Somewhat current program materials:

Previous materials to review:

New! Winter Schedule:

Tues 9:00-11:00 am Lecture
12:30-2:30 pm Book Seminar
Wed 10am–1pm Workshop/Film Viewing
Thurs 9:30-11:30 am Book Seminar
12:30-3 pm Writing Seminar

rooms are TBA

Required texts:

All books are available on reserve at the library
American Frontiers Reader
This is a collection of articles and book chapters that we will be reading throughout the quarter. Multiple copies will be available on reserve at the library for you to photocopy, and it will also be available at the bookstore.
Limerick, Particia, Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. 1987.
You will only read a few chapters of this book fall quarter, and then will finish it during winter quarter.
Nash, Gary B. Red White and Black: The Peoples of Early North America. 4th Edition, 1999
White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. 1991.
You will read selected chapters.
Erdrich, Louise. Tracks. 1988.
Wallace, Anthony F.C. The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians. 1993.
Buchanan, Thomas C. Black Life on the Mississippi: Slaves, Free Blacks, and the Western Steamboat World. 2004.
Saunt, Claudio. Black, White, and Indian: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family. 2005.
Waldman, Carl. Atlas of the North American Indian. 1989, Revised edition2000.
Reference text for Fall final paper and for Winter quarter final projects.
John Ford, dir. Stagecoach. 1939.
Mann, Michael, dir. Last of the Mohicans. 1992.
Bagwell, Orlando, et al, dir. Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery. 1998.
Bailey, Norma, dir. Ikwe. 1986.
Ives, Stephen, dir. The West. 1996.
Program description

In recent years, many have challenged the frontier thesis first articulated by Frederick Jackson Turner-that the frontier is "the meeting point between savagery and civilization"-as racist and rife with imperialism. Turner delivered the thesis in 1893, amid rapid industrialization and urbanization following American westward expansion to the Pacific Coast; it summed up decades of American understanding and influenced several generations of American historians. Now, Native Americans, Western historians and others have challenged many aspects of Turner's thesis and have offered alternative histories of Anglo-American expansion, colonization and settlement in North America.

Focusing on culture, land and gender, we will explore many of these histories during the fall quarter. Considering the points of view of the colonized and the colonizer, we will examine the role of power and power relations in the encounters of diverse peoples on American frontiers. We will analyze the experiences and perspectives of indigenous peoples; women; Anglo-American explorers, entrepreneurs and settlers; African-Americans; Latinos; and Asian immigrants. During fall quarter, we will explore the initial encounters of Europeans and indigenous peoples; the culture and society of the American backcountry and of Native peoples in the 18th and early 19th centuries; the development of Andrew Jackson's Indian removal policy and the consequent transformation of Native American society; and slavery, Africans, Native Americans and the transplantation of slave society to the Southwestern cotton frontier. Winter quarter we will address the frontier as it addresses regions further to the West.

The program will have three central considerations that structure our group inquiry. We will reflect on the images and mythology of American frontiers and critically contextualize its place in popular culture. We will take as our starting point the difference between the "frontier" versus a homeland/region. How does American expansionism contribute to the creation of regions as "places" and how do you contrast that to having your homeland transformed/invaded? Finally, we will complicate history as a social process by interrogating the interaction of cultures and identities in the formation of places.


Personal Narrative
This program examines the history of American "frontiers," the encounter over time and space of different cultures and the formation of social identities as a result of those interactions. As you enter into the studies of the program, write a 2-page reflection on your life experiences in relation to aspects of cultural difference and social identity such as race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religiosity, and class. As much as possible, relate this paper to the themes of the class by placing yourself within a larger context, your family history for example.
Due on Friday of Week I in Michael's, or Kristina's, or Zoltán's mailbox in Lab I or Lab II
Two Discussion Questions for Each Seminar
Students will compose two discussion questions in thoughtful response to the week’s readings for each Tuesday and Thursday seminar, bringing a copy for their seminar leader and one for themselves. Students will use these questions as prompts for sharing ideas with their peers and contributing to seminars.
Mental Maps
Maps are usually a tool for examining spatial relationships in the real world. Mental maps, on the other hand, are a way to examine spatial relationships in our minds. They do not necessarily show what the world looks like, but what we think it looks like. Mental mapping can be a fun exercise in exposing our ignorance, such as in the famous New Yorker magazine cover of how Big Apple residents view the rest of the world. They can also be a very useful exercise in viewing how we perceive place, how that perception has developed and shifted historically, and how it differs from person to person. Perceptions of where the West physically begins have always shaped perceptions of where the West begins culturally, economically, and politically. Or is it the other way around? You will receive a handout on this exercise in class.
Due Wednesday, November 2
Short Synthesis Essays
You will compose a 4-5 page thesis-driven essay that succinctly and comprehensively draws on program readings AND suggests their significance for understanding the history of American "frontiers." You will receive constructive critique of the composition and content of these essays from your peers and faculty in writing seminars. If you choose, you may revise these essays in light of writing seminar critique and submit a revised draft to your seminar leader for further feedback. You will need to bring enough copies of the paper for your faculty leader, your fellow students in your small group, and yourself. Essays are due at the BEGINNING of seminar Thursday afternoons. Copies of your essays with written feedback must be in your final portfolio due the last week of class.
Schedule for due dates for students will be handed out the first week of class
Final Paper: Speculative Fiction
Speculative fiction is a form of alternative history that explores the “paths not followed” and the “options not taken.” It can take the form of novels or short stories that speculate what path North America would have taken if the South had won the Civil War, or what the world would like if the Axis had won World War II. For example, instead of Columbus arriving in America, what if Native Americans had instead conquered Europe? (see this link ) Alternative histories can also speculate what negative social or environmental problems might have been avoided had the voices of a critical minority been heeded at a critical juncture. In this program, a speculative fiction writing exercise will combine your creativity and imagination about a historical “parallel universe” with historical grounding and facts. If history had taken a different turn, what would your region had looked like? We will discuss in class the particular scenarios that your essay will explore in a particular year.
Due Thursday, December 1

Geographic Regions

The approach of this program will attempt to locate events in both time and space, taking into account chronological events, geographical places, and thematic ideas. The progression of the course will roughly follow the chronological progression of American “frontiers” across specific regions, and address the social and cultural issues that each historical stage has presented.

Lectures and seminars will focus on an overview of these temporal periods and issues. To facilitate a more in-depth treatment of particular issues, students will be part of small groups focusing on a particular region. In this way, we can better understand the complexity and local nuances of “frontier” history and its legacies. For example, we can begin to see how modern public stereotypes of American “frontiers” often focus on particular regions and not others, and that an assumption made in one region may not apply well in another.

Program projects will derive from our regional focus; the final project will deal with the legacies of the “frontier” found in contemporary issues in the region. Students will become the “experts” on their particular region, and contribute their regional angle to discussions. It may be more fruitful for students to study a region that they are not already familiar with, to enhance the breadth of their knowledge. Each of our three seminars will include three regional groups each, though all seminars will read and discuss the all-program readings on all the regions.

You will receive a separate handout on how you will work in your geographic region group. You will use Atlas of the North American Indian as your reference text and first source for your background on the Native history of your region.

Schedule for submission and presentation of short synthesis essays

In order to participate in writing seminar, students must possess sufficient copies of their completed essay to distribute to their peers and seminar leader, and a copy for themselves (most likely this will be an approximate total of nine copies), at the beginning of writing seminar. Be certain to complete your paper draft well ahead of time and to acquaint yourself with copying facilities so that this requirement is easily fulfilled. No exceptions will be made.


Full credit can be earned by doing all of the following:

If you do all the above at a passing level, you will earn sixteen credits for the quarter. The quality of your work will be described in a narrative evaluation from the faculty.


Your evaluation will consist of your seminar leader's written evaluation of your work, your self-evaluation, and the evaluation conference. You will be evaluated on your level of comprehension of the material, on your skills (writing, thinking, speaking, listening, research, presentation), and on your intellectual engagement with the major themes of the program as reflected in assignments and seminar discussions.


Please let your faculty know at the beginning of the quarter if there are any reasonable accommodations that you will need that will be coordinated through the Evergreen’s Access Services.