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ETHS 335 American Indian Nations: Law, Power, and Persistence

This course focuses on tribal communities as nations set within unique political, linguistic, geographic, social, and cultural contexts. This course will cover a diversity of American Indian Nations' past and present governance and social systems. The course emphasizes the importance of land, treaties, and sovereignty. The background of Federal Indian policy (set through the executive, judicial, and congressional branches) and state influences on Native nations also serves as a component throughout the course.

Learning outcomes


  • Breakdown the importance of three court cases: Johnson v. McIntosh, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Wooster v. Georgia.
  • Connect theories/concepts of institutional racism and assimilation to Federal Indian policy.
  • Describe the diversity of tribal governance systems and nation-building in the past and the present.
  • Express the basic tenets of Federal Indian Law such as but not limited to sovereignty/self-determination, treaties and canons of construction, plenary power, shifting policy stances of U.S. government, trust responsibility, federal recognition, and state/local law intrusions.
  • Formulate and express how policy impacts individuals who are expected to abide by rules and regulations not of their own making and often without input in policy-making and implementation processes.
  • Identify and have a foundational understanding of current issues for Native Nations such as but not limited to the following areas: religious freedom, environment, healthcare, child welfare and family well-being, economic development, and homeland security.
  • Outline the reasons for the criminal and civil jurisdictional complexities of American Indian communities.

Minnesota Transfer Curriculum

Goal 5: History and the Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • Employ the methods and data that historians and social and behavioral scientists use to investigate the human condition.
  • Examine social institutions and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures.
  • Use and critique alternative explanatory systems or theories.
  • Develop and communicate alternative explanations or solutions for contemporary social issues.

Goal 9: Ethical and Civic Responsibility

  • Examine, articulate, and apply their own ethical views.
  • Understand and apply core concepts (e.g. politics, rights and obligations, justice, liberty) to specific issues.
  • Analyze and reflect on the ethical dimensions of legal, social, and scientific issues.
  • Recognize the diversity of political motivations and interests of others.
  • Identify ways to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.