogue with indigenous communities and native studies.”

The minor is the result of collaboration among Mason faculty, local native community members and the American Indian and Alaskan Native Student Association (AIANSA), a Mason student organization.

“I hope that with the Native American and the indigenous studies minor truth will be said about Native American history in the United States,” says Donna Brimmer, AIANSA’s current president. “I’m excited about the new course offered this fall, and I’m eager to see what will happen with it.”

Required textbooks include “Native American Voices: A Reader” edited by Susan Lobo and Steve Talbot; “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People” by Wilma Mankiller and Michael Wallis; and Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony.”

For more information, contact Anderson at eandersd@gmu.edu.

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