C LIT 321 A / JSIS 480 A
Indigenous Poetry of the Americas
Prof. Cynthia Steele
Office Hours: MW 3:00-4:00 by appointment
Join Zoom Meeting
For all of their differences, indigenous peoples of Canada, the United States and Latin America share a history of colonization by colonial powers and of struggles to retain their Native languages and cultures. How do these histories of colonization differ between the United States and Mexico? What concerns and formal approaches do these poets have in common, working in English, Spanish, and/or Indigenous languages? We will read some historical background on the process of settler colonialism in both the United States and Mexico, and will analyze poems by a wide range of Native authors. Students will analyze and present groups of poems to the class, and will write two short essays and keep a reading journal. Offers W credit.
Harjo, Joy, ed. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through. NY: W.W. Norton, 2020, kindle.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. Beacon Press, 2014, kindle.
Sean Sell and Nicolás Huet Bautista, eds, Chiapas Maya Awakening. Oklahoma City: U of Oklahoma P, 2017, print ((University BookStore).
Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, México Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization. Austin: U of Texas P, 1996, kindle .
- N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear. Dir. Jeffrey Palmer. PBS, 2019 (1 hr. 23 min.)
Delve into the enigmatic life and mind of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and poet N. Scott Momaday, best known for “House Made of Dawn” and a formative voice of the Native American Renaissance in art and literature.
- We Shall Remain. Dir. Chris Eyre, Ric Burns and Stanley Nelson, Jr. American Experience, PBS, 2009.
01: After the Mayflower
02: Tecumseh’s Vision:
03: Trail of Tears:
05: Wounded Knee:
Determination of Grades:
Reading journal one 10%
Reading journal two 20%
Essay one 20%
Essay two 20%
Class participation 30%
Please copy and paste, into a Word document, the list of assignments for “Journal One” that I have posted below. (Later you will do the same thing for the “Journal Two assignment.) If you don’t copy and paste, please be sure to provide the numbers and titles of the entries, following the order given on this assignment sheet.
Write at least one page, and up to two pages, of personal response to each of the readings on the assignment list. Please write Journal One as a single, double-spaced Word document with 12-point Times New Roman font. Write your name and ‘Journal One’ at the top of the first page, and number the pages.
For each reading, choose one or two issues to analyze you write between one and two double-spaced pages of commentary. I will not consider formal issues like grammar, punctuation, and organization in grading the journal (though I will do so in grading your two essays); your main objectives here should be clarity and originality.
Upload your Word document into the “Journal One” assignment page by Friday, October 23, at 7 pm. Your journal should be at least 12 pages long.
Upload your Word document into the “Journal Two” assignment page by Wednesday, December 9, at 7 pm. Your journal should be at least 24 pages long.
Please write two four- to five-page comparative essays analyzing some specific theme or issue in two or three of the poems that we have studied, double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman font. Please number your pages and write your name at the top of the document. For these two essays I will grade you on how well focused your essay topic is, how well you organize, develop, and express your ideas, and how well you follow formal conventions, including the basic structure and development of an analytical essay, conventions of grammar, spelling and punctuation, and the MLA Formatting and Style Guide.
I would encourage you to utilize the services of the writing tutors at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center at various stages in the writing process. You can make appointments with the Writing Center online:
For additional information, see the sheet on ‘Writing Resources,’ posted on Canvas under ‘Files.’
Upload your completed essay as a Word document to our Canvas site by 7 pm on Friday, October 30.
Upload your completed essay as a Word document to our Canvas site by 7 pm on Friday, December 11.
Successful completion of this class depends on regular attendance and participation. If you are not in class when roll is taken or if you leave class early, you will be counted as absent for that day, so please plan your other commitments accordingly.
You are responsible for understanding and observing the UW guidelines regarding academic honesty and plagiarism:
Please let me know if you have any questions about these guidelines or about UW policy on plagiarism.
Students with Disabilities:
To request accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 ((V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss such accommodations.
Dunbar-Ortiz, “Follow the Corn” and “Culture of Conquest,” 1-44
Harjo, pp 1-45
(Harjo introduction through Chrystos)
Dunbar-Ortiz, “Cult of the Covenant,” 45-55
Harjo, pp 45-71
(Hill through Blaeser)
Dunbar-Ortiz, “Bloody Footprints,” 56-77
Harjo, pp 72-98
(Henry through Bearheart)
Dunbar-Ortiz, “The Birth of a Nation,” 78-94
Harjo, pp 99-134
(Fuller through Erdrich)
Dunbar-Ortiz, “The Last of The Mohicans & Andrew Jackson’s White Republic,” 95-116
Harjo, pp 135-170
(Westerman through Winder)
Bring to class your working thesis statement for your first essay.
Dunbar-Ortiz, “Sea to Shining Sea,” 117-132
Harjo, pp 171-211
(Sigo essay through Hall)
Bring to class your working title, introduction (including thesis statement), and Works Consulted for your first essay.
7 pm Journal One Due
Dunbar-Ortiz, “Indian Country,” 133-161
Harjo, pp 212-248
(Hope through Rexford)
Dunbar-Ortiz, “U.S. Triumphalism & Peacetime Colonialism,” 162-177
Harjo, pp 249-285
(Colleps through Mitchell)
7 pm Essay One Due
Dunbar-Ortiz, “Ghost Dance Prophesy,” 178-196
Harjo, pp 286-334
(Louis through Butsui)
Dunbar-Ortiz, “Discovery,” 197-217
Harjo, pp 335-374
(White through Posey)
Dunbar-Ortiz, “The Future of the United States,” 218-236
Harjo, pp 375-422
(Sixkiller through Howe essay)
Discuss second essay
Veterans’ Day Holiday
Sell, María Concepción Bautista Vásquez (Tzotzil Mayan), 31-38;
Bonfil, “A Land of Millenarian Civilization,” 3-18
Sell, Manuel Bolom Pale (Tzotzi Mayan), 39-47;
Bonfil, “The Indian Recognized,” 19-40
Sell, Manuel Bolom Pale (Tsotsil Mayan), 48-55;
Bonfil, “De-Indianizing That Which Is Indian,” 41-60
Sell, Adriana López (Tzeltal Mayan), 56-70;
Bonfil, “The Problem of National Culture & The Colonial Order,” 61-93
Sell, Angelina Díaz Ruiz (Tzotzil Mayan), 71-77;
Bonfil, “Forging a Nation & Our [Revolutionized] Modern Times,” 94-128
Sell, Ruperta Bautista Vásquez (Tzotzil Mayan), 78-89;
Bonfil, “The Paths of Indian Survival,” 129-152
Sell, Andrés López Díaz (Tzotzil Mayan), 90-100;
Bonfil, “The Nation We Have Today” and “Civilization and Alternatives,” 153-176
7 pm Journal Two Due
7 pm Essay Two Due