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Four Classics: First Novels of Native America

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 1, 2012

“Four Classics: First Novels of Native America” is a five-week school teacher seminar for sixteen participants focusing on four contemporary Native American novels in their cultural contexts. The core readings for this seminar, previously offered in 1993, 1995, and 2002, are first novels by D’Arcy McNickle (The Surrounded), N. Scott Momaday (House Made of Dawn), James Welch (Winter in the Blood), and Leslie Marmon Silko (Ceremony). As the project director argues, these novels “reflect a moment when Native fiction received its first major successes.” Close reading of these texts is supplemented by ethnographic, critical, and other contextual materials. In addition to the study of the four novels, the seminar also considers later works by the four authors, as well as film adaptations and documentaries. The participants lead discussions, keep journals, post on the seminar blog, and, with guidance from the director, engage in research and writing projects tailored to their own interests. Discussions are enriched by field trips to the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology and the University of Washington’s Burke Museum, and by opportunities to visit the Lummi and Tulalip reservations. The project hosts visits by Native American scholars and writer Sharon Kinley, director of the Coast Salish Institute at Northwest Indian College; Angelica Lawson, an expert on Native American film from the University of Montana; Gordon Henry, a novelist and director of the Native American Institute at Michigan State University; and D. L. Birchfield, a novelist and professor of Native American studies from the University of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Dates: July 2—August 3 (5 weeks)
Grantee Institutions: Western Washington University
Location: Bellingham, WA

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.