Lesson 1: Prehistory and Colonialism

Today in ANT 358, we’ll be laying down the basics for talking about individual American Indian cultures and their experiences over the last 500+ years. The students read Chapters 1 and 2 in Wendell Oswalt’s This Land was Theirs and Chapters 1-5 in Peter Nabokov’s Native American Testimonies. We’re going to briefly discuss very broad cultural developments, such as the peopling of the Americas, the development of agriculture, and the rise of complex societies, to set a general stage for discussing individual societies and cultures.

We’re also going to discuss some of the broad trends of European-American Indian interactions from first contact through the twentieth century. Again, understanding the nature of interactions and U.S. policies in a general sense will help to understand the experience for individual societies and people. It will also help to understand the variability in interactions with Europeans. Nabokov’s book is very good for these types of discussions because it offers the views of individuals and shows the diversity of American Indian opinions and experiences. The organization and content helps to humanize these events and policies. It’s important in an anthropology course to discuss big cultural trends and to think about explanations and ultimate vs. proximate causes… but it’s also important not to lose sight of the people that experienced these things.

Off we go… It’ll be April before we know it.

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