5.3 Interactions between American Indians and European Explorers
This inquiry set is designed to provide students with an introduction to and a geographic overview of the ways in which different European explorers and settlers interacted with American Indians. The investigative question How did European explorers interact with American Indians? provides the opportunity for teachers to introduce three key concepts to students — conflict, diplomacy, and religion — and to consider the role that each concept plays in the development of the United States.
- HSS 5.3.1 Describe the competition among the English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Indian nations for control of North America.
- HSS 5.3.2 Describe the cooperation that existed between the colonists and Indians during the 1600s and 1700s (e.g., in agriculture, the fur trade, military alliances, treaties, cultural interchanges).
- HSS 5.3.3 Examine the conflicts before the Revolutionary War (e.g., the Pequot and King Philip\'s Wars in New England, the Powhatan Wars in Virginia, the French and Indian War).
- HSS 5.3.4 Discuss the role of broken treaties and massacres and the factors that led to the Indians\' defeat, including the resistance of Indian nations to encroachments and assimilation (e.g., the story of the Trail of Tears).
- HSS 5.3.5 Describe the internecine Indian conflicts, including the competing claims for control of lands (e.g., actions of the Iroquois, Huron, Lakota [Sioux]).
Contribute to conversations and express ideas by asking and answering yes-no and wh- questions and responding using short phrases.
Contribute to class, group, and partner discussions, including sustained dialogue, by following turn-taking rules, asking relevant questions, affirming others, and adding relevant information.
Contribute to class, group, and partner discussions, including sustained dialogue, by following turn-taking rules, asking relevant questions, affirming others, adding relevant information, building on responses, and providing useful feedback.
Collaborate with peers on joint writing projects of short informational and literary texts, using technology where appropriate for publishing, graphics, and the like.
Collaborate with peers on joint writing projects of longer informational and literary texts, using technology where appropriate for publishing, graphics, and the like.
Collaborate with peers on joint writing projects of a variety of longer informational and literary texts, using technology where appropriate for publishing, graphics, and the like.
Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.
Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
How did European explorers interact with American Indians?
Students investigate the relationships between natives and Europeans by exploring this question: How did European explorers and settlers interact with American Indians? The arrival of Europeans in North America in the late fifteenth century set into motion cross-cultural cooperation and conflict among the American Indians and between the Indian nations and the new settlers. In what the Europeans termed as the New World, they competed with one another and the Indian nations for territorial, economic, and political control. By the seventeenth century, the French had established Nova Scotia and Quebec; the English, Jamestown and Massachusetts Bay Colony; the Spanish, New Spain; and the Netherlands, New Amsterdam.
How did American Indians change as a result of the new settlers? In the territory that would become the United States, individual Indian nations responded differently to European settlement. Some American Indians declared war in defense of their sovereignty. Others remained neutral. Whether in conjunction with each other or through independent compacts and treaties, many of the American Indians negotiated terms for coexistence.
Indian nations cooperated with Europeans and one another in the areas of agriculture, fur trading, military alliances, and cultural interchanges, especially in the Great Lakes region where French traders depended on such relationships for the success of their mission. Europeans introduced new food crops and domestic livestock that diversified the diets of the American Indians. This exchange dramatically altered the natural environment and introduced diseases that decimated many American Indian tribes.
European explorers and colonists were fascinated by American Indian culture, but condemned most of their traditions and practices as savage because they differed from their own way of life and as devilish because they were not Christian. Historical fiction such as Encounter by Jane Yolen or The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich encourages students to consider the two worlds’ cultural perceptions and experiences during their first encounters.
For a time, Indian nations and European settlers coexisted. Native peoples served as independent traders and mediators. European settlement brought the American Indian population a more diverse selection of food and introduced new tools for hunting and warfare. This coexistence was short-lived, however. Broken treaties, skirmishes, and massacres increasingly came to characterize the relationship between the groups. Students may consider these questions: Why did American Indians fight with each other? Why did they fight with European settlers? American Indian resistance included armed conflict, rejection of European culture and political authority, reappraisal of native spiritual traditions, and the creation of military, political, and economic alliances among American Indian nations and tribes.
Of particular concern to American Indians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were permanent European settlements and the expansion of commercial farming on native land. The American Indians resisted encroachments to their territories for more than two centuries. Major armed conflicts included the Powhatan Wars in Virginia (1622 – 1644); the Pequot War (1637) and King Philip’s War (1675) in New England; and in Ohio country, Lord Dunmore’s War (1774), brought on by Chief Logan’s retaliation for the killing of his family.
Students may collect information about how and why Indian wars developed. They can organize this information by noting who was involved in the conflict (for example, British leaders or particular tribes); when the conflict(s) developed; the circumstance of the conflict (whether it related to depleted resources or lack of power, for example); the kind of conflict it became; and the outcome. Once students have collected and organized this information, they can put it in a comparative context by creating a timeline or map. With this information side by side, students can begin to extract larger meaning and identify parallels in how or why conflicts developed and the consequences of such conflicts.
The presence of the Europeans exacerbated historical tensions among nations. Lucrative trade with Europeans altered traditional inter-Indian trading networks that existed prior to European arrival. Additionally, land disputes among American Indians such as the Iroquois, Huron, and Sioux led to armed warfare (made more violent with the introduction of gunpowder and horses), involved new military alliances with European settlers, and redefined boundaries of political and economic influence. Certain military alliances proved critical. The Iroquois, for example, played a decisive role in the outcome of the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763), also known as the Seven Years’ War. The conflict pitted British forces against French soldiers over control of the upper Ohio River Valley. The Iroquois provided invaluable support and knowledge of native terrain to inform the British military strategy.
- The Library of Congress. The Library of Congress’ Primary Source Analysis Tool supports an inquiry model of instruction by asking students to first observe, then reflect, then question. Their customizable tool includes specific prompts for student interrogation of books and other printed materials, maps, oral recordings, photographs and paintings, and many other types of primary sources.
- The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA has developed a vast collection of document analysis worksheets, ready for classroom use. Their website offers teachers a wide collection of customizable tools – appropriate for working with photographs, maps, written documents, and more. NARA has also customized their tools to meet the needs of young learners, and intermediate or secondary students.