Field Study: Plains Indians: Conflicts, Resistance, and Reservations
Geo 385/585 (3 credits)
This field course will leave Valpo, drive to the Great Plains, and visit the main “battle” sites of the Plains Indians — a revisit of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. We will investigate the following sites: Fort Sill (Geronimo), Washita, Sand Creek, Fort Robinson, Little Big Horn, and Wounded Knee. We will also visit and in most cases stay at the following reservations: Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Pine Ridge, Rosebud reservation and trust land of the Kiowa Commanche and Apache.
Focus of Course
This course will visit the main so-called battle sites mentioned in the best-selling novel of 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. In most cases, as we visit these monuments, Native Americans will be our guides, our hosts, and our voices. Wherever possible, the class will stay, eat and live inside Indian nations. The Native American way of life persists in the United States today; it did not disappear under the pressure to assimilate or through genocidal warfare. Our class will experience their living culture that today retains strong cultural traditions.
To fully understand the Native Americans of today, one must know what happened in the past. By revisiting the American Indian past, our class will better understand how history never dies; it flows through time and becomes a part of us. Only by knowing what happened at Wounded Knee in 1890 can we understand what is happening today in the Pine Ridge reservation.
When Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was written, the Indian plight did not register as a human tragedy but served as the backdrop for the celebration of the westward march of Anglo-American civilization. Injustices done to the Indians were regrettable footnotes to an otherwise happy story. Are these sites and monuments getting the historical record right, or are they still an affront to Native American history? Is the present day site a source of cultural healing and community building or a clash of Native American values and the values of the rest of the public? Is the monument a placid tourist attraction and thus an unchallenged monument to the patriotic orthodoxy of the American West? Finally, is there peace in the West? Has reconciliation occurred between Native Americans and the descendants of western settlers?