Tentative course outline

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AIS 203, Spring, 2009

Introduction to American Indian Studies:

Philosophical and Aesthetic Universes

3:30-5:20 W & Fri with a 5 minute break Prof. Gary Witherspoon

Fisheries Science 107 email: gjspoon@u.washington.edu

Office hours: 6-8 PM W 514C Padelford

Focus and content: AIS 203 is an introduction to American Indian Studies with an emphasis on ideas, philosophy, visual imagery and aesthetics. The course will begin by reviewing human history and cultural development in North America, and by looking at how Indigenous peoples and cultures were subjected to destructive physical violence, deadly diseases and cultural imperialism. In this context, we will look at how Indigenous peoples and cultures have survived and how the Indigenous peoples of North America have impacted both the invading Europeans and the rest of the world.
We will then explore in detail the philosophical universes of two specific First Nation cultures: the Iroquois and the Lakota. A special and important focus of the course will be also be on how the evolution of Second American culture was influenced by the cultures, models and teachings of First Nations peoples. We will also explore Jack Weatherford’s perspective that European colonists in the Americas did not simply transplant European culture to the Americas, but in fact grafted European culture upon Native Roots.
Although all humans occupy the same globe, they live, think and act in very different worlds. These worlds are imaginatively formed, culturally learned and symbolically communicated. The realities that exist in traditional American Indian societies are very different from the realities found in the Western world. First Nations arts, histories and ceremonies must be seen and understood in terms of the cultural contexts in which they were created and in which they express meaning, feeling and form.
For example, in most First Nations cultures, art and music are not viewed as marginal, unessential or extracurricular. Instead, art and music are viewed as mainstream and as a central core to the way of they see the world and see themselves in the world. Indigenous philosophies of art generally place emphasis on creation rather consumption, production rather than preservation, and design rather than display. It is the act of creation that is essential to being human in these cultures.
Requirements: Three exams weighed equally. Exams will be a combination of long essay, short answer, fill in the blank, and objective questions. Exams must be taken when given unless there are emergencies involved.
Grades: Grades will be based 30% on each of three midterm, non-cumulative exams. Some bonus credit will be given for classroom participation and contribution. Bonus credit is also given to answers to essay questions that are deemed especially outstanding.
Resources: All assigned readings are from listed texts, or are available at my website garywitherspoon.com or on electronic reserve at the website of the undergrad library. Shorter articles are on electronic reserve and can be downloaded to your desktops. I also have readings and class lectures posted on my website at graywiutherspoon.com. The two principal texts are available at the bookstore: Jack Weatherford’s Native Roots and Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks. Only Black Elk Speaks will be read in its entirety. Jack Weatherford’s other book Indian Givers is also recommended. Films and videos on the syllabus are listed in bold italics. Copies of the major videos used in the course will be on reserve at the Media Desk on the mezzanine of the undergrad library, as well as posted on my website.
a and b sections on the same date indicate topics for the first and second class hours on a single day.

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