Conceptualizing Place: Pacific Northwest Native Art and Geographies

Fall 2020
Winter 2021
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 50
16 Credits per quarter
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In this program, we will explore historical and contemporary relationships of Pacific Northwest Native peoples to place, using art and geography in a cross-cultural comparative analysis, and as "common ground" for strengthening intercultural communication. The unique status of Indigenous nations can be better understood by highlighting the centrality of territory in Native identity, and the strong Indigenous connections to place. These connections can be seen in numerous fields: art and material culture, Native national sovereignty, attachment to aboriginal and treaty-ceded lands, the focus on traditional land use and protection of sacred sites, environmental protection, climate justice, sustainable planning, Indigenous migration and symbolic mobility (through community practices such as powwows and canoe journeys), particularly in coastal Washington and British Columbia. 

All of these connections have been expressed artistically and geographically through traditional Indigenous cartographies, artistic "mapping" of ideas using contemporary art practices, digital graphic design, and modern mapmaking techniques. Examination of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary ideas about land, place, environment, and relationship to human cultures offers the opportunity to develop new conceptualizations for the meaning of place, self, and community. We will examine how conceptions of land are disseminated through art and objects of material culture, informing our examination with geographic studies and investigation into the sociopolitical uses of mapping. Students will discover differences and potential meeting points between Native and Western cultural systems, identify differences within and among diverse Tribes and First Nations, and develop an understanding of Indigenous peoples' ability to define and set their own social, cultural, and spatial boundaries and interpretations. Students will develop greater awareness of Indigenous cultures, but also of aspects of culture that may be determined and protected by Native peoples themselves.

Fall quarter will introduce students to historical geographies and worldviews of Pacific Northwest Indigenous nations, basic visual literacy skills in art (particularly the northern formline style), and literacy in graphic representational systems for geographic data. Afternoon digital workshops will train students in the design and production of artwork or maps in Adobe Illustrator.

In winter quarter, students will develop specialized team projects relevant to contemporary topics embedded in areas of interest, to assemble text, artwork, maps, photographs, and other graphics into an educational booklet developed in Adobe InDesign.  The booklet will focus on barriers to salmon migration (such as dams, dikes, and culverts), and how tribal nations have led the effort to remove some of the barriers in order to restore salmon habitat in Pacific Northwest watersheds. Students will build on their visual literacy skills in Pacific Northwest Indigenous art, with a particular focus on the Coast Salish art style.

In general, program activities will involve faculty lectures, guest lectures, images, videos, virtual museum tours, workshops, readings and class discussions, short writing assignments, and presentations. Students are expected to use critical thinking skills in interpreting the readings, images, videos, tours, and lectures.

Instruction will be online in Zoom and Canvas. The schedule breakdown of this online Zoom instruction will be flexible, specified in syllabus. Films and some lectures will have an asynchronous option, viewable by students on their own through Canvas links, but also shown in class. Most lectures and workshops will be in synchronous morning classes, to replicate (as much as possible) a classroom learning community. Discussions and digital workshops will be on Zoom in synchronous afternoon seminars, sometimes with small group breakouts. 

To successfully participate remotely in this program, students will need a laptop (Chromebooks cannot run Adobe programs). Students in both quarters have access to Adobe Creative Cloud (specifically Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign). The remote learning structure of our fall lessons are as follows: Lectures/workshops will be held on Zoom (accessible via Canvas) in morning classes, and there will be discussions or a digital workshop on Zoom in afternoon seminar.


Fall 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10141
Winter 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 20064

Academic details

Preparatory for studies and careers in

Visual Arts, Digital Graphics, Native Studies, Geography, Mapping, Planning, Cultural Education

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing


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

First Meeting



Date Revision
2020-11-09 This program is now Fall & Winter quarters only
2020-08-13 This program is now fully remote during fall quarter