(Shared Places): Tribal Cultures and Histories
isem 101 (42)  

Description and Goals
Course Themes
Course Requirements
Class Schedule
Your Guide to Writing a Reading
Indigenous Aesthetics
Indian Humor
Historical Trauma
Federal Indian Policy


Course Description and Goals
Native undergraduate students at the University of Idaho requested this course which was designed by American Indian Studies Program faculty with student input. The intent of the course is to study American Indian culture and histories before and after contact with Euro-American culture through a Native American perspective. The readings, films, guest lectures are authored by American Indians and/or scholars of Native America. Oral traditions, the significance of place, a holistic approach to all living things and the importance of rituals will guide and inform the teaching and learning in this course.

We will explore the storied landscapes of Northwest tribal peoples with a focus on four major themes: wisdom sits in places, all my relations, the trickster (resilience), and circle of life.

Our goal and that of the Native students who asked us to create this course is to facilitate an understanding of place from an indigenous perspective; to provide UI students with an opportunity to develop a critical understanding and appreciation for a local (yet global) Indigenous worldview and life experience different from their own, one which will deepen their experience of where we are and of the people who know this place the most intimately and enduringly. Welcome! In addition, below are more learning outcomes:

A.  Three primary learning outcomes:

1)  The first primary outcome of this course is to allow you to gain a heightened understanding of and appreciation for Indian Peoples, their sovereign status, along with their cultural, spiritual, aesthetic, literary, philosophical, social/family, political, and economic/subsistence expressions, as well as the diversity of those expressions within the contemporary world.  Each tribal community is to be appreciated for its uniqueness and individuality. 

2)  The second primary outcome is dual-fold.  By juxtaposing that which is culturally distinct along side that which is immediate though often veiled, the contours of the landscape of one’s own culture and world view become clearer.  You will gain a heightened understanding of your own unique cultural traditions and world view, as well as realize the common threads of our shared humanity, transcending the cultural differences between Indian and non-Indian communities, and between Indian communities.  

3)  The third primary outcome is to have you explore within yourself and articulate how you are going apply the knowledge and skills gained from your major field of study and this course to "make a difference" and provide a positive contribution to the quality of life of others within your own family and community.  

B. Six specific learning outcomes:

1)  You will gain an appreciation of the central role the oral traditions and the First Peoples play in creating and maintaining all aspects of the traditional Indian world, as expressed in art and architecture, in ceremonial life, in social and family life, and in hunting and fishing relations with the Animal Peoples.  

2)  As contact with Euro-American culture has had an critical impact on Indians society, you will gain an appreciation of the history of Indian-white relations and the colonization of Indians.  

3)  As you are attempting to understand a world view distinct from Euro-American culture, you will gain an awareness of the epistemological and pedagogical issues associated with Indian "knowing" and "education."  

4)  In attempting to understand American Indian world view, as well as attempt to apply what you have learned from this course, you will be introduced to the value of an interdisciplinary approach, and will be able to apply the tools of an interdisciplinary approach outside this course.  Among the disciplinary approaches relied upon are American Indian Studies, Anthropology, History, Law, Literature,  Sociology, and Political Science.  

5)  In our ethnically diverse society and culturally pluralistic world it is critical that we develop a tolerance of and respect for the varied world views of other cultures and peoples. An understanding of the Indian world view is an essential first step in facilitating an heightened ability for Indian-white communication, cooperation and collaboration.  

6)  In acknowledging the sovereignty of each Indian Tribe, an appreciation of the ethical considerations associated with intellectual and cultural property rights will be gained. When Indian culture and history are presented in an academic classroom or in any public forum, and to help assure the "authenticity" and "appropriateness" of what is considered most cherished by Indian peoples, a collaboration between the instructor and tribal representatives should occur.  

Broad Course Objectives:




·      Explore contemporary issues and experiences from multiple perspectives and time frames


·      Create awareness of and sensitivity to the diversity of humankind by

o       developing an understanding of diverse values, attitudes and interpretations

o       learning how values are shaped by culture

o       critically examining personal values and attitudes


·      Foster intellectual curiosity about and an appreciation for knowledge outside students’ current frames of reference


·      Experience the richness of campus culture though lectures, concerts, theater productions, gallery exhibits, etc.




·      Develop effective communication skills by

o       learning to convey ideas coherently and effectively in written and oral form

o       improving interpersonal skills through effective participation in class discussions, posing thoughtful questions, listening and responding to others


·      Develop the ability to think critically by

o       learning how to identify and evaluate arguments

o       learning how to assess multiple perspectives on a single issue/topic


·      Develop the ability to gather and synthesize information from different disciplines and various sources, e.g., texts, public documents, surveys, internet sites, interviews.


·      Accomplish tasks through group work


·      Develop academic skills necessary for success in this and other college courses by


o       enhancing information literacy

o       developing a working knowledge of university library and technology resources

o       practicing active reading and effective note taking




·      Provide an atmosphere in which differing opinions are respected and in which an open exchange of ideas is encouraged


·      Stimulate interactions with faculty and other students


·      Facilitate adjustment to the academic demands of college


·      Provide a general orientation to university life


·      Foster conversations with students who differ in terms of race or ethnicity, political opinions, religious beliefs, or personal values