Course: Decolonizing Research: The Northern Paiute History Project

HC 444H/431H

Professors: Kevin Hatfield, Jennifer O'Neal

Graduation Requirement: This class fulfills both of the following requirements: a Social Science Colloquium and an AC Multicultural class. If the student has already taken a Social Science Colloquium, this class fulfills both of the following requirements: an Elective Colloquium and an AC Multicultural class.

Over the past four years the “Northern Paiute History Project” has evolved into a formal collaboration betweenco-instructors Kevin Hatfield Jennifer O’Neal and the Northern Paiute communities of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Burns Paiute Tribe. The course instructors have partnered with tribal elders, spiritual leaders, language instructors, Museum and Culture and Heritage Department staff, and many other tribal community members and visiting scholars to develop a set of shared research protocols and ethics for this course. The course positions students to perform original research and create new knowledge in direct and continuous collaboration and mentorship with tribal community partners. Ultimately, students contribute scholarship to a largely neglected and traditionally marginalized and distorted field of history, while applying their research to on-going community-based “restoration” history projects with the Northern Paiute tribal communities.

“We don’t care what you know, until we know that you care.” Visiting indigenous scholars and students interacting with our students echoed this maxim repeatedly when reflecting on their research collaborations with settler-society allies and academic institutions during the third annual Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples Conference hosted at the UO in fall 2014. This conviction exemplifies the decolonizing methodological framework guiding our course, which encourages students engaging in research with indigenous source communities to explore multiple forms of “knowledges.” One of the many thinkers the instructors draw inspiration from for crafting the pedagogy of the course is Eva Marie Garroutte and her concept of “Radical Indigenism,” which contends: “Entering tribal relations implies maintaining respect for community values in the search for knowledge. This respect is much more than an attitude, it requires real commitments and real sacrifices on the part of those who practice it.” Hence, the course explores how historically the educational system, and often particularly the writing and teaching of social sciences, have functioned as sites of oppression, assimilation, and ethnocide controlled by dominant culture voices and misrepresentations. We seek to reframe and reexamine this historiography and construct through restorative social justice.

The transformative centerpiece of the course is a two-day mandatory field research trip (tentatively scheduled for October 14-15, 2016) to the Warm Springs Reservation and cultural sites in Central Oregon. This experience fosters relationships that endure throughout, and beyond, the class through partner class visits on campus, conference calls, written correspondence, and oral histories. The trip also encourages students to think critically about the way they have traditionally learned history by physically and intellectually immersing them in the culture and history they are studying and placing them in dialogue with tribal community course partners. The group discussions between students and tribal members also generate new questions such as how to incorporate the multiple viewpoints and truths presented from tribal members, and how to negotiate differences and contradictions among documentary primary sources, oral history testimony, and living memory.

According to Wilson Wewa, Warm Springs tribal elder, spiritual leader, and course partner: “[The class] is an opportunity for me to enlighten non-native students about Native American history. The work has been a long time coming for the university community to reach out to the tribal communities, to get our perspective on the history that’s been written about us because it has been a diluted history based on writings from the military, from the federal government, from the state government, and the Indian agents. With dedicated researchers and students, they are the ones that want to know the truth, they are the ones that are unlocking those doors of change.”