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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, 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 and immigrant communities. We will connect between the ongoing process of "Manifest Destiny" in North America and subsequent overseas imperial expansion into Latin America and the Asia- Pacific region. 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 the territorial and cultural clashes of settler and colonized peoples, using case studies that show the imprint of the past in the present, and how 21st-century communities are still wrestling with conflicts over nationhood, cultural identity, and migration. In particular, we will examine the overlapping experiences of Native Americans, Latinx, and recent immigrants, and Indigenous territories and migrations that transgress or straddle the international border.  

In winter quarter, we will explore the local place-based history of Indigenous and immigrant displacement and revitalization in downtown Olympia. We will focus on the Deschutes River Estuary, the site of displaced Coast Salish villages, Chinatowns, and a community removed for the damming of Capitol Lake. The program will collaborate with the Art Forces organization in a project to develop digital walking tours of downtown Olympia that tell the stories of this creation of a settler colonial landscape. Workshops will train students in the use of the web-based StoryMaps Arc-GIS platform to produce these walking tours for mobile phones. 

In both quarters, students will engage with the material through seminars, lectures, guest speakers, films, workshops, written assignments, and presentations. Students will develop skills in writing, research, synthesizing information, and public speaking. This program will be taught in a hybrid model, with synchronous lectures by zoom on one day a week, and in-person weekly seminar and workshops on two days a week.  


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 studies and careers in

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, $50 in winter for program supplies


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

First Meeting



Date Revision
2021-04-28 8-credit option added to program