Spring 2015

Native American Life: Past and Present

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-201

Moodle site: Course


Howard Kimewon (Section 01)


Through a focus on Native American traditional lifeways and the contemporary efforts by Native Peoples to revitalize these practices, students will learn to think critically about decolonization, the complexities of contemporary tribal economies and politics, and the complex ways that indigenous peoples globally are working to create sustainable futures for their communities. These key themes will be built upon and reinforced each week as students explore multiple aspects of Native American life, including food ways and plant medicines, residential/boarding schools, traditional spiritual practices, repatriation, and protection of sacred sites and heritage landscapes.

Through a series of weekly written response papers and collaborative projects students will consider how traditional ecological knowledge and other critical cultural information are transmitted through oral tradition and storytelling. They will also examine each topic through through scholarly writing from social sciences and humanities disciplines. Students will then be asked to integrate these forms of knowledge and consider how they complement each other, how and why they might differ from one another, and how best to address situations in which these diverse forms of knowledge conflict with each other. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the course material and the integration of knowledge through a mid-term and final exam. Throughout the semester, students will also learn through hands-on community engagement, including the construction of a birch bark canoe. During the last week of class we will be putting the canoe into the river -- a culmination of collaborative work and hands-on experience with revitalization of traditional knowledge and practices in a contemporary setting.

Key readings for the course include: The Island of the Anishinaabeg: Thunderers and Water Monsters in the Traditional Ojibwe Life-world by Theresa Smith, Our Knowledge is Not Primitive: Decolonizing Botanical Anishinaabe Teachings by Wendy Makoons Geniuz, and The Common Pot by Lisa Brooks. Students will also be assigned readings from a number of scholarly journals, including Ethnohistory, Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Transcultural Psychiatry, and the Journal of Ethnobiology.

Spring semester. Visiting Professor Kimewon.


Community Based Learning


2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015