As a professor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, I seek to understand the role of Native students in the teaching of Native art history, while not losing sight of the potential dangers of asking minority students to somehow represent or speak for an entire race. Like museums, the classroom is a historically colonizing space, but also an important site for revolution and transformation. In my course on North American Indian Art, in which roughly two-thirds of the students identify as Native, I strive to expose students to a range of Indigenous arts and crafts and the theoretical and spiritual contexts that surround them. My goals while teaching this material are as follows: 1) give a voice to Native students who are functioning in a university structure that, as part of a larger bureaucratic system, has served to historically oppress them as a people; 2) both serve and absorb into my classroom the Native community in which I teach; and 3) remain teachable myself. None of these goals would be attainable without the contributions of the Native students in my class. This essay explores their role and mine within the revisionist, decolonizing process that has taken shape within the study and display of Native American art and culture in the United States.
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Palm Puchner, Nancy. 2021. "Decolonizing the Classroom: Native American Art History, the Voice of Indigenous Students, and Community-Oriented Teaching." Art History Pedagogy & Practice 6, (1). https://academicworks.cuny.edu/ahpp/vol6/iss1/6