SOCS 639
American Indian Sovereignty Issues

J. Kehaulani Kauanui           

Course Description and Objectives

This course will survey selected historical moments, geographical and institutional sites, cases and periods in order to explore the complexities of American Indian sovereignty politics. We will examine legal issues in relation to the recognition and assertion of collective rights; treaty rights, land title and claims, and variations of the federal trust relationship.  Through a focus on contested issues of citizenship and self-governance, students will learn about indigenous self-determination, the distinct status of tribal nations, US Federal Policy and Native Americans, the US Constitution and American Indian Tribes, Indian Tribes and the three branches of the federal Government, the tribal-state political relationship, land rights, indigenous identity and challenges to Native authenticity, and a special focus on Connecticut tribes and the politics of federal recognition.

Required Texts

American Indian Politics and the American Political System, David E. Wilkins

Uneven Ground: American Indian Sovereignty and Federal Law, David E.Wilkins and K. Tsianina Lomawaima

Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America, Eva Marie Garroutte

Indian Gaming: Tribal Sovereignty and American Politics, W. Dale Mason

The Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation,  Eds. Laurence M. Hauptman and James D. Wherry

Course reader (put together by the instructor), available at PIP printing

Examinations and Assignments

Students will be required to complete all course books and articles, and homework assignments.  Class evaluation will be based on attendance and class participation (20%), homework assignments (10%) including video screenings outside of class (available online), the mid-term exam (20%), and a final research project on a Connecticut indigenous rights issue (30%).  In case of borderline grades, I will examine the student’s attendance and participation record in finalizing the grade.  

All assignments must be typed and paginated with paperwork stapled and signed with the University Honor Code at the top of the first page of all assignments that you submit since all of the work for this course must be done in compliance with the code.  

Please come to class on time and plan on staying for the duration.  In addition, students are expected to bring all reading materials to class with them on the day the class is scheduled to discuss them. 

(Partial) Course Schedule
Week 1 Introduction: The Distinct Status of Indigenous Nations

June 27:
To be read prior to the first day of class:
Wilkins: “Preface,” “Note on Terminology,” “Introduction,” and “Timeline of American Indian Peoples, All Tribes and Regions,” and “Chapter 1, A Tour of Indian Peoples and Indian lands”

June 29:
Reading assignment:
Wilkins, Chapter 2, “Indian Peoples are Nations, Not Minorities”; Chapter 3, “Actors in American Indian Politics: Northwest Tribes and the State of Washington: A Case Study”

Week 2 US Federal Policy and Native Americans

July 6:
Reading assignment:
Wilkins, Chapter 4, “A History of Federal Indian Policy,”
Wilkins and Lomawaima, “Introduction,”; Chapter 1, “‘The Law of Nations’: The Doctrine of Discovery”; Chapter 2, “‘With the Greatest Respect and Fidelity’: The Doctrine of Plenary Power”

Week 3 Who's an Indian?

July 11:
Reading assignment:
Garroutte, “Introduction,”; Chapter 1, “Enrollees and Outalucks: Law,”  Chapter 2, “ ‘If He Gets a Nosebleed, He’ll Turn Into a White Man’: Biology,”; Chapter 3, “What If My Grandma Eats Big Macs? Culture”

July 13:
Garroutte, Chapter 4, “If You’re Indian and You Know It (but Others Don’t): Self-Identification,”; Chapter 5, “‘Whaddaya Mean “We” White Man?’: Identity Conflicts and a Radical Indigenism”; Chapter 6, “Allowing the Ancestors to Speak: Radical Indigenism and New/Old Definitions of Identity”

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