American Frontiers, Homelands, and Empire


Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 quarters

Taught by

geography, Native American studies
Native American studies

Students will explore the juxtaposed themes of Frontier and Homeland, Empire and Periphery and the Indigenous and Immigrant experience. We will use historical analysis (changes in time) and geographic analysis (changes in place) to critique these themes, and will turn toward cultural analysis for a deeper understanding of race, nation, class and gender. We will take as our starting point a critique of Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”—that the frontier is "the meeting point between savagery and civilization"—as a racist rationale for the colonization of Native American homelands. We will consider alternative histories of Anglo-American expansion and settlement in North America, with interaction, change, and persistence as our unifying themes.

We will study how place and connection is nurtured, re-imagined and interpreted, particularly in Indigenous and recent immigrant communities. We will connect between the ongoing process of "Manifest Destiny" in North America and subsequent overseas imperial expansion into Latin America, the Pacific and beyond. The colonial control of domestic homelands and imperial control of foreign homelands are both highlighted in recent patterns of recent immigration. These patterns involve many "immigrants" who are in fact indigenous to the Americas, as well as immigrants from countries once conquered by the U.S. military. The American Empire, it seems, began at home and its effects are coming back home and will be contested again.

In fall quarter, we will track the historical progression of the frontier across North America and overseas and the territorial and cultural clashes of immigrant and colonized peoples. We will hear firsthand the life stories of local individuals and communities to understand their narratives of conflict, assimilation, resistance and survival. In the winter quarter, we will look at contemporary case studies that show the imprint of the past in the present and how 21st-century North American communities (particularly in the Pacific Northwest) are wrestling with the legacies of colonization, imperialism and migration. In particular, we will examine the overlapping experiences of Native Americans and recent immigrants, and Indigenous territories and migrations that transgress or straddle the international border as defined by "Homeland Security. This program offers ideal opportunities for students to develop skills in writing, research, and analysis.

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

Native American studies, American studies, immigration studies, geography, elementary and secondary education, law and humanities.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$100 in fall for a trip to Quileute Nation and $13 in winter for a tour of the Wing Luke Museum.


Date Revision
December 4th, 2013 This program will accept new enrollment with faculty approval.
November 18th, 2013 Winter fee has been added ($13).
April 26th, 2013 This program is now Fall-Winter (not offered during spring); the description has been updated to reflect that change.
January 17th, 2013 This program is now lower division (offered to freshmen and sophomores).

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Freshmen–Sophomore; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 40


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10048
So (16 credits): 10049

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Accepting New Students

Signature Required

New students should contact either Kristina Ackley at or Zoltan Grossman at for faculty signature. New students should have had prior coursework in Native Studies and are expected to read part of Patricia Limerick, Legacy of Conquest: the Unbroken Past of the American West .

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20048
So (16 credits): 20049
Fr - So (1-16 credits): 20524

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