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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Gary J. Witherspoon
AIS 203
Seattle Campus

Introduction: Philosophical and Aesthetic Universes

Social constructions of reality, aesthetic as well as philosophic, as conceptualized by approximately five traditional American Indian cultures from different regions of North America.

Class description

All my power point type lectures with images and videos will be online at my personal website at This will allow those who miss a class to get the material online. The course starts with an introduction to the history and cultures of the First Nations of the US southwest, Mexico, the US southeast and northeast before focusing intensely on the Iroquois and the Lakota. The students will learn Idigenous perspectives on both the development of First Nations cultures in North America and on the Indigenous impact on the development of Second American culture in the United States, with primary foci on political institutions and philosophy, agricultural practices and food, sports, ecological practices and philosophy. In this process, students will also learn the political and social philosophies of the Iroquois, the ecological philosophies and ritual practices and philosophies of the Lakota, as well as the impact First Nations cultures had on the evolution of 20th century American and global sports and athletic traditions. Indigenous sports traditions and their global impact will be expanded in this course over what has been done in the past, and this is because I have recently done new research in this area.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The class will be taught in two 50 minute sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I teach with Apple's PP like program, Keynote, emphasizing visual images and audio/video material as a major part of the learning experience. I also incorporate short clips of videos from widely different sources to bring the material to life. Longer, whole videos are also part of the course where they are fully relevant. Students are free to ask questions and make comments whenever they wish to do so within reason.

Recommended preparation

An open mind is the most important preparation for this course. Second in importance is an ability and a commitment to use the online resources provided. Third is a plan to attend class regularly. Fourth is a plan to learn and think visually as well as narratively. I will make copies of the text, images and videos of my lectures slides available on my website at and at the media center. Shorter readings and the course syllabus will be available on electronic reserve through the library. I can also email you a copy upon request. Texts for the course are Native Roots and Black Elk Speaks.

Class assignments and grading

The only assignments for the course are the assigned readings which are important additions to the lectures and the videos. These assigned readings present material that is both covered and not covered in the class lectures. About 50% of the readings deal with material that are integrated into the class lectures. The remaider of the readings go beyond the content of the class lectures. Likewise, about 50% of the content of the class lectures is not covered in the readings, so it is important to do the assigned readings and to get the class lecture material either in class or online, or both.

Grades are primarily based on your performance on two or three midterm exams. These are independent midterms, so they are not cumulative. There is no cumulative final exam. The exams are about 75% based on the classroom presentations and about 25% based on the readings. I sometimes give some extra credit for those who attend regularly and who participate in and contribute to class discussions. I also give significant extra credit to essay exam answers that I find especially good. I take a little credit off for students who disrupt class by getting up and leaving in the middle class. This of course does not apply to people who have to leave temporarily for physiological reasons. The class is divided into two periods with a break in between the two 50 minute periods. If you must leave before a period is finished, let me know about it ahead of time, sit in the back near the door, and leave as quietly as possible. I do frequently take roll in the second period.

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Gary J. Witherspoon
Date: 07/20/2010