HL90 FL: Indigenous in the City

Remember, tomorrow is the priority deadline for submitting an HL90 application! Still looking? Check out Morgan Ridgway’s class, “Indigenous in the City,” which meets Monday, 3-5. Read more about it below!

What inspired you to teach this class?

The majority of Indigenous peoples in what is the United States live in and around urban spaces yet there is often this idea that that is not that case. People often think that Indigenous people are always some place far away or rural. While rurality and reservation communities certainly are important aspects of Indigenous experiences I’m really interested in this other side of the story. I grew up in Philadelphia and saw many different Indigenous people making home and community in the city so urbanity and indigeneity have also always been linked for me. All of this to say, the class explores the varied experiences of Indigenous people in urban spaces and how they relate to the narratives these cities tell about themselves and the people who live there. Indigenous people have always and continue to be part of urban space. Learning about the dynamics of that reality has major implications in how we understand Indigenous community, the diasporic experiences of Indigenous people following the history of removal, and what it means to say ‘we’re still here.’

Why should students take this class?

I think this class would be especially interesting for anyone who wants to reconfigure things we take for granted or assume to be “natural” outcomes of history. Over the semester we’ll think about how Indigenous people have experiences of both removal and unremoval, how all land in the United States is someone’s territory including cities, and the tension surrounding ideas of modernity, urbanity, and indigeneity. We’ll also look at various of types of material ranging from government documents and laws to performances, poetry, and street art. The narrative of where Indigenous people are can be quite rigid in the United States and this class turns that on its head a bit to think about Indigenous survivance and persistent presence. In the process we can begin to think about belonging, relationality, politics, and identity. I think this class is a good opportunity to consider how we have come to reside in the places we live, why they look the way they do, and where we might go in the future.  

Are you doing any cool projects?

As a class we’ll be creating a collaborative map on Google over the course of the semester that we will populate with location pins identifying some aspect of indigeneity. That could be the address of an urban Indian center in Chicago, a monument in Seattle, or a parade route that featured Indigenous dancers in Philadelphia. I think being able to visually see that all these cities are actually filled with references to Indigenous people despite the prevailing narrative of absence can be really powerful in understanding where Indigenous people are and how they have continued to persist.

How can students learn more?

Feel free to look at the Canvas site or email me at mridgway@fas.harvard.edu

Published by Hist & Lit

Committee on Degrees in History & Literature at Harvard University

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