Native American and European Exchanges

Here’s a graphic that summarizes some of the technologies and living beings (including microbes!) that were momentously transferred back and forth when European populations began to expand (especially in the 1600’s) into the lands of the First Peoples of this region.  This development was an immense tragedy for the Native Americans, resulting in severe cultural disruption, physical displacement, and depopulation due to disease and war.

I’ve used this particular illustrated page to reinforce and / or test students’ understanding of topics that we’ve discussed during weeklong classes about the Native Americans of the Lower Merrimack Valley.  I’ve also employed it as a take-home page after field trips focused on this history.  The youngsters simply draw lines connecting the various “gifts” to the symbolic families representing the two cultures.  They tip the lines with an arrow pointing towards the people who are receiving something “new.”

Maple syrup; Corn, Beans & Squash; Canoes; Lacrosse; Tobacco:  These are just some of the entities that the Native Americans introduced to the Europeans.  Did you realize that in the 21st century, corn has become the most commonly cultivated crop on planet Earth?  (Surprisingly, much of this corn, descended from plants selectively bred by Native American farmers some 8,000 years ago, is not grown for direct human consumption.  Instead, it is used as food for livestock or rendered into  fuel for cars (ethanol).

As students think through and then complete this page on their own (or in pairs), and then review their answers as a group – i.e. confirm which cultures were the source for which items, they are beginning to learn about this dark and tumultuous period in our region’s past.  It is hoped that they are also beginning to develop insights into the ongoing injustice of forced land and resource appropriation, practices which continue to be directed against First Peoples and others in the United States and across the globe.

Native American - European Exchanges

Here’s a copy of the PDF:  Native American – European Exchanges