Indigenous History, Colonialism and Identity in Western Canada (HIC3311)

StaffDr Bryony Onciul - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of this module is to provide you with a core understanding of the key issues in Indigenous history in western Canada. You will have the opportunity critically review and engage with current debates in the field. You will acquire competency in a number of transferable skills, including experience in analyzing evidence, working with sources, and cultural awareness. By analyzing key events in Indigenous history you will gain an understanding of how history impacts upon current cross-cultural relations and cultural identity in North America. You will gain skills in using and analyzing a multitude of sources from archival material and museum exhibitions to film and oral history. The module explores how Indigenous peoples have been (mis)represented throughout history and how groups such as the Blackfoot currently represent themselves. The module explores how and why people claim and reclaim identities and how processes such as repatriation, community museums, Indigenous film and literature add to current cross-cultural understandings. You will consider these issues cross-culturally, exploring different ontologies, and approaches to history. Throughout the module you will have the opportunity to considered the theoretical and practical issues of ‘doing Indigenous history’ as a cultural outsider.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of the main concepts and debates within Indigenous history
  • 2. Demonstrate competency in analysis of different cultural ontologies
  • 3. Reflect critically upon the relationship between Western and Indigenous history

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Competent use of archives, libraries and electronic databases to find information
  • 5. Critically evaluate the use of historical evidence
  • 6. Contextualize changing perspectives and approaches over time

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Work collaboratively on group exercises
  • 8. Work independently on essay assignments
  • 9. Demonstrate oral presentation skills

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will include many of the following topics: • Culture, History and Sense of Place • Traditional Life • The Western Frontier • Colonization • Treaties and Reservations • Questions of Genocide • Missionaries • Residential Schools • Tourism • Indian Days, Rodeos and Powwows • The American Indian Movement, 1970s and Civil Rights • Museums, Heritage, and Cultural Centers • Identity and Self-representation • Repatriation • Oral History • Enduring Stereotypes • Popular Culture, First Nations on Film, Indigenous Film, TV and/or Literature • Research Methodologies • Postcolonialism • Decolonisation • Doing Indigenous History Today

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lectures1111 x one hour lectures
Seminars2211 x two hour seminars
Self-led study 267Preparation for lectures, seminars and assignments. Assigned readings, primary source analysis, independent research, digital archive research, engagement with relevant films and literature highlighted on the course. Meeting with fellow students for group work and assessment prep.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Plan for group led seminar Max 3 pages to be discussed with Tutor 1-7, 9Verbal
Abstract for Essay150 words1-6,8Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group led seminar 5090 minute seminar leadership including 30 minutes of group presentation1-7, 9Immediate verbal feedback from peers. Formal written feedback from tutor on submission
Essay503,000 words1-6, 8Written comments on formal submission.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 3,000 wordsEssay 3,000 words1-6,8Referral/deferral period
Group led seminarEssay 3,000 words1-6,8Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Essay in place of the group led seminar will be based on the same topic as the originally assigned seminar.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Basic reading: Ames. M.M. (1992) Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes: The Anthropology of Museums. Vancouver: UBC press. Anderson, M.C. and Robertson, C.L. (2011) Seeing Red. A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press. Bastien, B. (2004) Blackfoot Ways of Knowing. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. Berkhofer, R.F. 1978, The White Man's Indian. New York: Vintage Books Brown, M.F. (2003) Who Owns Native Culture? London: Harvard University Press. Bullchild, P. (1990) The Sun Came Down. The History of the World as My Blackfeet Elders Told It. San Francisco: Harper and Row Publishers. Carter, S.2003, Aboriginals People and Colonizers of Western Canada to 1900. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Churchill, W. (2004) Kill the Indian, Save the Man. The Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools. San Francisco: City Lights Books. Cooper, K.C. (2008) Spirited Encounters. American Indians Protest Museum Policies and Practices. New York: AltaMira Press. Deloria Jr., V. (1969) Custer Died for your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. New York: Macmillan. Deloria, P.J. 1998, Playing Indian, London: Yale University Press Francis, D. 1992, The Imaginary Indian. The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press Francis, D. 1997, National Dreams. Myth, Memory, and Canadian History. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press Garroutte, E.M. 2003, Real Indians. Identity and the Survival of Native America. Berkley: University of California Press Huhndorf, S.M. 2001, Going Native. Indians in the American Cultural Imagination. London: Cornell University Press King, T. 2012, The Inconvenient Indian. A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Anchor Canada Mihesuah, D.A. (1998) Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing about American Indians. London: Nebraska University Press. Miller, J.R. (2004) Lethal Legacy. Current Native Controversies in Canada. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Miller, J.R. Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens. A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Peers, L. (2007) Playing Ourselves. Interpreting Native Histories at Historic Reconstructions. New York: AltaMira Press. Sleeper-Smith, S. (2009) Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives. London: University of Nebraska Press. Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999) Decolonizing Methodologies; Research and Indigenous Peoples. Dunedin: University of Otago Press. ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Web based and electronic resources: Blackfoot Digital Library Glenbow Museum digital Archives: National Museum of the American Indian: First Nations films: Aboriginal Peoples Television Network: Archives Canada: More available on ELE

Other resources: Courtney Library, Bartlett Library

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

History, Canada, First Nations, North America, Indigenous