HC 231H: Indigenous Peoples, Knowledge, and Landscapes—From the Pre-Columbian Period to the Present

Professor: Mark Carey

4.00 credits

  • CRN 26163: Tuesday & Thursday, 1415 - 1545 @ REMOTE

Many people have heard about the Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs, but popular knowledge about these and many other Indigenous societies is often manipulated, inaccurate, misunderstood, or simply overlooked in world histories that frequently ignore the pre-Columbian Americas and Indigenous peoples then and now. This course primarily examines Indigenous knowledge and histories in the pre-Columbian Americas prior to about the year 1500, but it brings this discussion right up to the present. The course toggles back and forth between the histories themselves and the ways those histories and Indigenous knowledges are framed and presented today. Such discussions not only offer an essential and overlooked historical analysis, but also open up crucial discussions about race relations and Indigenous peoples today. Specifically, this is a history of Indigenous peoples and their knowledge about science, technology, and environment from the pre-Columbian past where the course centers right up to today. Many readings will focus on the pre-1500 period, but others will bring the discussions to the present day. The course seeks to foster larger discussions about what is science and knowledge, about who can produce technology and innovation, and about what constitutes nature in the Americas. In the past, scientific knowledge and innovations—such as Mayan architecture, Inca water management, and Aztec botany—were fundamental for the development of ancient societies. Nowadays, indigenous knowledge is fundamental for everything from sovereignty and traditional foods to climate change adaptation. During the course, we will read many types of interdisciplinary materials, from primary sources written by Indigenous peoples themselves to studies in archaeology, anthropology, history, biology, geology, etc. We will also look at images, films, podcasts, and other sources to help understand Indigenous histories and knowledge today.