Short Essay Questions

Pick 2 out of 4: Short essay questions at 2.5 points each. A total of 5 points. Each response should have a minimum 250 words – you are welcome to write more:

1) In 1491, Charles Mann argues that the environment in the Amazon was created and managed by Native populations, not “pristine” wilderness. In the years that followed European contact, he cites historical evidence that indicates that it wasn’t a lack of intelligence or “fitness for survival” that so many died, but rather that without immunity to new diseases, Native Americans died en masse. With a smaller population, their civilizations were made weaker and vulnerable to attack.

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How does – or does it not – change your view of Columbus Day and the national narrative about “How America was Born”? Cite at least one passage from Mann, Handsome Lake or Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

2) The Inka had such grandiose monuments like Machu Picchu. The Mayan had Calakmul. The Aztec had incredible statues and gold. The dominant narrative in history tends to see these sorts of things as representative of civilization, if not progress. We are clearly leaving “human rights” out of the picture, for the moment.

But what if the actual forest is an anthropogenic space? (“Anthropogenic” means “impacted or shaped by humans.” European colonizers did not necessarily recognize it as such, but it was a space of humans living as “a part of” rather than “apart from” the land. Additionally, what is the potential promise but also pitfall that could be associated with saying: “humans have always been developing the land”? (Hint: see Mann’s discussion of Deneven and Cronon and the Wilderness Act of 1964 and Aldo Leopold’s Great Roads Movement critique). Cite at least one passage from both Mann and Leopold.

3) Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz presents a provocative “Indigenous people’s history of the United States.” She argues that the fundamental narrative of settler colonialism in the US cast Native Americans out as immigrants on the land they previously inhabited and that this set the tone for governance in this country ever since. Fast forward to Kristen Simmons’ article on “Settler Atmospherics” and we have settler colonialism with NODAPL and the Standing Rock Sioux protest. How does Dunbar-Ortiz present a (new) look at history and Simmons present possible solutions to intertwined oppressions? Feel free to cite the short documentary “Native Americans on Race”. Cite at least a passage from each (Simmons and Dunbar-Ortiz (and the video, if you choose).

4) Where would you start the story of natural resource extraction (gold, silver, oil, gas, wind, water… etc…) plastic and e-waste? Would you start it with “the lust for gold, the lust for silver,” as Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America does? Would you start the story of plastic with petroleum extraction, which then creates the material and markets for plastics? Would the story of electronics start with mining for metals or just focus on the next best tech-fix? Drawing inspiration from Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi’s emphasis on the “danger of a single story,” what is your story of electronics, of plastic, of stuff? What kinds of solutions do you see and what part of those solutions rely on a more-informed understanding of how we humans got to this point, where some parts of the world are the sacrifice zones and dumping grounds for the wealthy. Cite at least two examples from any of the videos or readings on gold mining, plastic and e-waste. You are welcome to bring in your own knowledge and experiences as well.

Grade Point

Characteristics of the answer

A (5pts)

* Highly specific examples at 250 words or more.

* Addressed directly and completely the assignment about indigenous and colonialism issues and keywords.

* Demonstrated an integrated understanding of the assignment by engaging with the film/texts/arguments/class discussions.

* Showed a carefully focused, detailed, creative understanding of the assignment with clearly written response.

B (4 pts)

*General examples of contemporary or continuing indigenous and colonialism issues and keywords at 250 words or more.

*Addressed the specifics of the assignment, but also wandered off around other related, but not directly relevant, ideas and examples.

* Some relevance or illustrative example.

C (3pts)

* Very vague description of environmental racism/justice and indigenous issues. Did not fulfill the word count.

* No real connection to course content.

* A basic attempt.

* Not clear any attention was paid to class or assigned material

D (2 pts)

* A one line basic attempt, definition doesn’t even make sense.

* Totally off.

F (1 pt)

*Did not answer questions.

* Incomplete.

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