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Native American and Chicano Literature: Home

A resource guide for the Native American and Chicano Literature research project.

Native American and Chicano Literature - Assignment Details

Native American and Chicano Literature                                                             Majerus

Spring 2015                                                                                                              

Research Project

Your first major assignment is a research project that will take one of two forms. Your options:

  1. Write a historical research paper that illuminates some aspect of Native-American and/or Mexican-American history and culture. Your essay should take a position on a significant issue related to the topic or make a connection to literature and/or the arts.

  1. Create a multi-media project that explores some aspect of Native American or Chicano history and/or culture. Find an aspect of Native American or Chicano history/culture that you’re interested in, research it, become an expert, and then present your newfound expertise in a format that educates others and makes a connection to the arts.

For option 1, you’ll need to offer your readers a clear, coherent introduction to your topic and make us familiar with the information, ideas, issues, and complexities most crucial to understanding the topic’s significance. You should draw your information from at least five different credible sources (either print, online, or multimedia), quoting from all of them and drawing extensively on at least three. You can choose to either take some position in relation to your topic (for example, if you’re looking at the history of Native American mascots in sports, it would make sense to express your informed opinion on their recent decline and/or continued existence in American sports), or make a connection to literature or the arts (for example, if you’ve researched Dia de los Muertos traditions in Mexico and the US, you might explore how Day of the Dead iconography has influenced particular Mexican-American artists, writers, etc.)


Option 2 will revolve around writing and will require you to use all the skills that writing requires – brainstorming, organizing, thinking, processing, thinking some more, composing, rearranging, and revising – but the final project may or may not be a piece of writing per se. You should present your findings, observations, and arguments in the form of a vehicle for public education. One strategy for educating the public is to appeal to the senses as well as the intellect. As such, you should offer information in at least two different forms (some possible forms would be ideas and arguments expressed in writing, ideas and arguments expressed in graphic form, ideas or examples in the form of film images, illustrations in the form of still images, ideas and arguments expressed in sound, and information or examples in the form of music).


To put it more simply, your project should be presented in the form of both words (presented either in written or audio form) and images or illustrations (presented with still images, moving images, graphics, and/or music). Your final product could take the form of any public education genre or tool that you can think of or imagine, including but not limited to: A pamphlet, an informational web site, an informational poster, a wiki, a blog, a brief documentary film, a brief radio documentary, a teacher’s resource guide, a children’s non-fiction book, or an essay supplemented by visual and/or auditory illustrations. You should draw from at least five different credible sources in creating this final product, incorporating information and/or images from all of them in some way.


What form you choose to present your findings in will depend in part on your technical expertise and interests. You need not have your own personal audio-visual equipment; you may draw on resources we have at Uni if you’re interested in creating an audio or audio-visual project. In terms of topics, the field is quite open. You may pursue information on any aspect of Native American or Mexican-American culture, history, or identity that connects to the arts or that could inform the study of Native American or Chicano art, literature, or music. Here are a few ideas, (some of which you’d want to refine into a more focused area of research once you began to learn more):

  • The American Indian Movement

  • The Native American Literary Renaissance

  • Indian Boarding Schools and their legacies in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Indian culture and life

  • Indian languages – the history, current state, and cultural import of one, several, or many indigenous languages of North America and/or efforts to save languages

  • The history of powwows and their cultural significance in modern American Indian life

  • Representations of Indians in children’s books

  • Fraudulent “Indian” authors and the phenomenon of non-Indians claiming fictitious Indian ancestry or identity

  • Indian mascots and controversies regarding the use of Indian names, symbols, and/or caricatures for the names or symbols of sports teams

  • Native music and instrumentation; or, Indian artists in contemporary popular music

  • Connections and/or collaborations between Indian and Chicano people, communities, artists, and/or activists

  • The Chicano Movement

  • Some possible topics within or related to the Chicano Movement:

    • Political activism

    • The role of students in Chicano activism

    • The Chicano Arts Movement (possibly including a specific focus on mural painting or graffiti art)

    • The history and significance of Chicano studies in higher education

    • The history of the term “Chicano” and the significance of its embrace and/or rejection by Mexican-American people

    • The Virgin of Guadalupe as a religious and cultural icon

  • Chicano rock and/or rap

  • Bilingual education

  • Chicano culinary culture – the evolution of Mexican-American food, its regional subcultures, and its cultural significance

  • Chicano fashion (e.g. the Zoot suit, pachuco/a style), its cultural &/or political significance

  • Chicano labor struggles (as a whole or in relation to specific unions such as the United Farm Workers, Justice for Janitors/Service Employees International Union, and/or the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union)


Whatever form your project for option 2 ends up taking, it should offer the following: 1. Information on your topic and a general introduction to the most important ideas, issues, people, and/or events related to the topic.  2. An argument or implicit argument relating to the cultural and/or historical context of the information you’re presenting.  3. Some connection to one or more art forms (literature, visual art, dance, film, storytelling, music).


For both option 1 and option 2, you need to choose and commit (provisionally) to a topic for your project by Wednesday, February 4. Your rough draft (or some significant report on your work-in-progress, depending on your genre) is due for peer workshopping (or work-in-progress feedback) on Tuesday, February 24. Your final project is due on Tuesday, March 3.