Louise Laruse, Spokane
Louise Laruse, Spokane

Syllabus for

ANTHR7: Native Peoples of North America

Spring Semester 2011

TTh 11:10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

The final exam consists of a critical analysis of the movie Smoke Signals. No other movie is acceptable.

To obtain a copy of the Final Exam CLICK HERE.

Instructor Information
: Chuck Smith
Office: Room 430A
Office Phone
: (831) 477-5211
Office Hours: By appointment
Mailing Address
: Department of Anthropology, Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, California 95003
Email: crsmith@cabrillo.edu

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to American Indian cultures (north of Mexico). It surveys the histories of the American Indians from their first arrival to today, and examines the historical-cultural experiences that have contributed to present day conditions of Native American communities and individuals, focusing on the effects of Indian-European contact on both the Native and Euroamerican cultures. Additionally, specific North American native nations are examined in-depth study. The course consists of readings, lectures, discussions, critical film viewing, writing assignments and field trips and evaluation of student competence is based on all of these, as well as class participation. The course requires a minimum of 4,000 words of critical analytical written work (achieved through a combination of essay exams and a research paper). This course fulfills Cabrillo College's Area D: Social and Behavioral Sciences requirement, the Multicultural Studies Requirements and has transfer credit to CSU and UC.

The emphasis in this course is anthropological. This is NOT a history course. This is NOT an archaeology course. However, students will review historical events, as well as the “prehistoric” past(i.e., the time before they became part of the European written record) of these groups. We will address how this is a course about culture, and the historic changes in various cultural stories.

The cultures of North America are incredibly diverse. The variety of cultures existing pre-European contact and continuing into present-time is staggering. In our class, historic diversity is condensed into “culture areas.” This course will introduce you to several, but not all, of the Indigenous North American culture areas. During these units, lecture focuses on drawing a basic cultural picture for each area, highlighting typical groups for the area as well as introducing groups that may appear quite different than other groups in the culture area. Whereas, the readings will often reflect historic moments of cultural conflict or unity for a given area, the lectures will focus on cultural description.

This course will focus primarily on the cultural dimensions of American Indian groups. Students will learn what type of environments various groups adapted to and students will be introduced to the variety of languages, arts, music, ceremony, and social institutions established across the North American continent before non-Indian contact, through non-Indian contact and invasion, and into present day. Students will be introduced to some of the contemporary issues facing Indian communities, as well as the continued presence of the past in these communities. In addition, at the beginning and end of the semester, students will look at representations of American Indians in various cultural contexts and discuss the ways in which both Indians and non-Indians create and use these representations.

Course Objectives

By the end of the class, you should be able to provide an integrated overview of the Native Peoples of North America. At a minimum you should be able to:

Course Materials

Course Organization

The course is organized around two basic themes: Historical Sketches and Ethnographic Descriptions. We'll spend the first few weeks of the semester learning about the evolution of the native peoples, from their beginnings in North America up to the first sustained contact with Europeans, which is anywhere between 1500 C.E. ("common era") and 1850 C.E., depending upon the region of North America under study. To ensure a balanced view of beginnings and what came after, we'll learn both the native people's views about their origins as well as the "tales" anthropologists tell.

The next 8-10 weeks of the semester are devoted to learning about some of the manifold economic and social adaptations made by the native peoples in various geographical regions of North America. As a primary organizational device for this part of the semester we will rely on the "culture area" concept. A culture area is a region where the inhabitants share such things as ecological, economic, social, and ideological systems. Such an organizing principle is an abstraction, a classificatory device convenient for grouping societies that are similar in terms of many aspects of their culture, but primarily subsistence and material culture. (For a fuller treatment of the pros and cons of using such a classificatory device click here.) The major culture areas of the North American continent are: Arctic, Subarctic, Plateau, Northwest Coast, California, Great Basin, Southwest, Plains, Northeast Woodlands, Southeastern Woodlands. The focus during this part of the class is on what is called the "ethnographic present", a term refering to a native way of life before it was substantially disrupted by direct contact with Europeans. Because contact with and disruption of native lifeways occurred over a span of some 250 years, the "ethnographic present" varies from one part of North America to another.

The final few weeks of the semester will be devoted to considering the impact of the European and Euroamerican conquests and colonization on the native people and the particular circumstances that have had an effect on their lives. We also will discuss contemporary issues that are of concern to North America's native peoples (including the return of items of cultural patrimony, such as human remains, burial goods and other "sacred" items of material culture, the issues surrounding gambling casinos on reservations, the continuing cultural thievery of Native American culture, and the issues of sovereignty for the native peoples).

Basic Requirements:

You are expected to attend all lectures. If you are absent because of illness or legal reasons, please be prepared to verify the reason. Medical- or legal-related absences do not relieve students from the responsibility of making up any work missed. It's a good idea to take notes because material may be presented in class that is not covered in the textbook and handouts; and it's your responsibility to obtain information concerning missed work and to see that it's completed and turned in. Should you miss a class, please do NOT come and ask, "Did I miss anything important?" Instead, ask me for any reading or homework assignments as well as contacting a class member and asking for copies of her/his notes.

Absence from class in excess of one week will constitute reason for my reducing your semester grade one complete level. Absence from class in excess of two weeks will constitute reason for my dropping you from the class.

Respect. Perhaps one of the most important things I've learned from the native peoples is the important of respect: respect for the world and all it's inhabitants, including the rocks, trees, water, plants, animals, and humans. While making this class interesting depends on your constructive participation, it also depends greatly on respect for one another. This includes arriving on time; not getting ready to go until the class is over, and listening to each other. It means joining into discussions, responding to each other rather than only to me. If you participate thoughtfully everyone can gain from this class. Also, I have this "thing" about punctuality. Arriving late disrupts the class in session and is disrespectful to the other students and me. Therefore, each class participant is expected to be in class on time. If you should arrive late, here are the consequences: the first time you are late nothing will happen; the second time you are late you will be REQUIRED to bring to the very next class meeting snacks for the entire class. Also, every time you arrive late I deduct 5 points from the total number of points you accrue during the semester.

Evaluation of Student Competency

I need some way to assess the knowledge you have gained from this course. I have chosen to do this through a combination of exams, a poster project, a mapping exercise, and a book analysis.

Exams (Total point value of 300)

Two exams - a midterm and a final - each worth 150 points. The midterm will be given on March 31st; the FINAL EXAM IS A TAKE-HOME. For a copy of the FINAL EXAM CLICK HERE. Your completed exam must be in my hands no later than June 2nd at 10 am. The midterm exam will consist of multiple choice questions and short essays.Students are required to bring a ScanTron (AF200 - the "blue" one) and a #2 pencil to class on midterm exam days. Testing aides, such as notes and books, are NOT allowed.

I evaluate essay answers on your exams as follows: (1) Does the answer have a topic sentence &/or introductory paragraph? (2) Does the answer clearly explain the concept(s) under scrutiny? (3) Does the answer contain an example relevant to the question?

Thematic Analysis of a Book (Point value of 100)

You are to choose one of the books listed below and produce an original essay of at least 5, but no more than 8, pages. Depending on the book chosen, your essay is due no later than the beginning of class on March 17th (Death); March 31st (Power), April 21st (Gardens; Watermelon), or May 12th (Morning). The length requirement should give you an idea of the level of analysis needed to fulfill this assignment. No more than eight students may read the same book. To that end, there is a sign-up sheet taped to my office door. You are to PRINT your name next to the title of the book you will be reading and analyzing. The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll be able to get started reading and writing.

Your essay should explore the major themes in your chosen work(s) that make up the worldview of the author and the native peoples that form the main subjects of the material. You should relate your discussion in some fashion to the section of the course covering the same area. All of the books take place in the more recent past, so one constant theme is what connection exists between the world views of past and present.

This assignment MUST involve a creative and interpretive effort on your part. Your essay must NOT be a book report. Assume that your reader has already read the book and knows the plot. You are writing to interpret elements of an expressed world, and to make connections between the work you have read and topics that we have encountered in our study of Native American history and culture.

For complete information on the Book Analysis, click here (the information is contained in a WORD.doc which will open on your desktop.)

Grading Scale:
Your final semester grade is based on the total number of points accrued.

 More than 540 points = A  539 -480 points = B  479 - 420 points = C  419 - 360 points = D  below 360 points = F

Tentative Schedule of Lecture Topics, Reading and Video Assignments

Caveat Lector: The basic format for this class is lecturing, supplemented with in class activities and videos. However, my lectures do not simply recapitulate your readings; instead, the lectures and readings (and videos) compliment each other. My lectures often introduce new material not in print, summarize material from multiple sources, clarify difficult concepts, and hopefully help you identify what is important in your readings and the videos. Some of my lectures are expository (explain what, why, who, when, where, how, etc.), other are provocative (challenge and question assumptions, both mine and yours), and a few include demonstrations (how to). Therefore, if you are to succeed in this class it is critically important that you read the assigned material. In addition we will be watching a number of videos this semester. All (except for the 500 Nations series) are available only during scheduled class showings. So if you miss one of them, you're out 'o luck. Since the videos compliment, rather than duplicate, my lectures, and since there are invariably some questions on the Midterm and Final exams which are based on the videos, it's a good idea to try and come to all classes. The 500 Nations series is available in the Cabrillo College Library, call number E77.J787 F58 1995. Also, since the works of humans are imperfect and mutable, changes in this schedule are subject to the instructor's discretion and will be announced in class and posted on this web page.

A number of religious holidays (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim, among others) fall during the semester. If it is your customary practice to refrain from any activities, other than those associated with your religious upbringing, on one or more of these holidays and thus will miss class, please see me for an excused absence.



Lecture Topics


Feb. 8, 10 Beginnings


  • Sutton, Chapter 1 AND Chapter 13
  • Wilson, This Is How It Was
  • Farrer, Time and the Mythic Present.


2, 3
Feb. 15, 17; 22, 24 Before the Europeans


  • Sutton, Chapter 3 (pages 48 and 49); Chapter 4 (pages 83 through 85); Chapter 5 (pages 104 and 105); Chapter 6 (pages 125 and 126); Chapter 7 (pages 153 through 155); Chapter 8 (pages 178 through 180); Chapter 9 (pages 204 through 206); Chapter 10 (pages 260 through 261); Chapter 11 (pages 300 and 301); Chapter 12 (pages 336 through 338). This looks like a lot of reading, but its less than 30 pages spread over two weeks. And besides, I know my class is the ONLY class you're taking this semester. Also, you'll need to know this material for one of your "Evaluation of Student Competencies" assignments.


Mar. 1, 3 The Day The Stars Fell


  • Sutton, Chapter 2
  • Wlson, Contact: In The Balance


  • 500 Nations: Episode 3 (Part 1): Clash of Cultures - The People Who Met Columbus

Mar. 8, 10

Myths of Thanksgiving and Indian Princesses


  • Sutton, Chapter 11
  • Wilson, Northeast: Part One, Part Two



  • Ancient America - Indians of the Eastern Woodlands
  • 500 Nations: Episode 4: Invasion of the Coast The First English Settlements;

Mar. 15, 17 Thematic analysis of Death due Mar. 17


  • Sutton, Chapter 11
  • Wilson, New York and the Ohio Country

Mar. 22, 24

A Judgement That Will Live In Infamy

Sequoia and the Cherokee Syllabary



  • Sutton, Chapter 12
  • Wilson, Southeast



  • 500 Nations Episode 6: Removal, War, and Exile in the East
Mar. 29, 31

Singing For Power

NOTE: Thematic analysis of Power is due on Mar. 31st.

NOTE: Midterm on March 31st. Come to class ON TIME & bring a BLUE ScanTron (A200).


  • Sutton, Chapter 9
  • Wilson, Southwest
  • Farrer, Chapters 2 through 4



  • Windtalkers

April 5, 7



April 12, 14 Throwing Up The Clouds


  • Farrer, Chapters 5 through 7

April 19, 21

The Last Wild Indian In North America


NOTE: Thematic analysis of Gardens and Watermelon due on April 21.


  • Sutton Chapter 8
  • Wilson, The Far West


  • Gold, Greed and Genocide
  • Ishi


April 26, 28 Third Genders


  • Sutton, Chapter 10
  • Wilson, The Great Plains


  • 500 Nations Episode 7: Roads Across the Plains Struggle for the West


May 3, 5 The Death of Wakan Tanka


  • Wilson, Kill The Indian To Save The Man


  • TBA

May 10, 12 Note: Thematic analysis of Morning is due on May 12.


  • Wilson, New Deal and Termination

May 17, 19  


  • Wilson, The New Indians

May 24, 26 From Wounded Knee to Black Mountain


  • Wilson, Epilogue


  • White Shamans & Plastic Medicine Men
  • Smoke Signals

Thursday, June 2 Truth or Consequences
 FINAL EXAM: 10:00 - 12:50

Miscellaneous Comments:

Students with Disabilities: Accommodations for this class are made to comply with the American Disabilities Act. So that appropriate arrangements may be made, I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability, including 'invisible' disabilities such as chronic diseases, learning disorders, and psychological disabilities, which may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements. Please see me during office hours, or after class, or contact me by email and explain your needs and appropriate accommodations. Please bring a verification of your disability from the Disabled Student Services offices and a counselor or specialist's recommendations for accommodating your needs.

Contacting the Instructor: Email is the most reliable way to contact me. Unfortunately, I get a lot of junk email and if I don't recognize the sender's name, I delete the message without opening it. Therefore, if you send me an email be sure to put your full name and class name in the subject box. If you would like to speak with me in person you should see me during office hours (see above). If you need to talk to me outside office hours call my voice mail (477-5211). Follow the instructions and leave a message with a phone number where I can reach you. I check that voice mail each day Monday through Thursday before 11 a.m. So if you call on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you most likely will get my response on Monday after 11 am. Plan your calls accordingly. I will return your call once. If you are not present or there is no voice mail you will have to call me again.

Attendance: I have this "thing" about punctuality. Arriving late disrupts the class in session and is disrespectful to the other students and me. Therefore, you are expected to be in class on time. Regular attendance and punctuality are important for both your success and that of the class as a whole. As much of the course material will be presented in lecture, attendance is critical. I take attendance (Students are responsible for documenting their presence by signing the attendance sheet) to encourage your exposure to the material available only in class and to encourage your participation and support in class discussions. Whether or not you attend class, you are responsible for material presented in class, what assignments were made, etc., and you will take responsibility for making up missed work. NOTE: I will not reteach class during office hours. You should arrange with someone in the class to share his/her notes with you if you will not be in class. It is not my job to take notes for you.

Making this class interesting depends on your constructive participation and respect for one another. This includes arriving on time, not getting ready to go until the class is over, and listening to each other. It means joining into discussions, responding to each other rather than only to me. If you participate thoughtfully everyone can gain from this class.

Videos and pdf readings: You will also be responsible for the information contained in the various videotapes and pdf files used in this course. Many of the videos belong to the instructor or other faculty members, and are NOT available for viewing in the library if you miss them the first time around. I do not loan out ANY videos. The various videos included as part of this course are a vital component of the material under study. They are not included as time fillers or for the purpose of entertainment. You are encouraged to take notes during or after each film, and there will be questions about them on the exams.

Hat Policy: Hiding under one's hat is not very conducive to a learning environment. Thus, outdoor-type hats with brims that shade the face, such as baseball caps, fedoras, cowboy hats, and sombreros, must be removed during class. This applies to women as well as men, the instructor as well as the students. Indoor-type hats that do not shade the face, such as turbans, berets, bandannas or yarmulkes, are permissible.

Language Policy: While in the classroom, we will think, discuss and debate as anthropologists. This means that both the instructor and the students will use language that is scholarly and professional, reflecting the fact that we are trying to achieve a greater understanding of the human condition. Learn to express yourself clearly and accurately, and in an intellectual rather than personal fashion. Develop awareness of your own ethnocentrism and make conscious efforts to ameliorate it. Also, be conscious of the language you use to talk about race, ethnicity and gender. For example, no anthropologist publishes articles that refer to "girls" and "guys;" they are "women" and "men."

Food policy: You are welcome to bring something to drink and/or eat into the classroom, but please, CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF!

Cell phone / Beeper Policy: While I recognize that cell phone technology has become a particularly important social resource in our everyday lives, I am requested that if you carry a cell phone (or beeper), PLEASE keep the ringer/buzzer "off" while you are in class (except in those instances where there is a specific reason, such as a medical disability that requires students to be in touch with a health care professional). If your cell phone is heard while lecture is going on, points will be deducted (10 points per occurrence) from your final class score!

Student Feedback: Feel free to make suggestions or to offer constructive criticisms during the class. I'm always open to possibilities so long as core learning goals are being met.

Incompletes: It is the responsibility of the student to request, if needed, the assignment of an incomplete grade. I allow incomplete grades only for students who have passed the midterm, have completed their ethnographic research project, who have a legitimate reason for not completing the semester's work and who speak with me two weeks before the final class. My decision to authorize or not authorize an incomplete grade is final. Arrangement for the completion of the course must be made with me prior to the assignment of the "I" grade. This agreement must be written on an Incomplete Course Form. I may allow up to one semester for the student to complete missing requirements. "I" grades not changed by the end of the following semester will automatically become failing grades ("F").

Makeup Policy: Makeup may be worn to class, but not applied during lectures. You must NOTIFY ME in advance of any circumstances that prevent the completion of course requirements on the dates and by the deadlines given in this syllabus and/or announced in class. My general course policy is not to allow makeup exams and/or written assignments except in extraordinary cases where a student can document that she/he has been hospitalized, imprisoned, or participated in a university sanctioned event (that you were required to attend). Be very cautious about the legitimate and official nature of the documentation. If any of the scheduled exams conflict with the observation of religious holidays, alternative dates for makeup exams may be arranged.

Plagiarism and Cheating: If I detect plagiarism or cheating, you will be notified in writing when the incident is discovered. Academic misconduct may result in severe penalties ranging from reduction of grades and probation to expulsion from the class.

Class Structure: Classroom standards and student conduct for this class follow the Student Code of Conduct outlined in the Cabrillo College Catalog. Should you find it necessary to withdraw from or drop the class, it is your responsibility to fill out the necessary paperwork and submit it to Admissions and Records. Do not assume that I will drop you if you stop attending class. Most likely you'll receive an F for the class, not a drop or W. See class schedule for withdraw and drop dates.

Complaint Procedures: Any student complaints or concerns about this course should first be brought to the attention of the instructor. I will make every effort to resolve the matter to our mutual satisfaction. Should that not happen, the matter may be taken to Nancy Brown, Human Arts and Social Sciences Division Chair.

If you remain in the course after receiving and reviewing this syllabus, I will assume you have read it carefully and understand the mechanics and objectives of the course. It is my hope that this class will be interesting and enjoyable. Your participation in class can greatly enhance this. I am glad you have chosen my class this semester, and I hope it will help you in your quest for academic excellence! Welcome to North American Indians!

 whow tours bus

Next Stop?

Native Peoples of North America: Home Page

Native Peoples of North America: Table of Contents

American Indian Airwaves
(Radio broadcast every Monday night, 8:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m., on KPFK, 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara, and online at www.kpfk.org.)

Revised: 5 May 2011