Thinking In Indian: Democracy, Civic Engagement, and Resistance

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, and Spring 2017 quarters

Taught by

This program is intended for students committed to activism, allyship, and praxis. We’ll study the scholarship of John Mohawk, posing essential questions to understand the current state of the world and how to survive as both individuals and as peoples. We’ll study world history, United States history, and regional histories of the United States in terms of the doctrine of discovery, sovereignty, self-governance, conflict resolution, land and economics, health and reproduction, education and socialization of children, and political philosophy. Using the river of culture template highlighting laws and policies impacting the lived experience of American Indians, students will conduct research. In this research, students will pose and respond to essential questions about contemporary issues that continue to deprive American Indians of land, economic opportunities, treaty rights, natural resources, religious freedom, repatriation, and access to and protection for sacred places. We will look at the history behind the headlines, track contemporary resistance phenomenon like the Idle No More global movement, conduct ethnographic interviewing highlighting personal stories that can’t be gleaned from text, look up alternative sources (Ethnic NewsWatch and Indian Country Today), search Washington State Historical Society’s clipping files, tribal photo files, and rare document rooms at historical museums. Students will interview tribal activists and read novels and poetry that tell stories of resistance in a personal way. 

During fall and winter quarters U.S. history will be studied in terms of the doctrine of discovery, steps of colonization, and court recognition and enforcement of the Indian tribes’ legal, political, property, and cultural rights as indigenous peoples. Lectures, films, readings, seminars, and student-led, text-based seminars will compose the primary structures used by this learning community. Students will propose an academic project using an essential question format, report out findings, and write up their research. Groups will write for newspapers they generate and distribute to local Indian tribes. Introduction to art therapy, reclaiming of art traditions and protocols, and participation in the liberation theater component of the program requires students to make art products to extend their learning/leadership when the program hosts Generations Rising/Tribal Youth Make Art day and students volunteer at the art stations (an annual event sponsored by our program with the Longhouse staff and the Hazel Pete Institute of Chehalis Basketry). Liberation theater is a readers theater group that welcomes visitors to a program hosted by the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center. Students will have an opportunity to volunteer to assist with the making of art items (“potlatching”) for tribes in the Puget Sound area getting ready to participate in the “Paddle to Sliammon First Nation in 2017” at Campbell River, B.C., Canada. The Tribal Canoe Journey was formally organized in 1989 when the “Paddle to Seattle” was initiated during the 100th anniversary of Washington statehood. Local tribes, including Nisqually, Skokomish, Squaxin Island, and Chehalis, typically participate in the journeys.

Students will engage in program service-learning volunteer projects, environmental stewardship, and program internships during winter and spring quarters. Spring quarter, students will begin a formal presentation of their research and program time will focus on program themes examining contemporary issues. All students will participate in orientation(s) to the program theme and issues, historic and political frameworks, and work respectfully with communities and organizations. Participation in this program means practicing accountability to the learning community, other communities, interacting as a respectful guest with other cultures, and engaging in constant cross-cultural communication with co-learners.

Internship Opportunities

Students will engage in service learning volunteer projects, environmental stewardship, and program internships during winter and spring quarters. Students must complete an in-program Internship Learning Contract in consultation with the faculty and Academic Advising. Please go to Individual Study for more information.

Program Details

Fields of Study

communication community studies cultural studies education government history law and government policy leadership studies political science sociology sustainability studies

Preparatory For

K-12 teaching, social work, writing-related fields, and tribal and state/federal government-related fields.


Fall Open Winter Open Spring Closed

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First spring class meeting: Monday, April 3rd at 9am (Longhouse 1007B)

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning


$75 per quarter for art supplies to support the understanding of reclaiming cultural art and protocols of American Indians.