Jane T. Merritt
Old Dominion University

Native American History to the Era of Removal

In recent years, early American historians have agreed that we cannot study the development of colonial North America or the United States without understanding the peoples who dominated the continent before Europeans. This course explores early North American cultures and history from the pre-Columbian period to the removal of Cherokees from the American southeast in the 1830s. We will especially focus on the ways that cultural interactions affected and transformed native peoples--their beliefs, practices, and social structures--and the ways that American Indians, in turn, redefined themselves. Issues and problems include: Reconstructing the histories of oral cultures (methodology and its limitations); Cultural contact (the impact of contact on both American Indians and European cultures); Cultural identities (construction of "Indians" by Europeans and Native American concepts of self); and Policies and politics (negotiating a working relationship between cultures and their relative success or failure).

Required Texts:

The required texts listed below can be purchased in the book store. Berkhofer, Richter, and Dowd will also be on reserve in the main library at ODU. Throughout the semester there will be additional reading material on reserve at the Library.

1. Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indians from Columbus to the Present, Random House, 1978.

2. Colin Calloway, ed., The World Turned Upside Down: Indian Voices from Early America, St. Martin's Press, 1994.

3. Daniel Richter, The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League, University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

4. Gregory Dowd, A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

5. Black Hawk, Life of Black Hawk, Dover Publications, 1994 [reprint of 1916 ed. of 1838 orig.]

6. William G. McLoughlin, Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic, Princeton University Press, 1986.

Written Assignments:

1. Two 3-page essays on class readings. There will be several choices and due dates. See separate paper guide for further instructions.

2. Mid-term examination. Thursday February 27, 1997.

3. 10 to 15-page Research Paper. Due Thursday April 17, 1997. See separate paper topic guide for further instructions.

4. Final Examination.


The assignments for this class make up the following proportion of the semester grade:

Short essays 20%
Class participation 10%
Mid-Term examination 20%
Research Paper 25%
Final Examination 25%

Course Requirements:

YOU MUST COMPLETE ALL ASSIGNMENTS - You will not pass the course if you fail to complete any assignment given.

ATTENDANCE - It is important to attend the class meetings since there will be substantial class discussion.

LATE PAPERS - All assignments are due on the dates shown on the syllabus or paper guides. For every day a paper is late, the student will lose one plus/minus letter-grade. Late papers must be handed directly to me or be turned into the history department office and signed and dated by one of the secretaries. Please plan your work schedule ahead of time and start assignments early to avoid these consequences.

MAKE-UP EXAMS - Examinations can be made-up only in the case of  medical emergencies or major family crises. These circumstances must be verified.

HONOR CODE - The University Honor Code applies to all work done in this course. Students who cheat or plagiarize on any assignment will fail the course.


Week One - Introduction
January 13 and 15

Terminology, doing Native American history, and Native American cultures before European contact.
Readings: Calloway, p. 1-32 - Iroquois creation myth and the Origins of the Creek Confederacy.
TO THINK ABOUT: How do Indians describe their own histories? What are some of the problems associated with reconstructing histories of a culture with oral traditions?

Week Two - Worlds Collide
January 21 and 23

European concepts of "Indianness," early contact, the Columbian exchange, Aztecs discover the Spanish.
Readings: Berkhofer to p. 111; excerpt from The Broken Spears: The Aztecs Account of the Conquest of Mexico.

Week Three - Native Response to European Colonization
January 28 and 30

Pueblos and New Spain, Hurons and New France, Christianity and native response.
Readings: Berkhofer to p. 197; Calloway, p. 33-38, 40-41, 49-52.

Week Four - Indians and English (Part I)
February 4 and 6

17th century Indian-white relations, Powhatan Uprising, Pequot War, and Praying Towns.
Readings: Calloway, pp. 38-39, 79-87, 117-123; Helen Rountree,
"Powhatan Indian Women;" Roger Williams, A Key into the Language of America, (excerpt).

Week Five - Indians and English (Part II)
February 11 and 13

The end of New England Indian dominance OR Metacom's War.
Readings: Richter to p. 161; Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative.

Week Six - 18th Century Conflict and Confederacies
February 18 and 20

War and Diplomacy, the Fur Trade, and the Rise of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Readings: Richter to p. 280; Calloway, pp. 95-109, 126-138

Week Seven - New Indian Economies and Wars of Empire
February 25 and 27


Week Eight - Whose Revolution? Loyalties and Land
March 4 and 6

Neutrality, British Fathers, Big Knives, and the Fall of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Readings: Calloway, pp. 110-114, 139-145, 146-169.

Week Nine - Spring Break March 10-15

Week Ten - Whose Constitution? Federal Laws and their Limits
March 18 and 20

U.S. Indian policy and the Iroquois Constitution debate.
Reading: Dowd to p. 115; Calloway, pp. 170-183.

Week Eleven - Religious Revitalization and Pan-Indian Movements
March 25 and 27

Reading: Dowd to p. 201; McLoughlin, "Fractured Myths: the Cherokees' Use of Christianity."

Week Twelve - The Jeffersonian Indian
April 1 and 3

Missionary Efforts, Manipulation and Incorporation.
Reading: McLoughlin to p. 227.

Week Thirteen - Nationalism: The Case of the Cherokees
April 8 and 10

Reading: McLoughlin to p. 451.

Week Fourteen - The Jacksonian Indian: The Case of the Creeks
April 15 and 17

Degeneration, Separation, and the Black Hawk War.
Reading: Life of Black Hawk

Week Fifteen - Indian Removal and its Legacy
April 22 and 24

Week Sixteen - Concluding Thoughts
April 29