Language and Power in Indigenous Communities

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Spring 2019 quarter

Taught by

Native American studies
linguistics, mathematics

What is the significance of language within a community? How have Native peoples’ struggles for survival, autonomy, and identity been affected by language attitudes and policies? In this introductory program we will explore the nature and structure of language, and the ways in which patterns of language use within Native communities and colonial structures have reflected history, politics, and power relationships. We will identify links between language and culture, examine case studies of language revitalization efforts, and consider the ways in which orality, literacy, and education intersect with cultural transmission and histories. We will use an interdisciplinary lens of Native American studies and linguistics as ways to explore these broad questions.

We will use texts, lectures, workshops, seminar discussions, and films to investigate our program themes. We will visit a local tribal museum as a class and may take day trips to other museums. In addition to considering Northwest cultures and communities, we will study the role of indigenous languages in North American cultures (such as Wampanoag and Oneida), and in other parts of the world (such as Quechua in South America and Maori in New Zealand). We will examine educational practices, including assimilationist models, bilingual education, and links to immigrant experiences and language.

Through program workshops students will develop a variety of skills, including historical research, linguistic analysis, library research methods, and policy research and writing. Students will use these skills to become stronger writers and researchers, and importantly, community members. We will help students learn to listen and observe attentively, gain awareness of the varieties of language we use and hear in our communities, do close and critical reading with challenging texts, contribute clear and well-developed writing, and acquire research skills in linguistics, history, and Native American studies.

Program Details

Fields of Study

history linguistics

Preparatory For

Native American studies, history, and linguistics.


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$20 in museum admission fees.