Sociology and Anthropology

People, Culture And The Environment In The American Southwest

Sociology and Anthropology

Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River

The American Southwest contains some of the most unique and diverse landscapes found anywhere in North America. In less than two hours, one can drive from spectacular deserts with red sandstone formations which suggest extraterrestrial environments to snow-capped mountains with their dense evergreen forests and crystal clear streams.

Sociology and AnthropologyThe Southwest also contains a unique variety of peoples. There are more distinct Native American cultures in Arizona and New Mexico than anywhere else in the United States. Included among these are the Navajo, Hopi and Apache in Arizona, and the various Pueblo Indian Societies located along the Rio Grande and its tributaries in New Mexico. The Southwest is also home to some of the oldest Hispanic communities in the United States, many of which date to the 16th century and 17th century Spanish conquest of the region. Scattered throughout the river valleys of the Southwest are also many small farming communities founded as a result of the centrifugal expansion of Mormon pioneers from Salt Lake City during the second half of the 19th century.

This course examines prehistoric, historic and contemporary developments in the American Southwest in order to illustrate the relationship between the region's natural environment and its cultural diversity. The course will begin with a review of the natural history of the area. Attention will then turn to the arrival of humans in the Southwest, to the evolution of prehistoric cultures in the region, to the widespread abandonment of prehistoric towns and the redistribution of population throughout the region during the 12th through 14th centuries, and to the emergence of contemporary Native American peoples in the area. Emphasis will be placed on the ecological relationship between indigenous peoples and their local environments. The course will then examine the ecological, political and social effects of subsequent Spanish and Anglo immigration into this region. The course is divided into two parts: 1. Three weeks are spent in class at Muhlenberg College. 2. Two weeks are spent camping and backpacking in the Southwest and visiting selected sites and locations in Arizona and New Mexico. The purpose for traveling to the Southwest is to give students a first-hand understanding of the material and issues discussed in class.

Sociology and Anthropology
Students Hiking in the White Mountains

During the trip, we visit:

  1. Natural formations such as Havasu Canyon, the Grand Canyon, the Little Colorado River Gorge, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, Merriam Crater, the White Mountains of Arizona, and both the Gila Wilderness and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico;
  2. Prehistoric Indian ruins such as Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl and Casa  Rinconada in Chaco Canyon and early Mogollon ruins in the White Mountains.
  3. Historic mining communities such as Mogollon, New Mexico;
  4. Contemporary Native American communities, including, Acoma Pueblo, Walpi and Oraibi on the Hopi Reservation, and Window Rock and other towns within the Navajo Reservation; and
  5. Other locations of historical significance, including Santa Fe, Los Ojos, Tierra Amarilla, Chimayo, Las Trampas and Truchas  --historic Spanish communities  in northern New Mexico--  and Snowflake, St. Johns and Woodruff, Mormon  settlements in east central Arizona.

Sociology and Anthropology
Grand Canyon