Native Decolonization in the Pacific Rim: From the Northwest to New Zealand


Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters

Taught by

Native American studies
geography, Native American studies

Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith asserts, “Our communities, cultures, languages and social practices—all may be spaces of marginalization, but they have also become spaces of resistance and hope.” In this program we will identify and contextualize these spaces and the politics of indigeneity and settler colonialism. We will use the Pacific Rim broadly as a geographic frame, with a focus on the Pacific Northwest Native nations and the Maori in Aotearoa (New Zealand). A comparative study of the role of treaties in Washington state and New Zealand—in natural resources, governance, the arts, education, etc.—will provide a key framework for the program.

By concentrating on a larger region, students will have an opportunity to broaden Indigenous studies beyond the Lower 48 states and explore common processes of Native decolonization in different settler societies. We will be studying decolonization through cultural revitalization and sovereign jurisdiction of First Nations. In order to examine the central role of Indigenous peoples in the region's cultural and environmental survival, we will use the lenses of geography, history, and literature.

In fall our focus will be on familiarizing students with the concept of sovereignty, working with local Native nations and preparing to travel to Aotearoa or elsewhere. The concept of sovereignty must be placed within a local, historical, cultural and global context. Through theoretical readings and discussion, we will move from state-building in the U.S. and Canada to Native forms of nationalism. We will stress the complexities and intricacies of colonization and decolonization by concentrating on the First Nations of Western Washington and British Columbia.

We will later expand the focus to appreciate the similarities and differences of Indigenous experiences in other areas of the Pacific Rim, such as Native Alaskans, Aboriginal peoples in Australia and South Pacific island peoples. We will emphasize common Pacific Rim concerns such as climate change, tourism and cultural domination.

For up to seven weeks spanning the last half of winter quarter and the beginning of spring quarter, many of us will travel to Aotearoa, where we will learn in a respectful and participatory way how the Maori have been engaged in revitalizing their language, art, land and politics, and their still unfolding, changing relationships with the Pakeha (non-Maori) people and society. Students will learn about the ongoing effects of colonization as well as gain a foundation in theories and practices of decolonization. We will take as our basic premise in this program that those wishing to know about the history of a particular Native group should write it with a purpose to be in solidarity with these people today.

Students will develop skills as writers and researchers by studying scholarly and imaginative works, by conducting policy research and fieldwork with Native and non-Native communities, and by comparing community and government relationships in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand. Students will be expected to integrate extensive readings, lecture notes, films, interviews and other sources in writing assignments.

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

education, U.S. and tribal governments, law and nongovernmental organizations.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


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Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online (FW), Hybrid Online Learning 25 - 49% Delivered Online (S)

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$125 in fall for a field trip to the Squaxin Island, Quileute and Makah nations.

Internship Possibilities

In the winter and spring there is the option of internships.

Research Possibilities

Students will be required to undertake a substantive research project that will span the late winter and early spring quarters.

Study Abroad

Students will have the option to travel to New Zealand for up to seven weeks in the late winter to early spring quarters; approximately $3,300, not including airfare.


Date Revision
September 9th, 2014 Fall fee added.
May 9th, 2014 Lara Evans has been removed from this program.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 10060

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Accepting New Students


Students should contact faculty by email or at Academic Fair about catch-up work. Students who are not enrolled in the fall quarter will not be able to travel to New Zealand.

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 20044

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Students should contact faculty by email or at Academic Fair about catch-up work. Students who are not enrolled in the fall quarter will not be able to travel to New Zealand.

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 30034

Go to to register for this program.

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