Settler Colonialism, Resistance, and Resilience

College Horizons Scholars

Summer 2019

Instructor: Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation)

Assistant Professor

American Studies and Ethnic Studies

Brown University

Course Description:

As Native people in what is currently known as the United States, our lives and our communities have been forever changed by the ongoing structure of settler colonialism. This course will provide an overview of settler colonialism and the ways it intersects with our lived experiences as Native peoples in the realms of education, activism, representations, gender, and more. We will end the course thinking through the concepts of decolonization and Indigenous futurisms—what does it mean to imagine otherwise?


Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, students will have a clearer understanding of:

  • A working definition of settler colonialism
  • An understanding of the ongoing roles of settler colonialism in contemporary Native communities
  • An understanding of the ways Native people have, and continue, to resist colonialism through representations, activism, law and policy, research, and more
  • The ability to read, digest, and understand Indigenous Studies scholarship

The specific skills that students will use and develop in order to achieve these intellectual goals are:

  Reading critically a variety of media—from books, book chapters, journal articles, blogs and websites.

  Producing assignments in different forms including short essays, reading responses, and exams that require the students to both reflect on assigned readings, lectures, and their lived experience.

  Integrating knowledge from different disciplines in order to develop a new understanding of issues in Native communities.

  Participating in in-class and online discussions to further explore issues raised in the assigned reading.

Your final grade will be calculated and based on:

Assignment Points/%
Attendance and participation 30
Positionality Paper 20
Final 50

Course Requirements:

Your final grade will be based on: attendance and participation in class discussion both online and in reading responses (30%), a positionality paper (20%), and a take-home final (50%).

Attendance and Participation (30%): 


Since our course only meets 9 times, attendance to class is of utmost importance. You must notify Professor Keene via email if you are missing class, and while illness and other unforeseen circumstances occur, students should make every effort to attend class and arrive on time. If you miss more than one class, your grade will begin to be affected, more than two classes may put your passing the course in jeopardy.

Reading response notes:

Each night before class (by midnight CST), you need to post 1-2 questions/reflections about that class period’s reading in the class google document. Think of these as discussion starters for class the next day— In these responses, you may choose to engage a single text on its own, or draw connections between several readings. Suggested questions to guide your responses: What do you see as the most valuable contribution, thesis, or idea from this material? What aspects of the author’s findings or argument do you find especially useful, well-argued, problematic, confusing, or unconvincing? How does this connect to some of our key ideas or themes in the course?

The goal of these responses is not simply to demonstrate that you have carefully read and considered the readings with a critical eye (that is assumed) or to provide summaries. You should use them as an opportunity to share candid impressions, questions, and things that you find puzzling or contradictory.

Be sure to read your classmates posts—you are welcome to respond to their questions and posts, and this will count towards your quota of 2-3 comments/questions for the day. These homework posts are not a useless exercise, but rather a way for me to direct the class material and discussion in a way that will best serve your interests.

Positionality Paper (20%): This short paper (1-2pgs) asks you to understand your own relationship to the topic of the course, and help the instructor to better shape the content and direction of the course. It will answer the question: What is colonialism? How has colonialism affected your life? You are not expected to do outside reading or to use course materials. This is solely based on your prior knowledge and experience. If you do draw in outside sources, proper APA or MLA citation is required. This paper will be graded C/NC. DUE: 7/10

Final Paper (50%): This final paper 2-3 pages answers a similar question to the first, What is settler colonialism? How has settler colonialism affected your life? For this paper, however, students are expected to draw upon course readings and lectures, properly citing sources in APA or MLA format, with a works cited page at the end of the document. DUE: 7/25

Classroom Policies:

Attendance: You must notify me via email if you are missing class, and while illness and other unforeseen circumstances occur, every attempt should be made to attend class. As we only meet 8 times if you miss more than one class, your grade will begin to be affected, more than two classes may put your passing the course in jeopardy.

Late Submissions: Given the short timeframe of the course, there will be no extensions granted for papers or the final. Any late assignments will incur a half-letter grade (A to A-, B+ to B) for each late day. I encourage you to plan ahead with your schedule, comparing the syllabi for your courses now, to see when you have conflicting assignments or difficult days. If things look impossible, please talk to me with plenty of advance notice.

Plagiarism/Academic Honesty: Any breach of academic integrity will not be tolerated and will be reported immediately. Infringement of the academic code entails penalties ranging from a zero on the assignment, to reprimand, suspension, dismissal, or expulsion from the program. Students should refer to the Brown Academic Code as a sample:

Grade policy: All grades are final, and students can track their progress throughout the program by emailing Professor Keene. There will not be any make-up or extra credit assignments offered. Incompletes may be negotiated with a dean’s assistance in extreme circumstances.

Accessibility and Accommodations: Students gain access to academic learning in a variety of ways. College Horizons Scholars is committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform me early in the term if you have a disability or other conditions that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with me after class or during office hours.

Names and Pronouns: If you go by a different name or gender pronoun than the one under which you are officially enrolled, please inform me. Students are expected to respectfully refer to each other by correct names and pronouns during class discussions.

A note on course readings: All additional readings will be available via links on the syllabus or uploaded to our class Google Drive. In addition, all readings on the course syllabus are authored or co-authored by an Indigenous scholar or scholars unless indicated. This is a very intentional act, meant to re-center Indigenous voices and perspectives in an educational climate where they were intentionally erased.

Class 1 (7/8): Syllabus, Introductions, expectations, and intro to race in the United States

For our first class together we will take time for introductions, lay out the expectations for the course, and read through the syllabus—giving tips on how to best read syllabi and what information you should be looking for. Finally, we will begin with definitions of important terms: colonialism, race, indigenous, settler, nation, nation-state, and more.


la paperson (2017). A Third University is Possible. University of Minnesota Press. “Introduction” (xiii-xxv) (Online version)

Haney-Lopez, I. (2000). “The Social Construction of Race” in Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (eds). Critical race theory: The cutting edge. Temple University Press. (non-Native author) (PDF)

Class 2 (7/10): Foundations: Settler Colonialism, TribalCrit

Today we will discuss the two foundational theories for our time together: settler colonialism and Tribal Critical Race Theory (Tribal Crit), as well as pulling in Kanaka Maoli Critical Race Theory (Kanaka Crit). Taken together, these allow us to understand the position of Native peoples in society, our dual identities as both racialized and political beings, the troubling foundings of the United States, and what our contemporary relationships to the federal government should look like.

la paperson (2017). A Third University is Possible. University of Minnesota Press. “Ch 1: Settler Colonialism is a set of technologies” (pgs 1-24) (Online version)

Brayboy, B. M. J. (2005). Toward a tribal critical race theory in education. The Urban Review37(5), 425-446. (Lumbee author) TribalCrit-Brayboy 2005

If time: Reyes, N. A. S. (2018). A space for survivance: locating Kānaka Maoli through the resonance and dissonance of critical race theory. Race Ethnicity and Education21(6), 739-756. PDF


Wolfe, P. (2006). Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native. Journal of genocide research8(4), 387-409. Patrick Wolfe 2006

Class 3 (7/12): Identity: Blood Quantum, Citizenship, Race, DNA, and Belonging

Who is Native? Who gets to decide? This class will discuss the colonial history of blood quantum, the scientific racism behind the study of “race,” and the ways tribal nations determine citizenship. How do we think about Native identity beyond biology?


Mihesuah, D. A. (1998). American Indian identities: Issues of individual choices and development. American Indian Culture and Research Journal22(2), 193-226. (Choctaw Author) Mihesuah

“Tribal Disenrollment: the new wave of genocide”:

Can a DNA test make me Native American? (All My Relations Podcast episode with Dr. Kim Tallbear): 


Corntassel, J. (2003). Who is indigenous? ‘Peoplehood’ and ethnonationalist approaches to rearticulating indigenous identity. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics9(1), 75-100. (Cherokee author) WhoisIndigenous

Class 4 (7/15): Representations: #NotYourMascot, #NotYourTonto

When we have so many “real” problems in our communities, why should we care about representations like mascots and Tonto? Today we will look at the long history of misrepresentations, stereotypes, cultural appropriation, and “playing Indian” in the US, and make ties and connections to settler colonialism. We will also discuss the ways Native activists are using social and new media to push back on these misrepresentations, and how we can have productive conversations about these issues with Native and non-Native peers, family, and community members.


Watch Reel Injun (59 min) documentary. Available via youtube: 

Fryberg, S. A., Markus, H. R., Oyserman, D., & Stone, J. M. (2008). Of warrior chiefs and Indian princesses: The psychological consequences of American Indian mascots. Basic and Applied Social Psychology30(3), 208-218. (Tulalip author)–web-psychological_.pdf 

“Why Tonto Matters” (2012): (Cherokee author)

Look through the findings of the Reclaiming Native Truth Project: Full Findings

Class 5 (7/17): Education and Legacies of Research: The University as a colonial institution

The history of formalized education in the United States for Native peoples has been one of assimilation and cultural genocide, and research on Native communities coming out of many institutions of higher education has sought to pathologize Native peoples. How do we reconcile this history and see higher education as a site of resistance and nation building? How does the knowledge these universities are colonial institutions give us power?

Brayboy, B. (2004). Hiding in the ivy: American Indian students and visibility in elite educational settings. Harvard Educational Review74(2), 125-152. (Lumbee author) hiding in the ivy

la paperson (2017). A Third University is Possible. University of Minnesota Press. “Ch 2 Land. And the University is Settler Colonial” pgs 25-32, Ch 3 A Third University exists within the first”. 33-53 (Online version)

Dear Native student who was just admitted to college: (Cherokee author)

Dear Native College Student, You are Loved: (Cherokee author)

If time:

“Introduction” (pgs 1-19) in Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed books. (Maori author) linda-tuhiwai-smith-decolonizing-methodologies-research-and-indigenous-peoples

Class 6 (7/19): Gender, Queer Theory, and Indigenous Feminisms

Most of our communities were matriarchal prior to colonization. How has settler colonialism changed gender roles in our nations, and what are the ways we can think through the role of women, two-spirit, LGBT, trans* and other gender identities in our communities? What does it mean to identify as an Indigenous feminist?


Arvin, M., Tuck, E., & Morrill, A. (2013). Decolonizing feminism: Challenging connections between settler colonialism and heteropatriarchy. Feminist Formations25(1), 8-34. (Native Hawaiian, Aleut, and Klamath authors)

Tohe, L. (2000). There is no word for feminism in my language. Wicazo Sa Review15(2), 103-110. (Navajo author)

Class 7 (7/22): Decolonization is not a metaphor

What does “decolonization” mean? What does it look like? What are the ways other social justice movements have co-opted the language of decolonization? This class will delve into the concept of decolonization from several perspectives, and discuss the role of the Settler-Native-Slave triad in the foundations of the United States.


Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society1(1), 1-36. (Aleut author)

(This reading has a lot going on, so read carefully and closely. Take notes on what is confusing or unclear.)

Class 8 (7/24): Are you a scyborg? Indigenous Futurisms

We as Native peoples have already survived the apocalypse. Our worlds as we knew them ended, transformed by settler colonialism, yet we survived. How can stories of apocalypse, speculative fiction, and science fiction assist in decolonization? Today we will explore the concepts of Indigenous Futurisms which scholar Elizabeth LePensee describes as being “about past/present/future–the hyperpresent now.” While western science fiction tends to think solely the future, Indigenous futurisms, “reflects all spacetimelines and sees how they are all connected.”  We will think through together about the possibilities of what Cherokee literary scholar Daniel Heath Justice calls “imagining otherwise.”

paperson, la W. (2017). A Third University is Possible. University of Minnesota Press. “You, a Scyborg” (54-70) (Online version)

Uncanny Magazine: “Postcards from the Apocalypse” Rebecca Roanhorse (Ohkay Owingeh Author)

Pick one fiction story:

Apex Magazine (2017): “Welcome to Your Authentic American Indian Experience” by Rebecca Roanhorse

Or any of the stories from “Love Beyond Body Space and Time: An LGBT and two spirit sci fi anthology” (2016) 

For further reading:

Decolonizing Science Fiction and Imagining futures: An Indigenous Futurisms Roundtable

Wakanda Forever: Using Indigenous Futurisms to survive the present (please read the linked apology at the end as well):

Cutcha Risling Baldy (Hupa/Yurok/Karuk Author): Why I teach the Walking Dead in My Native Studies Classes:

Class 9 (7/26): Activism and wrap up

How have Native peoples been fighting settler colonialism and its effects? This class we will briefly look at Native activism throughout history, from early forms of resistance, to Alcatraz, the American Indian Movement, and more contemporary movements like the Oka crisis, Idle No More, and the #NoDAPL movement at Standing Rock. We also will discuss how we can equip ourselves with the skills and knoweldges for fights moving forward.


The Zinn Education Project: Native American Activism:

“13 Things You Realize As A Native American In College”:

Scan through, read a few articles:

The Standing Rock Syllabus (NYC stands with Standing Rock):

Natives in America: