Primary Source Paper

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History 181

Primary Source Paper

You will all read two of the following primary source narratives and write a paper based on that reading (5-7 pages). You may also want to do some extra research to enhance your paper, and that will depend on your topic, but it is not necessary. I did not order copies of these books, so you will need to find them at the library or order them on your own.
Frank B. Linderman, Pretty Shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows

John G. Niehardt, Black Elk Speaks

Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

Mountain Wolf Woman: Sister of Crashing Thunder

Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Woman

Peter Nabokov, Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior
I encourage you to be creative and to just start by being a good historian. Read one or two of these books (they should not take that long), and ask yourself, how does this relate to or elucidate the themes of the course? What aspects of the book do you find most interesting that you would like to pursue further (possibly with some extra research)? You should all be able to define your own topics (and I can help) if you take that approach. It is always best to read your sources before you pick a topic—you will write a much better paper that way. Let the reading guide you to a topic rather than vice versa. Now, because I know some people like to have everything laid out for them, here are some other ideas. These are starting points.

You may choose to write a paper on the roles of women in Native American society. You could look at 19th century roles of women using Pretty Shield and compare those to more contemporary roles using Lakota Woman. Compare the two narratives to explore both change and continuity over time. How have women’s roles changed over the past century and how have they remained the same? Why?

Contemporary Issues:

You could focus on Lakota Woman, and along with secondary research, use this narrative as a way to explore and discuss contemporary issues facing Native people. What are the current concerns in Indian country and why? What is the source of such concerns and what is being done to address them? You can take the same approach using Lame Deer, though it is from a slightly earlier (though still contemporary) time period.

You could compare Lakota Woman or Lame Deer to one of the other four narratives to discuss change and continuity in general rather than as it specifically relates to women’s lives. How have concerns in Indian country changed in the past century (leadership, tribal government)? You could also look specifically at reservation life. What are the positive and negative aspects of reservation life? What are the social and political pressures on reservations?

Another possible paper topic would be to compare Black Elk Speaks with Lame Deer. What can these two narratives tell us about the role of ceremonies and visions, or about the place of spiritual leaders and how that has changed over time? How do you think the outlawing of Plains religious practices affected these societies? You could also read Pretty Shield and one of the other two narratives to compare and male and female spiritual leader.

The 19th Century West:

Use two of the earlier narratives to approach Plains life and culture in the 19th century. How did encroaching settlement change life? How did escalating warfare alter life and cultural practices? How did Native people react to the United States and Americans? Why?

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