Published Date

September 1, 2000

Resource Type

AHA Resource, For the Classroom



AHA Topics

Teaching & Learning, Undergraduate Education


United States

Part of Online Course in American Indian History

By James W. Oberly
University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire

History/American Indian Studies 240–Summer, 2000

On the World Wide Web!!!


Consider this a course of “firsts.” This may be your first experience at taking a university level history course, and perhaps history is not your favorite subject. It may also be your first experience with an online course, and you naturally have lots of questions about how this will work. It might also be your first summer session course, with a different time rhythm than the traditional semester.

The online aspect is a first for me, so we will definitely learn together. I expect that this syllabus will help answer many of your questions about taking a history course, about doing so online, and about getting your work done during a summer session. And remember, you can always email me if you have questions.


effective time management, since I want you to keep up with the reading and the written assignments;

efficient reading, since I am asking you to read between four and eight chapters of text per week;

intellectual curiosity, since I expect you to bring an eagerness to learn about American Indian history to our class.

good writing, since I am asking you to put your thoughts into prose for others in the class to read;

good cheer, since I am arbitrarily assigning you to group work-teams with the expectation that you can work together.


1) Required Readings—I am asking you to read three books for the course, Morgan Gibson’s The American Indian: Prehistory to the Present, Nancy O. Lurie’s Wisconsin Indians, and Vine DeLoria, Jr and David Wilkins’, Tribes, Treaties, and Constitutional Tribulations. The readings in the three texts will provide the basis for our online class discussions. There are weekly reading assignments and I expect each student to keep up with the readings. Your success as a student, and our joint success as a learning community, depends on your keeping up with the readings and taking part in the discussions about them.

2) Web Access—You will have “24/7” access to our Course Pages, barring catastrophic outages. It is your choice, at your convenience, when you want to log on and do your online work. However, please do note the Course Outline and Schedule, listed below. You may do your online work at your convenience, but there are regular weekly deadlines for completing it. In other words, you cannot “backload” all the work in the class for, say, the very last week of the term.

3) Electronic Mail—I pledge to answer your email inquiries as promptly as I can. That usually means the same day, sometimes the same hour or minute if I am myself online, but if I am away from my computer for a few days, I will let the whole class know in advance. After all, I want to enjoy the summer, too!

4) Assignments:

a) Profile: completing and posting your personal profile to our Profiles. Please fill in as much as you feel comfortable sharing about yourself on your Profile. Your Profile is that it introduces you to fellow students with whom you will be working. This is important since we will not meet one another face-to-face. POSTED DUE DATE: First Friday. Grade Component: 2% (two percent) of semester grade.

b) Group Discussion Leadership: At the start of each week, I will collaborate with a work-team of four students, and together, we will post a short comment on the readings, along with a set of discussion questions to lead and guide the class in its online discussions. This means that the work-teams must do the reading for their assigned week a bit in advance, and collaborate together on the comment and the discussion questions. A good discussion question is one that asks a student to make an interpretation based on the facts and evidence from the assigned readings. I will cover the first week’s discussion questions alone as an example for the teams. Then, for the next seven weeks, we will rotate among the teams, per the assignment sheet posted in our Schedule Page. Please note that I am a member of each of the work teams, so I will help the teams as they talk among themselves about posing good interpretative questions. POSTED DUE DATE: each Monday, by team. Check the Schedule Room for the assignment by week and by team. Grade component: 10% (twenty percent) of semester grade.

c) Class Discussion: Each student is required to participate in class discussion online by posting a response to the Discussion Questions. Your response should show that you have read and analyzed the assigned readings and should address at least one of the specific Discussion Questions. You need not post a class discussion item during the week that your work-team is leading the group, but you must do so for all the other weeks. That means you will be posting seven responses to the readings/Discussion Questions. POSTED DUE DATE: no later than the Friday of each week. Grade Component: 35% (thirty-five percent) of semester grade, or 5% per posting.

d) Individual Essay: You will write a short essay on comparative Indian treaties that draws on your reading of some specific treaties in the Media Center. I will give you a choice among essay questions to answer, so this assignment is similar to a take-home midterm exam. POSTED DUE DATE: Monday of the fifth. Grade Component: 25% (twenty-five percent) of semester grade.

e) Group Research Project: Each work-team will be assigned a U.S. Supreme Court case that involved fundamental rulings on American Indian law. The work-team will retrieve the text of the decision online, and then analyze the decision. The work-teams will then compose a short essay that explains the case and its historical significance. POSTED DUE DATE: the last Friday of the Summer Session. Grade Component: 25% (twenty-five percent) of semester grade.

f) Course Assessment: I will ask each student to complete an assessment of the course. Your assessment will be anonymous, to encourage frank assessments. Upon completion of your assessment, I will receive a simple notice from the Learning Space system, and I will then credit your course total. POSTED DUE DATE: the last Friday of the Summer Session. Grade Component: 3% (three percent) of semester grade.


History 240 is a general education course designed, as the University Catalogue says, “to help each student attain the basic competencies, breadth of knowledge, and critical judgement which characterize a mature and responsible individual in modern society.” The faculty at UW-Eau Claire have placed the “development of an historical consciousness” as one of the fundamental elements of a baccalaureate degree. Moreover, I believe students in General Education courses should work to improve their skills of reading, writing, and analysis. I have designed the assignments to help you develop those skills. I particularly devised the group historical research paper to accomplish two related objectives: to combine the skills of reading, writing, and collaborative analysis; and as a way to introduce you to the manner in which historians think and work.

I start with the assumption that every educated man and woman should have some familiarity with history. Our particular subject matter in this course is American Indian History. I regard the study of American Indian History as intrinsically worthwhile because it is such an interesting subject. I also regard its study as worthwhile for what it tells us about the larger story of U.S. and World History. As you read in the Gibson, Satz, and DeLoria/Wilkins books, try to keep track of three levels on which American Indian History took (and takes) place: 1) the level of the inter-national, or how American Indian tribes acting as sovereign powers dealt with other sovereign powers, especially the U.S. government; 2) the level of the inter-tribal, or how American Indian tribes dealt with one another, especially in cultural exchange; and 3) the level of the intra-tribal, or the internal history of each tribe.


(Note: reading assignments are keyed to class topics; make sure you read the chapters in question before each class.)

Week 1

Topics: Getting Started. The Concept of Periodization in History. When did American Indian history begin?

Readings: Gibson, chapters, 1-4.

Week 2

Topics: The Columbian (and Indian) Encounter

Readings: Gibson, chs. 5-10; Deloria, ch.1;

Media Center primary source documents to read: Father Claude Allouez visits the Ottawas, 1669; Sieur de la Mothe Cadillac’s report of 1717

Week 3

Topics: Indians and the American System

Readings: Gibson, ch. 11; Deloria, chs. 2-4;

Media Center primary source documents to read: Alexander Henry and Peter Pond: two lives among the Ojibway fur traders; Montreal-Mackinac fur trade, 1715-1760

Week 4

Topics: The Treaty and Removal Era

Readings: Gibson, chs. 12-13, Deloria, chs. 5-7; Lurie, pages 3-21

Media Center primary source documents to read: 1837, 1842, and 1854 treaties with the Chippewas

Week 5

Topics: The Creation of the Reservations

Readings: Gibson, chs. 14-17.

Week 6

Topics: Forced Assimilation and Acculturation

Readings: Gibson, chs. 18-19; Luire, pages 22-52

Week 7

Topics: Twentieth Century Renaissance

Readings: Gibson, chs. 20-21; Lurie, pages 52-66.

Week 8

Topics: Legacy and Tomorrow

Readings: Gibson, ch. 22, Deloria, ch. 8