Native American Curriculum
Integration of World Cultural
Geography and English at the High School Level
". . . an exertion of language upon ignorance and disorder . . ."
N. Scott Momaday
National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar
International Baccalaureate Coordinator
Team Teacher in World Cultural Geography/English I Honors
Mission Viejo High School
Saddleback Valley Unified School District
Coordination of Curriculum:
World Cultural Geography and English
In 1993 Mission Viejo High School piloted an integrated program for
freshman honors students in World Cultural Geography and English I.
Two teachers with 50 students (double-blocked two hours each day
in side-by-side classrooms with moveable walls and an adjacent
theater) study the cultures of the Middle East, the Former Soviet
Union, Africa, Latin America, and the cultural foundations of
Europe via ancient Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages. Speakers,
creative projects, art, simulations and learning games distinguish
this program from others like it. Although our students naturally
make comparisons between the world they inhabit and the worlds
disclosed through our studies, there has been no systematic study
of their own cultural geography in our syllabus. What a glaring
omission! What an unparalleled opportunity to remedy that deficit!
This proposed project follows our usual format of blending
mythology, geography, broad historical outlines, literature and
cultural investigations in each unit, culminating with an
interactive project (e.g., putting Stalin on trial, having a Latin
American "hunger" breakfast, hosting an African Culture Fair, etc.)
The units typically encompass 15 to 20 instructional days or 30 to
40 instructional hours.
- Explore the rich cultural history of the original Americans:
- Understand the distinct life ways of the various nations within
- Appreciate the stored knowledge within stories and songs
- Investigate concepts of quest, koyaanisqatsi (life out of
- Recognize that Native American tradition is not a dead or
frozen culture, but, rather, an alive tradition, one that speaks
in the present.
- Examine the six ways of thinking about the sacred that most
Native Americans share (see Beck, Walters and
- Learn to identify the distortions in perspective in various
- Deconstruct the "image" of the Indian
- Move beyond dichotomous views of "the savage" and the idealized
romantic "noble savage" to see native Americans as distinctive and
- See how geography influences cultural developments such as diet,
ritual, clothing, and myth formation
- Develop an appreciation for the integral role of art and story
in native life
- Discern the value of the oral tradition in transmitting culture
- Become sensitive to the power of language, names and naming in
- Individual lectures by geography/English teachers
- Independent and directed readings
- Creative writing via "re-creations"
- Readers' Theater with selected poetry and stories
- Journal writing for reader responses
- Bafa-Bafa game with Northeast/Southwest and Northwest/Southeast
- Socratic Seminar on The Indian
Removal Act, Chapter CXLVII (1830)
- Student-led discussions on the future of Native American
- Film Koyaanisqatsi as vehicle for discussion and writing
- Write comparison/contrast and/or critique films The Mission
and The Robe
- Visit Bowers Museum to see
- Invite local Indian speakers for colloquies and demonstrations
- Ballantine and Ballantine. Native Americans: An Integrated
- Lesley, Craig and Katheryn Stavrakis, ed. Talking Leaves:
Contemporary Native American Short Stories. New York: Dell,
- Momaday, N. Scott. The Way to Rainy
Mountain. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969.
- Welch, James. Fool's Crow. New York: Penguin, 1986.
Short texts, poems and excerpts:
- "Lullaby" and "Grandma Lillie" from Leslie Marmon Silko's
- "Bear Song," "Song for the Passing of Beautiful Women," "Haida
Cradle Songs," "Iroquois Ritual of Fire and Darkness," from
George W. Cronyn's American Indian
Poetry: an Anthology of Songs and Chants.
- "Two Dresses" (Diane Glancy) and "You May Consider Speaking
About Your Art" (Elizabeth Cook) from Brian Swann and Arnold
Krupat's I Tell You Now: Autobiographical
Essays by Native American Writers.
- "Discoveries" from Michael Dorris' Paper Trail.
- "Where I come From Is Like This" from Paula Gunn Allen's
The Sacred Hoop.
- "Lipsha Morrissey" from Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine.
- "Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective" from
and oral presentation by Leslie Marmon Silko
- "Plea to Those Who Matter" from James Welch's Riding the