ANTH 146 - Cultures of Native North America


Instructor: Greg Bondar

Email:  gbondar at

Mailbox: 403 Carpenter Bldg.

Home Phone: TBA  (noon-10pm only, please)

Office hours by appt, and on Mondays in Hammond Bldg Computer Lab, Rm 317  Phone (only during Office Hours: 865-1207)

The mention of Native Americans or American Indians typically conjures up specific exciting and romantic images in the minds of most people. However, we should ask ourselves "How accurate is this portrayal?" “What were the lives of American Indians really like?” “Why do they seem so distinctive from other societies elsewhere in the world?” This course will focus on the cultures present in North America (north of Mexico) at the time of earliest European contact, and will seek to explore the wide range of cultural variation in terms of their adaptation to the physical and social environments of this large and diverse region. From this course, I hope every one of you will gain an appreciation, both for what it takes to live in a traditional society, and for the complexity of cultural interactions.

My expectations are that none of you have prior course experience in the social sciences or cultural studies. However, just because this is an introductory class does not mean that I will only expect you to simply memorize "facts" and then regurgitate them back at me on the exams. Instead, I want to strongly encourage critical thinking as the key to understanding the concepts that we will cover in this course. Anybody can memorize and repeat a barrage of "facts" from the Discovery Channel. I want you to understand why scientists believe certain things and how specific processes operate. To get the most out of this class, constantly ask yourself "why is that so?" or "how does this process work?". To do well in this class, you will need to be able to explain and support concepts demonstrating that you understand these contexts. This kind of reasoning is applicable in every other subject that you will study. If nothing else, even if your mind is completely devoid of thoughts about Native Americans as you hand in your final exams, I hope that you will continue to question and seek to understand both the "facts" of others, and your own experiences.
Textbook: America's Fascinating Indian Heritage (1996)
Other materials will be posted as needed to:

Grading Policies: Your final grade will be composed of the following components:

Grades will be assigned via the typical scale of:

20% each: Exam I, Exam II, Exam III

A-= 90-93%, A = 94-100%

10% Book Review

B-= 80-83%, B = 84-86%, B+= 87-89%

10% Museum Project

C = 70-76%, C+= 77-79%

10% Cultural Summary

D = 60-69%

10% Homework/Discussion

F = 0-59%

1) 60% The exams will consist of a choice of essay questions, possibly supplemented by matching or map questions. The exam grades will not be curved unless the average grade is below 70%. No make-up exams will be given. The points for missed exams will be added to the next exam the student takes. No absences will be allowed for the final exam, except for documented conflict with other exams in other classes, or for extreme reasons, such as medical emergencies (travel reservations are not a valid reason), with the permission of the Associate Director of Continuing Education, Dr. Beatty.
2) 10% The book review will be a 4-6 page report based on your analysis of the depiction of Native American cultures in a novel (FICTIONAL work) of your choice. See assignment sheet for specifics.
3) 10% Museum projects will be a 2-3 page report based on information from the Matson Museum of Anthropology on the 2nd. floor of Carpenter Bldg. See assignment sheet for specifics.
4) 10% As the material in this course will be divided into divided into cultural/environmental regions, each consisting of many distinct cultural groups, each student will select a region and construct a brief 2-4 page summary of the practices of a specific cultural group. The best of these will be posted to provide cultural examples for the class on the exams. See assignment sheet for specifics.
5) 10% Your discussion grade will be based on your active, tactful involvement in class discussion--involvement based on your thorough reading of the text, articles, and viewing of the films. In order to receive full credit for the discussion component, you will need to stay up-to-date with the readings so that you can make informed, thoughtful, and relevant contributions to the class. Option: suggest by email two essay questions from that day’s class (which you must have attended) for possible use on the exam.

While attendance will not be demanded apart from the discussion grade, good attendance will be rewarded. Note that each class of Anth 146 will be equivalent to a week of class in other subjects!! For your own sanity, do not miss two consecutive classes. If you know you will be absent from a class, please send me an email before that class. Attendance will be recorded for every class, and each student will earn extra points added towards their total course grade based on the following scale:   None or one absence: +3 pts;  Two absences: +2 pts;  Three or more: +0 pts.
Academic Integrity Statement: Unfortunately, a few students in every class are tempted to try to "beat the system" by dishonest means. Needless to say, such behavior will not be tolerated and will result in the perpetrator receiving a failing grade for the course, and may then be referred to Judicial Affairs for review. If you feel desperate about your progress in this course, please talk with me before resorting to such self-destructive behavior. My job is to help you learn, not to make you fail. Penn State defines academic integrity as the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts (Faculty Senate Policy 49-20). Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Students who are found to be dishonest will receive academic sanctions and will be reported to the University’s Judicial Affairs office for possible further disciplinary sanction.
Disability Access Statement: The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities and is committed to the policy that all people shall have equal access to programs, facilities, and admissions without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in this course or have any questions about physical access, please tell me as soon as possible. Similarly, Penn State also makes an effort to accommodate observation of religious holidays.