This course explores the culture of several Native American societies from pre-Colombian times to the present. This will involve discussions of traditional culture, modern culture, and the changes that occurred between. The diverse cultural development of Native American societies will be covered individually and within the context of broader anthropological topics. Unfortunately, it is impossible to discuss every Native American society over the course of one semester, so the course focuses on a set of societies that represent the diversity of cultures. It is also impossible to examine Native American cultures of the last 500+ years without discussing the impacts of European colonization. So, a consistent undercurrent of the course will be the changes in Native American cultures resulting from colonization and the nature of interactions between specific groups and European nations, Canada, and the United States.
Click here for the full syllabus: ANT358 syllabus
Philosophy: Many survey courses of American Indian cultures focus solely on traditional cultures. I believe that understanding traditional culture is important, but I feel as though focusing solely on them perpetuates the misconception that many American Indian cultures are dead or a thing of the past. For this reason, this course covers traditional culture, changes since European contact, and modern cultures for a select number of American Indian cultures, representing the diversity across them. I believe learning about modern cultures is essential so that students understand the modern problems within the Indian communities as well as what life is like for modern Indians in the U.S. I also try to use as much Indian voice as possible. I feel it’s important for students to hear about Indian cultures from Indians. To do this, I bring in several guest speakers, we visit American Indian communities, and we read several works by Indian writers. One of the most thought-provoking of the Indian-written books is Georges Sioui’s For an Amerindian Autohistory (link provided).
One of our fieldtrips is to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Here are a few pictures from the trip in 2011:
Some of the themes we address in the course are done very well in the documentary Reel Injun, which is available on Netflix streaming:
Innovations: The most recent and biggest innovation in this class is the use of ePortfolios. I do not have much to say about their effectiveness at this point because I will be implementing them for the first time in the upcoming semester. However, I am very optimistic that they will really take the students to the next level of understanding. With so much experiential learning, I believe the ePortfolios will be a great way for the students to showcase what they’ve learned in a non-traditional manner and an effective way for me to assess their level of understanding of American Indian cultures.