Pre-Colonial: Native Americans Prior to European Settlement

We’re starting out this semester by looking at the very beginning of American culture – Native American culture.

In class we discussed the stereotypes and preconceptions we have about Native Americans and their culture, as well as our perceptions of the first interactions between explorers and the Native people. You pointed out that it seems, in the stories you’ve read prior, that Natives we either described as helpful and kind (Pochahontas, Squanto, Sacagawea, The First Thanksgiving) or savage and violent (savages, scalping, Sioux warriors). You also discussed how perceptions of the Native people of America are limited to images of teepees, tomahawks, headdresses, buffaloes and buckskins. A part of this course is to read the voices of past Americans and understand how all of these come together to create the great country we live in today. Over the course of the semester we will continually revisit the voice of Native Americans and how they contribute to the melting pot of America.

First, we watched a brief video discussing the rich history of the Native people of America prior to European settlement – a 14,000 year old culture, with lots of diversity, innovations and history.

We then read a brief excerpt from a 1560’s explorer’s journal title ‘De Orbo Novo’. In this journal we examine the author’s use of figurative language and descriptive, and discussed how the purpose was to highlight and celebrate the diversity of skincolors, flora, and fauna in the New World.

Please click here to access your copy of ‘De Orbo Novo’. 

Next, we examined the ancient city of Cahokia – a massive metropolitan Native American city in what is now Missouri. We discussed the difference between primary and secondary and tertiary sources, pointing out that our journal excerpt ‘De Orbo Novo’ would be a primary source document, but the article about Cahokia would be a secondary source document.

Click here to access your article about Cahokia.

In the article over Cahokia, we learn about the complexity of their social systems, class system, architecture, trade and religion. In our class discussion we highlighted ways that life at Cahokia differed from our preconceived ideas, and practices good traits of active listeners and communicators. You also wrote a constructed response to the questions associated with the article, practicing citing textual evidence.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019