American Frontiers: Homelands and Borderlands

Fall 2021
Winter 2022
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 25
8 16 Credits per quarter
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Students will explore the juxtaposed themes of Borderland and Homeland, Empire and Colony, and the Indigenous and Immigrant experience. We will use historical analysis (changes in time) and geographic analysis (changes in place) to critique these themes, and will turn toward cultural analysis for a deeper understanding of race, nation, class and gender. We will take as our starting point a critique of Frederick Jackson Turner's "Frontier Thesis" that the frontier is "the meeting point between savagery and civilization" as a racist rationale for settler colonialism.

We will study how place and connection are nurtured, re-imagined and interpreted, particularly in Indigenous, LatinX, and recent immigrant communities. We will connect between the ongoing process of "Manifest Destiny" in North America and subsequent overseas imperial expansion into Latin America, the Pacific and beyond. The colonial control of domestic homelands and imperial control of foreign homelands are both highlighted in recent patterns of recent immigration. These patterns involve many "immigrants" who are in fact indigenous to the Americas, as well as immigrants from countries once conquered by the U.S. military.

In fall quarter, we will track the historical progression of the frontier across North America and overseas and the territorial and cultural clashes of settler and colonized peoples. In winter quarter, we will look at contemporary case studies that show the imprint of the past in the present and how 21st-century North American communities (particularly in the Southwest and Northwest) are wrestling today with conflicts over nationhood, cultural identity, and migration. In particular, we will examine the overlapping experiences of Native Americans and recent immigrants, and Indigenous territories and migrations that transgress or straddle the international border as defined by Homeland Security. In both quarters, students will engage with the material through seminars, lectures, guest speakers, films, workshops, written assignments, and presentations.

The class plans to visit sites (both remotely and in-person) in Washington state where Indigenous, settler, and recent immigrant communities closely interact with each other in conflict and cooperation. We will hear firsthand the life stories of local individuals and communities to understand their narratives of relationality, assimilation, resilience, and survival. We will be looking toward future change and reimaginings (climate crisis, Indigenous sovereignty, immigration, etc.).

Students will develop skills in writing, research, synthesizing information, and public speaking. The program provides strong preparation for students interested in the spring 2022 "American Frontiers: Southwest Field Studies" program.

In the fall, this program will be taught in a hybrid model, with synchronous lectures by zoom as well as in-person weekly seminar and workshops. In the fall, if conditions permit, we will have 2 in-person day field trips (to the Squaxin Island Museum and the Bill Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge). In the winter, if conditions permit, we will have a 3-day (overnight) field trip to the Yakama Nation and Yakima Valley.

Registration Options: The program's full-time 16-credit option combines the lectures, seminar, workshop, and a Community-Based/Tribal Nation Initiative module. The program's half-time 8-credit option includes the lectures, seminar, and workshop. Students may register for either option, but not both.


Fall 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10186
So - Sr (8): 10189
Winter 2022 Registration

New students will need to complete a reading and short paper based on fall quarter work. 

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 20086
So - Sr (8): 20089

Academic details

Preparatory For

education, U.S. and tribal governments, law and policy , non-profit organizations, and public history.

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$10 in the fall for admissions fees, $200 in winter for a 3-day field trip to the Yakama Nation and Yakima Valley


In Person or Remote
Hybrid (F)
Hybrid (W)
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

DateRevision 2021-04-28 8-credit option added to program