Final Paper Assignment: Short History of an Indigenous Community or Issue


  • The purpose of this paper is to give you practice researching, organizing, and composing a brief, formal essay.
  • This essay will be posted to the UI History Corps website as part of a collective exhibit on global Indigenous histories in the twentieth century. Think of your essay as a chapter in a collection of essays about this subject.
  • While the content of this paper focuses on our course’s subject matter, the skills practiced here are transferable to any subject in any academic discipline or profession. Use this assignment as an opportunity to practice writing crisp, concise, well-researched, and thoughtful memos and reports that your colleagues and superiors could find useful, no matter the topic or professional setting.
  • You must use at least two reputable scholarly secondary sources (not Wikipedia or similarly unverified sources) and one primary source in the creation of this essay. See “Essay Writing Tips” on ICON for additional help.


In a 1,300-word (about four-page) essay, offer a thoughtful analysis of the history or histories of either 1) A particular Indigenous community somewhere in the world; 2) A group of Indigenous communities with shared experiences in a particular global region; or 3) A specific issue or aspect of an Indigenous community’s history. While it is permissible to mention historical events or people that occurred prior to 1900, the main focus of your essay should be on twentieth-century events, issues, and/or processes.

This essay should not simply take the form of a chronological summary of an Indigenous community’s history or that of a specific issue. Instead, your paper should have a strong thesis about that history, followed by an organized discussion that drives home some point about the past, which you can back up with evidence from cited sources. In an essay on the forced assimilation of Australian children, for example, one would not merely point out that the Australian government set up schools, took aboriginal children, and tried to assimilate them. Instead, one would explain how aboriginal Australians experienced and reacted to these efforts.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I find most interesting, significant, or compelling about the Indigenous community or issue at hand?
  • Is there a point or perspective on that history that has thus far been neglected in the available literature? If so, how might I address it?
  • How does the history of this particular community intersect with the broader trends with which we’ve dealt in the course and readings?
  • What background or contextual information will my readers need in order to understand the history about which I’m writing and accept my thesis as a viable take on the issue?
  • How might I organize this essay to concisely cover a wide swath of information while engaging my reader and keeping their interest?

Format and citations:

Your paper should be at least 1,300 words long (about four double-spaced pages), using Times New Roman font, size twelve (12), with one-inch margins and page numbers. You do not need a cover page. Your name and the date should be single-spaced in the upper left-hand corner of your paper, and your paper must be stapled and titled.

All ideas and material paraphrased or pulled from primary and/or secondary sources must be cited according to the notes/bibliography section of the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. (See for examples and explanations of citations.)

Grading rubric:

This essay counts for 25% of your course grade and should reflect your effort to improve upon the comments and suggestions provided on earlier assignments, as well as those from your peer-reviewers. It will earn a letter grade based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity of thesis statement
  • Support for thesis based on specific, cited examples from secondary or primary sources
  • Organization (introduction, logical succession of coherent paragraphs that each make a clear point in support of your argument, then conclusion)
  • Clarity of writing (word choice, clutter edited out, etc.)
  • Grammar (subject/verb agreement, punctuation, etc.)
  • Proofreading (don’t rely only on spellcheck or autocorrect)

Bonus Points:

Each student can earn up to five bonus points for including an illustration (map, photograph, diagram, etc.) that will accompany your essay in the History Corps online exhibit. All illustrations must be:

  • Open-source and therefore available for publication on the History Corps website; and
  • Accompanied by a brief caption that explains the image and its relevance to the subject of your essay, as well as an attribution to the image’s source.

(See and for information on selecting open-source images.)

Resources for writing well:

See the terrific writing guides online at the History Writing Center’s website, and visit the HWC for an in-person consultation on improving your essay:

Academic honesty/plagiarism reminder:

Cheating in any form (including plagiarism) will result in an “F” for the assignment and will be reported to the CLAS Dean’s Office. Please familiarize yourself with the university’s policy on academic dishonesty at

Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, intentional or unintentional use of direct quotes without proper attribution and/or quotation marks; the use of someone else's ideas without appropriate attribution; and handing in someone else's work as your own.

Make sure your paper is written entirely in your own words!  Quotations from the reading should be identified clearly by citations.  Not even one sentence of your paper should be words that you have taken from another student or from some other source, unless you cite appropriately.  You also may not paraphrase someone else's work and present it as your own (i.e., without following it by a citation).  Paraphrasing is restating someone else’s writing in slightly different words.

Examples of Primary Sources:

Newspapers, letters, legal or personal documents, or maps/illustrations from the period

—See digital archives from university libraries, repositories like Lexus Nexus, Wiley Plus, etc. (available through UI library online)

Examples of Secondary Sources:

Books and articles written by academic experts.

            —See library holdings, JSTOR, and other online journals.

Examples of Potential Paper Topics/Areas of Focus:

Education and Assimilation —Urbanization                     —Activism in relation to the UNDRIP

—Citizenship                          —Economic Sovereignty         —Identity Politics

—National Minorities             —Cultural Sovereignty            —Recognition


***Attribution: If you do not want your name attached to your essay when it is posted to the History Corps, please copy-and-paste the following statement at the very bottom of your final draft, after the last line of text:

I do not wish to have my name attached to this essay when it is posted on the UI History Corps website.  ________________________________(signature), __________ (date)

*You are not required to attach your name to your posted work, though doing so is recommended. There will be no penalty for choosing not to do so.

Assignment Parameters