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Introduction

Native Americans, or American Indians, were the first people to inhabit the Americas. They were not "discovered" by Columbus in 1492: they have a rich history that predates Columbus by at least 10,000 years. Columbus wrongly called them "Indians" because he thought he had reached India. For this reason, Native Canadians have rejected the term "Indian" altogether and instead call themselves Natives, First Nations, or First Peoples. Native Americans invented their own systems of agriculture, built cities, and were an inspiration for the American constitution. Today Native American societies play a vibrant role in both North and South America.

The minor in Native American Studies is an interdisciplinary minor administered by the Department of Anthropology that will permit students to study Native Americans from a variety of scholarly and Native perspectives. The understanding of Native Americans, past and present, has been hindered by alternating efforts to dehumanize and vilify them as "ignoble savages;" vs. tendencies to stereotype and exalt them as "noble savages;" vs. simply ignoring their role in history and contemporary society. The Native American Studies minor raises awareness of central issues for Native Americans by critically examining their past, present, and future through diverse bodies of evidence such as material culture, oral histories, ethnohistory, and ethnography.

If you want to deepen your understanding of the roles and perspectives of America's First Peoples, past and present, then the minor in Native American Studies is for you.

Shell gorget with spider and cross-in-circle motif.

Spider brought fire to people in a bowl on its back.

( http://www.museum.state.il.us/)

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