Course Spotlight – Special Topics Course on Queer Indigenous Studies

Course Title: Queer Indigenous Studies
What is this course about?
“Queer Indigenous Studies” is a course designed to introduce students to the experiences, ideas, art, and lives of Two-Spirit and LGBTQ Indigenous people both in North America and beyond, as well as to explore key ideas in the emerging field of Queer Indigenous Studies. In addition to analyzing core themes like reclamation, gendercide, normativity, spirituality, and others, we also delved into queer Indigenous writing on Caribbean, Pacific, and South African contexts.
What does feminist pedagogy look like in your classroom? 
Our class was lucky enough to take place in a Collaborative Learning Classroom, which offered lots of opportunities for small group discussions, detailed hashing-out of ideas on whiteboards, and presenting work for each other on the many large screens. Feminist pedagogy in Queer Indigenous Studies meant more than just technology, however—the collaborative approach involved students working together to create everything from mini exhibits of activist history to making memes to explore the role of social media in queer Indigenous communities today. It’s really important, for my pedagogy, to help students see how the learning process is also a process of co-creation that can extend far beyond the classroom.  
What is a favorite learning activity that you assign in this course? 
One of my favorite activities is a “whirlwind tour” of early queer Indigenous literature. In groups, students look at physical copies of two books published by queer Indigenous authors between 1980 and 2000, and see what they can learn about it in only a few minutes and no Internet searches. Both times I’ve done this activity, by the end of the class period students have told me they already put a hold on one of the books at the library so they could read it later!
What is one idea or theme you want your students to take away from this class? 
A big theme throughout our class has been becoming comfortable with not being able to put a single definition on people’s identities and experiences. Some students spend the first few weeks of class frustrated that we can’t easily define “Two-Spirit,” but by the end of class, many of them have expressed that this refusal to define has opened their minds to other ways of thinking about gender and sexuality
How do you hope this course will help your students beyond the semester they’re working with you? 
A number of the students last semester did their final projects on topics that they were interested in because of their major, or an extracurricular activity they are involved in. Some students going into fields like social work expressed a hope that they would be able to provide more nuanced care to potential queer Indigenous clients. Another student wanted to bring back the things she learned to the student organization she leads so that they can improve their inclusivity. Because the class relied on students facilitating discussion, I think many of them came to feel a bit more comfortable with the process of taking leadership roles in organizing material and speaking publicly, too. Overall, even for folks who may not encounter queer Indigenous issues very often, learning to engage with material by people with very different lived realities is critical for anyone trying to move through the world in a good way.