Integrating Native American Studies


Integrating Community into Leadership: River Guiding


Course Overview

This course is a merging of two disciplines, Native American Studies and Outdoor Adventure Leadership. Community is a core element of Native American Cultures, as well as a fundamental component of effective outdoor adventure leadership. The concept of community is a fundamental element that flows through this course. Communities, at all levels, use a historical narrative to construct the present understanding of their context. In short, the past is used to create the present. This course is an exploration of ourselves – individually and collectively – because, in order to effectively, and safely, lead others through challenging landscapes like the river, we must first deeply understand our relationship to each other and to the land.

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Course Goals

The meta-goal of this course is to critically examine the held assumptions and beliefs that are used to construct, and understand, our relationship to each other and to the natural environment. To achieve this meta-goal, the course utilizes a theoretical framework rooted within anthropology and psychology. The following, is a list of specific course goals:

  • Utilize “community” as a fundamental framework of the course
  • Utilize critical thinking to evaluate the current state of our Nation and its outdoor adventure leadership industry
  • Utilize a holistic perspective, which is a reflection of the interconnected systems within all of Nature (e.g., ecology is best understood through holism)
  • Critically evaluate the construction of one’s identity and environmental perception, and how they are related to social perception
  • Explore how the use of different epistemologies result in different forms of understandings and knowledge
  • Critically evaluate the current hegemonic historical rhetoric of ‘America’

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This image is of a petroglyph of a turtle on the Wild & Scenic Rogue River. Before the gold rush of the mid 1800’s, Native Americans lived along the banks of the Rogue River for several thousand years.


Required Text and Materials

The First Oregonians (Second Edition), Edited by Laura Berg, Oregon Council of the Humanities (2007).

Recommended Text(s)

First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian (Fourth Edition), Colin G. Calloway, Bedford/St. Martin (2007).

The Soul of an Indian: An Interpretation, Charles Alexander Eastman, Bison Books (1980) originally published in 1911.


Class Outline

The majority of the scheduled class meetings are in the form of experiential education, conducted in the field (e.g., learning through active participation within the river environment). The Rogue River will act as our primary ‘classroom.’ The class will utilize river rafting, as a means of travel, down a local section of the Rogue River (e.g., TouVelle State Park to a primitive river access upstream of Gold Hill, OR.).

The following is a rough outline of how the course will unfold:

First week of the class:

  • Community – What does community have to do with leadership?
  • Traditional Natural Law – Everything, and everybody, has a place and should be respected.
  • Identity & Environmental Perception – Who are you to Nature?
  • Historical Narratives – Who are Native Americans?
  • Nation Building – A house requires ongoing maintenance.
  • Circular versus Linear Thinking – Can you think like Nature?
  • Transgenerational Thinking/Planning – Would you interact differently with Nature if the wellbeing of the future 7 generations were an antecedent to your actions?
  • Environmental Autobiography assignment is due at the end of the first week of class.

Second week of the class:

  • Reflection on Community assignment is due at the beginning of this week’s meetings.
  • Preparation, Respect, Reciprocity, & Responsibility – What is the art and science of risk management? These are some guiding principles of safe leadership.
  • Stewardship, Conservation, & Preservation – Who really owns the Earth? How vast is Nature, and why does it need to be conserved? If we preserve the “wilds” are we really just preserving our deeper selves?
  • The Medicine Wheel & Holism – What constitutes a balanced whole person? What does “all of our relations” truly mean?
  • Ethics – What constitutes right action as an Outdoor Adventure Leader?
  • The Future of The Outdoors/Nature – Is there a future for Nature, and if so, what does it look like?
  • Review of Course Concepts
  • Analytical Research Paper is due at the end of this week’s meetings.

Note – These weeks are not consecutive. The course is designed with ample time to complete readings and assignments.


Guest Speakers

This course utilizes the Native Voice of several guest speakers, as well as scholars of Native American History and Cultural Studies.


Assignments and Expectations

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Environmental Autobiography – This assignment is an introspective exploration of how your identity has been shaped through your experiences with the environment; your experience with the environment is strongly influenced by your attitudes and beliefs about the environment. The intent of this assignment is to help you establish where you are currently at with your environmental paradigm, and to identify the sources that have come together to help form this fundamental component of your person-environment relationship. This assignment is also an opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to use critical thinking to objectively evaluate your life experiences.

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Reflection on Community – This assignment is an introspective exploration of your experiences with community. The concept of community is a core element of this course. However, the concept of community is potentially an abstract ideal that often is taken for granted and not critically evaluated. The intent of this assignment is to help you explore how your experiences with community have helped to form you into the person you are today. This assignment is also meant to give you an opportunity to demonstrate the use of critical thinking with respect to how the integration of community is related to effective outdoor adventure leadership.

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Analytical Research Paper – This assignment is an exercise in the fundamental skill of utilizing research methods (e.g., document or ethnographic) to explore a topic, and then make applicable connections to your interests with Outdoor Adventure Leadership. You are responsible for choosing the topic to be explored, but the instructor must authorize it, before your research begins. The intent of this assignment is to give you an opportunity to practice the fundamental skill of self-guided research, which is a critical skill of any outdoor adventure leader. This assignment also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate the use critical thinking within the context of this course’s established goals.

Class Participation – The success of this course is interdependent with your participation. This class is a community, and your participation directly affects the learning experience of your co-students, your community members. Therefore, a large portion of you grade is generated through your active participation. If you have specific questions as to this aspect of the course’s expectations, I highly recommend you discussing them with the instructor as soon as possible.


Cost & Dates

This educational opportunity is offered at the cost of $390.00, and students (current student ID card is required) receive a 20% discount.

This course is not currently on the schedule, but if you are interested, then we can get one started.

This course can also be provided as the custom format to meet your specific needs and dates. Please inquire about arranging a date for your group by sending an email to info@outdooradventureleader.com

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Header photo by Dustin Knapp, Half Moon on the Wild section of the Rogue River taken from Devil’s Backbone.

All content within this website is copyrighted to The Outdoor Adventure Leader, 2015.