Question

Q74: Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?

A. Central Americans
B. Native Americans
C. Latin Americans
D. Europeans were the first to live in America 

Question Background Information

Background

When Europeans began arriving in North America, they encountered a variety of different communities, nations, tribes, and political confederations of people who already lived here. Since early explorer Christopher Columbus mistakenly believed he had reached Asia, he called these people Indians. Eventually, those living in present day America became known as American Indians. Today, they are also referred to as Native Americans or indigenous peoples. 

But just as “European” covers many different communities of rivals, so too were there many different Native Americans, themselves competing with one another. European trade goods had already destabilized parts of the American interior a century before permanent white settlers began establishing themselves there. For example, the Iroquois, centered in what is now western New York, used their contact with Europeans to militarily dominate their rivals, such as the Hurons, in expanding their empire into much of the area surrounding the Great Lakes. Exchanging goods with European traders enabled the Iroquois to develop a technological advantage against their native rivals, with the Iroquois playing the Europeans against each other for their own advantage—just as the English themselves sought to use the Iroquois against the French.

But as European presence expanded beyond first trading posts and then small, isolated forts, native peoples strategized about how to respond. Some smaller native communities viewed the Europeans as allies against larger rivals. Others, especially more powerful Indian nations, saw the Europeans as upstart expansionists whose growth needed to be checked to preserve their own native societies and ways of life.

Additional Content

Offline Activity

Introduction

History books cover the facts, but they do not always cover the people. When it comes to human reactions and feelings, those details are often left out. For this activity, the students are asked to look at the Mayflower’s landing from the eyes of either the Wampanoag tribe or the Pilgrims and think about what must have been going through the minds of the people at the time.  

Preparation

  • Provide each pair with a copy of the tweet sheet (either the Native American point of view or the Pilgrim point of view). 
    • Native American point of view  
    • Pilgrim point of view  
  • Provide each group with a copy of the Reports from the New World  

Required materials

Instructions

  1. Divide the class into pairs based on ability, as well as pairing those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C). 
    • This activity works equally well as an individual assignment.  
  2. Provide the students with the necessary materials. 
    • Provide half of the pairs with the tweet sheet from the Native American point of view. Provide the other half of the pairs with the tweet sheet from the Pilgrim point of view.  
    • Depending on the class, you may choose to review the reading as a group or assign it the night before. This will allow slower readers or those who might struggle with the text the support they need to understand the content and draw conclusions from it. 
  3. Ask the students to imagine that they are reporters assigned to cover the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock. As part of their job, they will live-tweet the event.
    • Their tweets should be observations about the event, the people, and their feelings. 
    • For younger students, you may want to brainstorm before they begin. Ask them what they would notice about the other group -- clothing, speech pattern, type of boat, the new land itself, etc.  
  4. Circulate throughout the room as the students complete the worksheets to check for understanding. 
  5. Once the students complete the activity, ask the groups to read one or two of their tweets and use them to begin a discussion. You may want to use these prompts as well: 
    • How does fear of the unknown affect our perception of others?
    • How does interpreting another culture through the lens of one’s own impact the interactions between culture?
    • How did students’ prior knowledge affect what they wrote?
    • Would these tweets affect the way that students would view the event, and the people involved? If so, how?  

Discussion Prompts

Explorers and colonists who came to the New World found that it was already inhabited by the Native Americans, whose way of life was significantly different from theirs. Though there was often cooperation between the two, there was also conflict, both over resources and a misunderstanding of each other’s cultures.

Prompt 1

As the Europeans discovered when they landed in the New World, the Americas were not uninhabited. They were, in fact, already populated with people. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived? 

Prompt 2

Many Native Americans encouraged European traders to visit them but resisted European settlers. (This is partly why many preferred the French, who were more likely to set up smaller trading posts, rather than the English, who tended to bring larger settlements.) Why might Native peoples want or not want European settlements? Why might they want or not want traders? Use historical and current events to defend your answer.

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