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Dr. Jesse Peters
PO Box 1510
Pembroke, NC 28372

Phone: 910.521.6635

Location: Dial 260 A
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ENG/AIS 3470: Native American Poetry
Tuesdays & Thursdays 11:00-12:15

Instructor: Dr. Jesse Peters
Office: Dial 260 A
Office Hours: TR 8:30-9:30; TR 1:30-2:30; MW 8:00-9:00 (online) And by Appointment/Email
Phone: 521-6635

Course Description:

This course is designed to expose students to poetry produced by Native American authors. Native American poetry grows from centuries of oral traditions including songs, stories, and ceremonies. There are numerous Indian poets writing today from many different tribal communities – urban, rural, reservation, and non-reservation, and this poetry has much to offer in both form and content. We will cover selected texts, and you will be exposed to various voices and styles. Hopefully, you will come to understand why many believe that the poetry produced by Native American writers are some of the most important literary texts in the world today, and that they set the foundation of American literature.

Our discussions will center on attempting to understand what the writers have to tell us and why. We will be paying particular attention to the ways in which Native authors write within, outside of, and against the dominant canon of literature. Some of the questions we will be asking are: Who is an Indian? What is Native American poetry? How does Indian literature relate to American literature in general? How is Native American poetics different from other contemporary poetics, if at all? What role does the oral tradition play within these written texts?

Please be aware that literature often contains language and/or events that an individual might find offensive. Writers reflect the worlds they know, and like it or not, there are lots of people in the world who do use language some might find inappropriate. So literature is filled with all sorts of characters, many who use profanity, commit terrible crimes, lie, betray others, etc. But usually they are contrasted against other characters. As we analyze literature, we also advance theories about what the author may be trying to say through these characters and plots.

There may be graphic language in the works we read, and there will be violence and disturbing scenes. As an upper level course, this Native American Poetry class will also cover a diversity of perspectives on the social, cultural, economic, spiritual, and political issues of concern to many Indigenous peoples, expressed primarily in their own words. Some of the literature we read may contain profanity, explicit or graphic content (which may be sexual and/or violent), or political or religious opinions that differ from yours. These are part of the experiences of many Native writers’ lives and we will consider them in the spirit of intellectual inquiry.

The course demands a lot of reading, and I may give pop-quizzes from time to time (if necessary) to make sure that you are doing the reading. I do not allow students to make up missed quizzes. Please come to class prepared to discuss the material because I don’t expect to do all the talking. Remember, we are all here to explore ideas and figure out what we think. There will also be a prospectus (4-6 pages), a longer paper (8-10 pages), an oral presentation, a midterm and a final. The papers must incorporate outside sources and must be written on the literature that we cover in this course. The final will be cumulative.

Required Texts: (others may be added)

Parker Changing is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930
Blaeser Apprenticed to Jusice
Henry The Failure of Certain Charms
Harjo How We Became Human
Ortiz Out There Somewhere

Course Requirements:

I do not think of myself as a lecturer, but rather as a facilitator of discussion. Please come to class each day ready to discuss the material; make sure you have read the text for that day.

Oral Presentation

During the course, you will give an oral presentation to the class. It will be on one of the primary texts that we cover. You will be responsible for doing a little research on the work and the author and then presenting that information to the class. I will expect you to begin by giving a 15-20 minute presentation at the beginning of the class. You may want to include things like biographical information, reactions to the work, theories about the work, information about the author's cultural experience, and themes you discovered in the book. Then you should raise questions for discussion and facilitate the dialogue on that work. The meat of the presentation should be your explanation/ exploration of how the work helps our understanding of Native American literature. You should approach this assignment as if you are to teach a class on the poetry you are working on. I will grade you on both what you say and how you say it. Please sign up for the text you wish to report on as soon as possible.


Shortly after midterm, you will be asked to turn in a 4-6 page prospectus for your final research project. A good prospectus is a short summary of how your paper will be constructed; it outlines the thesis, sources, and evidence you plan to use in the final paper. This is simply a shorter version of your long paper; you will be able to use my comments to revise/expand as you work on this project. This should serve as an aid in preparing your oral presentation on the research paper as well as in writing the paper itself. The final research project is due the last week of class and should be 8-10 pages long, typed and double spaced. Five secondary sources (good ones used well) is the minimum, but I expect that you will need to use more. No cover page or binder is needed; simple put your name and class at the top of the first page, then type your title and begin the paper. Number all pages. Remember, a simple, neat presentation is often the best presentation.

Paper Presentation

Towards the end of the semester, you will give us a 10-15 minute presentation on your research paper. I expect you all to outline your argument and evidence in a clear manner much as you would at a profezsional conference. There will be time for your peers to ask questions and offer suggestions on your work. Using PowerPoint is recommended.

Safe Assign

Papers (both prospectus and final essay) must be submited through SafeAssign in our Blackboard Course Site. Instructions for submitting these documents can be found in the Blackboard course site under the Content button. This site checks for any plagiarism in your essays and allows me to easily access an electronic version of your essays for feedback and grading. Essays must be submitted in Word or RTF as an uploaded file; please do not use any symbols or numbers in the file names. Both submissions must be made by the due dates provided.

Midterm and Final

The midterm and final will consist of identification (I give you a quote and you supply author, title, and significance), short answer, and essay. When providing the significance of a passage, be sure to explain what the quotation tells us about the theme or the message of the poem. The final will be cumulative.

Blackboard Course Site

Sometimes the schedule may call for you to log into the Blackboard Course Site rather than meeting in the classroom. When we are discussing material via BlackBoard, I expect you each to participate as fully as you would in class; so you should spend at least an hour posting and responding to other posts. Failure to participate will be counted as an absence.

Course Policies:

• Attendance is mandatory. I will take attendance most days. If you miss more than two weeks of class for any reason, I may assign you a grade of F for the course. Please let me know in advance if you will be absent (if at all possible). If you are late to class, you may be counted absent. You are also responsible for any information you miss if you are absent.

• I do not accept late assignments for any reason without my prior consent. I’m usually more than willing to help you out, but you must talk to me beforehand. I have voicemail and email. Late papers will receive a 0 grade.

• If you need to talk to me, please take advantage of my office hours or email me. I am also more than willing to meet by appointment.

• I may give pop quizzes if necessary to ensure that you are reading, so be sure and do the reading. Quizzes cannot be made up. I expect a lot of class participation during the course.

• Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated (talking while others are talking, ringing cell phones, coming in late, rude comments, etc.). If behavior like this persists, you will be asked to leave the class and receive a grade of F for the course.

* There will be no work for "extra credit." Keep up with the reading and do the work

All reading assignments should be completed on the first day that we begin discussion.

Note: Please refer to the ETL department’s website for departmental guidelines and plagiarism policy ( It is up to you, especially since you have passed English 1050 or an equivalent before being allowed to take this course, to know what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. If you are caught plagiarizing, you may fail the course and could be reported to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. The usual penalty is a grade of "F" in the course.

Please let me know if you feel another student is plagiarizing your ideas on the discussion board.

Note: Any student with a documented learning, physical, chronic health, psychological, visual or hearing disability needing academic adjustments is requested to speak directly to Disability Support Services (DF Lowry Building, Room 107, 521-6695) and the instructor, as early in the semester (preferably within the first week) as possible. All discussions will remain confidential.

Grading System:

Presentation 100 pts. 10%
Prospectus 100 pts. 10%
Research Paper 200 pts. 20%
Paper Presentation 100 pts. 10%
Midterm 200 pts. 20%
Final 300 pts. 30%


1000 pts. 100%

I use a thousand point grading system. All grades will be given as numbers with final grades computed as follows: A=933-1000; A-=900-932; B+=866-899; B=833-865; B-=800-832; C+=766-799; C=733-765; C-=700-732; D+=666-699; D=633-665; D-=600-632; F=<600.

Course Schedule: (Always Subject to Change)

All poems are in the anthology unless otherwise specified; please read all poems by the author listed

January 8 introduction to the course

Parker Changing is Not Vanishing (introduction 1-20)

15 Parker Changing is Not Vanishing (introduction 20-44)
17 Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (50-64)
22 John Rollin Ridge (69-118)
24 William Penn Boudinot (123-125); Tso-le-oh-woh (125-129); Joshua Ross (131-135)
29 James Harris Guy (141-146); Alexander Posey (156-176)
31 Richard C. Adams (190-198); begin Harjo How We Became Human
February 5 Harjo How We Became Human (Report by Robert)
7 Harjo How We Became Human
12 Harjo How We Became Human
14 Harjo How We Became Human
19 Ortiz Out There Somewhere (Report by Alaina)
21 Ortiz Out There Somewhere
26 Ortiz Out There Somewhere
28 Ortiz Out There Somewhere
March 5 Ortiz Out There Somewhere
7 Midterm Examination
11-15 Spring Break
19 Henry The Failure of Certain Charms (Report by Effie and Elizabeth)
21 Henry The Failure of Certain Charms Discussion on Blackboard
26 Henry The Failure of Certain Charms
28 Henry The Failure of Certain Charms; Blaeser Apprenticed to Jusice (Report by Donnie)
April 2 Blaeser Apprenticed to Jusice
4 Blaeser Apprenticed to Jusice
9 Prospectus Due; Blaeser Apprenticed to Jusice
11 Southeast Indian Studies Conference
16 Carlos Montezuma (286-294); Ruth Margaret Muskrat (320-330); Lynn Riggs (342-355); D'Arcy McNickle (356-364)
18 Research Paper Reports: Alaina
23 Research Paper Reports: Robert, Elizabeth
25 Research Paper Reports: Donnie, Effie
29 Final Paper Due by 12:00 noon
May 2 Final Examination 10:45-1:15


This publication is available in alternative formats upon request. Please contact Mary Helen Walker, Disability Support Services, DF Lowry Building, Room 103, 521-6695.

UNCP Religious Holiday Policy Statement

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has a legal and moral obligation to accommodate all students who must be absent from classes or miss scheduled exams in order to observe religious holidays; we must be careful not to inhibit or penalize these students for exercising their rights to religious observance. To accommodate students’ religious holidays, each student will be allowed two excused absences each semester with the following conditions:

1. Students, who submit written notification to their instructors within two weeks of the beginning of the semester, shall be excused from class or other scheduled academic activity to observe a religious holy day of their faith. Excused absences are limited to two class sessions (days) per semester.

2. Students shall be permitted a reasonable amount of time to make up tests or other work missed due to an excused absence for a religious observance.

3. Students should not be penalized due to absence from class or other scheduled academic activity because of religious observances.

A student who is to be excused from class for a religious observance is not required to provide a second-party certification of the reason for the absence. Furthermore, a student who believes that he or she has been unreasonably denied an education benefit due to religious beliefs or practices may seek redress through the student grievance procedure.


Updated: Thursday, April 11, 2013

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