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Native Peoples of North America

Join the Smithsonian and an award-winning professor to recount an epic story of resistance and accommodation, persistence and adaption, and extraordinary hardship and survival.
Native Peoples of North America is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 194.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Entirely Accurate But Far Better Than Most I'm native and you talk about the depopulation due to disease but why not discuss the depopulation carried out by slavers? Much of the North East US was depopulated by slavery. They were carted off to work sugar cane plantations where they promptly died. That's why the Europeans started importing Africans in the first place. I hope this thing lets me edit this later. I'm not that far into the course.
Date published: 2024-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from comprehensive-highly recommend This is a a great course with an engaging presenter who provides a wonderful overview of Native American history and American colonialism.
Date published: 2024-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Neat Lectures I enjoyed these. I thought Dr. Cobb did a good job and I learned a lot coming from a background of very little information on this topic.
Date published: 2024-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview on the subject Throughly enjoyed the course which provided an excellect overview of the subject without becoming to academic. Would definitely recommend.
Date published: 2023-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellentl Content and Delivery I grew up in the 1940s when movies on "cowboys and Indians" were very much a part of motion pictures. Much of that was about Indians attacking and mascaraing the settlers. While some of that probably did happen it is not nearly the whole story. This course depicts much more of a conquest of the inhabitants of North America and the attempted destruction of just about anything related to the native population. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in getting a balanced story of the history of the settlement of our country by non Indians. Well told!
Date published: 2023-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Changed my understanding of Native Americans This course changed my understanding of the Native American People. This is fantastic course that covers the history of the struggles and perseverance of Native Americans. Highly reccomended.
Date published: 2022-12-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Simplistic and superficial. As a fan of the Great Courses, an avid student of Native American history and someone very sympathetic to the oppression of indigenous people, I bought this course with high expectations. Regrettably, I found it very disappointing and superficial. The course tells essentially the same "noble savage" tale over and over: a history of peaceful indigenous tribes being the victims of white genocide. There is truth there, of course. But the history is much more complex and interesting than just that. The course largely ignores the differences between tribes, settlers, locations and events. It does not acknowledge that some tribes (such as the Comanche and Kiowa) were warrior cultures that engaged in acts of extreme violence and brutality toward other tribes as well as immigrant white settlers. It ignores that sometimes tribes entered into to treaties that they, too, had no intention of honoring. It fails to acknowledge that there were many in the white culture that were very sympathetic to the plight of the tribes. Most of all, it fails utterly to examine the underlying causes and nuances of white aggression toward native peoples, instead suggesting that the tribes always behaved nobly and only to defend their vast territories while the whites always were motivated solely by greed and racism. The history of native people is much more interesting and complex than that simple narrative. Fortunately, there are many more objective and interesting histories than this course (for example, the Pulitzer prize finalist book "Empire of the Summer Moon.").
Date published: 2022-11-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not what I expected This course should have been titled American History from the Native American Perspective. It was interesting, but I had hoped to learn more about various tribal culture and customs.
Date published: 2022-11-03
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The Great Courses has partnered with Smithsonian to bring you a course that reveals new perspectives on the historical and contemporary experiences of Indigenous peoples and their significant impact on this country. You will gain a new point of view on the seemingly familiar stories America was built on. Be prepared √ this course is going to change how you understand American history.


Daniel M. Cobb

A history of survival emphasizes the durability and integrity of Native America.


The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Daniel Cobb is an Associate Professor of American Studies at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He achieved a B.A. in History with a Sociology minor from Messiah College, where he graduated cum laude; a M.A. in History from the University of Wyoming; and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Oklahoma. He served as the assistant director of the Newberry Library's D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indians and Indigenous Studies from 2003-2004 and as Assistant Professor of History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, from 2004-2010. An engaged scholar, Professor Cobb has collaborated with tribal communities, worked with elementary and secondary school teachers, and served as a consultant on public history for a consortium of the nation's leading museums.

Professor Cobb was twice awarded the Commendation for Influence on Students from the Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching, and University Assessment at Miami University and received the Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of North Carolina in 2012.

His publications include Native Activism in Cold War America: The Struggle for Sovereignty, which won the inaugural Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award, and Say We Are Nations: Documents of Politics and Protest in Indigenous America since 1887. Among his other works are the coedited volumes Beyond Red Power: American Indian Politics and Activism since 1900 and Memory Matters and a revised and updated fourth edition of William T. Hagan's classic American Indians.

By This Professor

Native Peoples of North America
Native Peoples of North America


Native America: A Story of Survival

01: Native America: A Story of Survival

You'll begin by comparing the commonly held views of Native Americans to the realities of what was, and still is, a tapestry of rich and vibrant cultures. Professor Cobb will explain the pitfalls that occur when history doesn't provide this crucial viewpoint, and will break down the fallacies that result from the common mistake of consigning Native Americans to the past....

38 min
The Columbian Exchange: New Worlds for All

02: The Columbian Exchange: New Worlds for All

Explore the how the misleading dichotomy of "Old World" and "New World" has impacted perceptions of Native Americans for decades. Delve into the "Columbian Exchange," which is the crux behind the creation of "new worlds for all" and learn about the enduring ramifications these processes had in shaping everything from the fauna and flora to the cuisines of the world....

31 min
The Native South and Southwest in the 1600s

03: The Native South and Southwest in the 1600s

You'll examine the cultures that existed prior to the Spanish Invasion, the struggle for power through Hernando de Soto's entrada through the Southeast, and the Pueblo War for Independence in the Southwest. Dr. Cobb introduces the Native American worlds that were born in the aftermath of these transformative events....

32 min
Werowocomoco and Montaup in the 1600s

04: Werowocomoco and Montaup in the 1600s

Using common material objects as examples, Dr. Cobb demonstrates how connections were forged between Native Americans and newcomers as they incorporated each other into their worlds. In doing so, both cultures were transformed. You'll examine specific examples across the Northeastern Woodlands down to Werowocomoco, in present-day Virginia, to understand how the search for common ground began at fi...

30 min
Iroquoia and Wendake in the 1600s

05: Iroquoia and Wendake in the 1600s

Once Europeans arrived, the Native peoples of the Northeast were determined to maintain their autonomy, despite becoming more integrated with the newcomers. Focusing on the strategies and experiences of the Wendat and Iroquois, you'll understand how Native Americans transformed the European colonial project while preserving a measured separatism....

29 min
Indian-European Encounters, 1700-1750

06: Indian-European Encounters, 1700-1750

Through an exploration of the Iroquois Confederacy and the Lenape-or Delaware-people in the Northeast, the Great Lakes region-called by the French the pays d'en haut-- and the Southeast, you'll learn how Native Americans kept or lost their lands through treaties, war, and negotiations. In many cases, the repercussions of these conflicts sometimes went beyond relocation, resulting in ensl...

32 min
The Seven Years' War in Indian Country

07: The Seven Years' War in Indian Country

The French and Indian War is often portrayed in history as a crucial turning point for Native nations in the East. In some cases, that is true. For some, it served as a victory, for others a defeat. And for a greater number still it had no immediate impact on their lives. This lecture will change the storyline you've heard by exploring the perspectives of Native people who experienced the era quit...

30 min
The American Revolution through Native Eyes

08: The American Revolution through Native Eyes

Examine three ways Native Americans experienced the American Revolution: as allies, as participants in their own civil wars, and as neutral parties. For many Native Americans, the resolution of the American Revolution held little meaning: there would be no liberty for them under the rule of the colonists or the Crown. It was also a period that resulted in treaties and conflicts between Nativ...

31 min
Indian Resistance in the Ohio Country

09: Indian Resistance in the Ohio Country

Explore how the 1783 Treaty of Paris-which settled the American Revolutionary War between England and the colonists-brought no peace to Native Americans. Programs that were instituted during this period to help Native nations become self-sufficient-such as "expansion with honor" or establishing reservations-ultimately had the opposite effect....

31 min
Indian Removal: Many Trails, Many Tears

10: Indian Removal: Many Trails, Many Tears

One of the most well-known and dramatic stories in American history is that of the Cherokee nation and the Trail of Tears. Professor Cobb reveals the story behind the story-one of two nations emerging and transforming, during which legal battles, political manipulations, and a clash between the ill-defined limits of federal and state jurisdiction and tribal sovereignty that eventually reached the ...

32 min
Native Transformations on the Great Plains

11: Native Transformations on the Great Plains

From John Wayne to Dances with Wolves, we are presented a very distinct view of Native Americans in the West. Professor Cobb presents a profoundly different perspective on this story. From Lewis and Clark's "discovery" of a West that was an established home for thousands of indigenous people to the three factors that drove more change than anything else in the transformation of Plains cultures-gun...

29 min
Indians, Manifest Destiny, and Uncivil Wars

12: Indians, Manifest Destiny, and Uncivil Wars

The Civil War is a turning point in American history, upholding the Constitutional promises of freedom for ... some. One of the pivotal components of the decades leading up to the Civil War was expansion into the West under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which drew non-Indians into the West and sparked innumerable conflicts with Native nations. Examine the role Native Americans played in the year...

33 min
Native Resistance in the West, 1850s-1870s

13: Native Resistance in the West, 1850s-1870s

Delve deeper into the struggle for lands in the Plains between the 1850s and the 1870s. You'll meet the fighters you've heard of, such as Sitting Bull, as well as those you may not have heard about, such as the Hunkpapa Gall, the Oglala Crazy Horse, and the Northern Cheyenne Wooden Leg, who led successful battles and defeated General Custer. You'll also see the negative repercussions of the ...

32 min
The Last Indian Wars?

14: The Last Indian Wars?

Focusing on the Far West, Southwest, and Plateau regions, Professor Cobb examines early laws put in place in California to "control" Native Americans during the gold rush, including state funding to kill or enslave Native Americans. You'll also meet the "real" Geronimo and learn how he came to symbolize the Chiricahua Apache struggle to maintain independence, as well as Chief Joseph of the Nimi'ip...

31 min
Challenging Assimilation and Allotment

15: Challenging Assimilation and Allotment

Reveal how Native Americans adjusted to or refused to give in to the extraordinary challenges and changes they faced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries-specifically the federal government's deliberate and multifaceted effort to dismantle tribal lands and obliterate tribal cultures through allotment and assimilation. Instead, Native people adopted innovative strategies that allowed them ...

32 min
American Indians and the Law, 1883-1903

16: American Indians and the Law, 1883-1903

Violence and war were not the only options. Even after the alleged "last Indian wars," Native Americans continued to fight for their rights and lands through the same legal system that had worked towards displacing them. You'll review three critical court cases, and meet leaders such as Standing Bear and Lone Wolf who stood up against "the courts of the conqueror" and continued to seek justice and...

30 min
The Ghost Dance and the Peyote Road

17: The Ghost Dance and the Peyote Road

Professor Cobb explores how many Native people took matters into their own hands and gained a renewed sense of place, harmony, and balance through two religious movements: The Ghost Dance-often misperceived as the last gasp of resistance before the Indians' final vanishing act, and the Peyote Road-a critically important pathway to peace, reconciliation, and belonging....

31 min
Native America in the Early 1900s

18: Native America in the Early 1900s

Discover how Native Americans confounded the late 19th- and early 20th-century predictions about their inevitable disappearance by getting involved in very public arenas, becoming political actors and writers, artists, and athletes. Professor Cobb tells the stories of Native Americans who broke out of the stereotypes and examines their actions through four concepts: expectation, anomaly, the unexp...

33 min
American Indians and World War I

19: American Indians and World War I

Explore Native Americans' involvement in World War One and how it changed the meaning of citizenship and sovereignty in the beginning of the 20th century. Examine why Native soldiers fought in all of the major offensives after America's entry into the war, defending a country that was hostile to tribal sovereignty and also reluctant to extend U.S. citizenship to Native people....

31 min
Making a New Deal in Native America

20: Making a New Deal in Native America

Uncover some of the hidden histories of the period between the late 1920s and early 1940s as you learn how Native Americans set about making a New Deal for themselves and their communities during an era of uncertainty and convulsive change for the nation at large. You'll also get an introduction to the Indian New Deal, which helped open the door to greater self-government, economic developme...

33 min
American Indians and World War II

21: American Indians and World War II

Move from World War I and the turbulent 30s to World War II to learn how the war and onset of the atomic age transformed the lives of Native Americans. While the challenges and opportunities faced by Native Americans paralleled the ones faced by many other Americans, you'll learn how the outcomes proved to be vastly different. And you'll discover Native American heroes of the War, often uncelebrat...

31 min
Indian Termination or Self-Determination?

22: Indian Termination or Self-Determination?

Explore American Indian experiences during the early Cold War period, when loyalties were often questioned. Native Americans used the politics of the Cold War era to define freedom through the 1950s and 1960s. Nationalism and decolonization then surfaced as conflicts over fishing rights brought the struggle over Native American treaty rights back into the foreground of American consciousness....

35 min
Native Radicalism and Reform, 1969-1978

23: Native Radicalism and Reform, 1969-1978

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the efflorescence of American Indian militancy, beginning with the occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969, through to the Trail of Broken Treaties in November 1972 and the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973. Professor Cobb will demonstrate how Native American activism intersected with the mainstream movements of the era through literature, music, art, and higher educ...

32 min
Reasserting Rights and Tribal Sovereignty

24: Reasserting Rights and Tribal Sovereignty

Professor Cobb will reveal how tribal nations haven't settled for survival alone. We are still in the midst of an era of recovery and revitalization-one that has tested the limits of individual rights and tribal sovereignty. He'll follow a few of the critical sites of contemporary struggle, including gaming, repatriation, religious freedom, federal recognition, self-government, legal jurisdiction,...

40 min