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First Nations Studies

Oral Tradition Emphasis

The First Nation Studies program at UW Green Bay is unique in that it places primary emphasis on the oral traditions of American Indian tribal communities. While the university structure around FNS focuses on the written word and writing emphasis courses, FNS understands the importance of American Indian oral forms and oral traditions. Thus, traditional Elder knowledge and oral teachings play a central role in the learning experience in FNS. The emphasis on the oral tradition is reflected both in the FNS course content and material, as well as in actual classroom learning environments. The FNS oral traditional emphasis is integrated into all courses, focusing on the Four Pillars of Tribal Knowledge and Learning. In addition, First Nation Studies minors have an option to enroll (up to 12 credits) in the individualized course American Indian Elder Epistemology and Oral Traditions.

Four Pillars of Tribal Knowledge

First Nation Studies courses integrate the Elder teachings and oral traditions of tribal communities into the classroom. FNS Courses focus on the Four Pillars of Tribal Knowledge and Learning, and include:

  1. American Indian History: In three distinct eras: Traditional (precontact), Contact, and Contemporary eras
  2. American Indian Laws and Policies
  3. American Indian Tribal Sovereignty
  4. American Indian Philosophy and Intellectual Traditions

FNST 399 Elder Knowledge and Epistemology: The Oral Traditions (3-12 credits)

In this course, students will individually observe and participate in a form of listening, learning, and remembering known and practiced in traditional American Indian tribal circles outside of the college classroom. Students enrolled in this option with articulate oral forms and skills that emanate from tribal teachings and intellectual concepts in Elder wisdom. Students work side by side with tribal Elders and language speakers learning oral traditional listening and remembering skills through the use of storytelling, repetition, and hands-on experience. Students will practice the use of the tribal language as appropriate in oral teachings. Students will increase and reinforce vocabulary and varying levels of grammar, learn both social and formal teaching lodge discourse, learn manners appropriate for oral learning (speaking without interruption, how and when to use questions, how to state an inquiry, how to absorb patterned thought employed by Elders, etc.).