These activities are designed to help students understand the assault on Native American land, culture, and sovereignty after the Mayflower.

Native Americans Before European Arrival and Today

Students will use the internet to learn about the Native peoples that stretched across the North American continent in 1615, and learn about Native American populations today.

Divide students into two groups. One should research estimated population figures for Native Americans prior to white settlement. A second group should look up the 1900 and 2000 U.S. Census results online. Have the two groups present their results to the class and write the numbers on the board. As a class, compare total population figures for Native Americans in the United States in the 17th century, at the end of the 19th century, and in 2000. Discuss as a class: What has happened to Native populations over time?

You may also wish to have students, individually or in groups, use books or online sources to answer the following:

  1. How many tribes are recognized by the federal government today?
  2. Who were the original inhabitants of your state?
  3. What federally recognized tribes, if any, exist in your state?
  4. What other Indian tribes, bands, or communities exist in your state?
Useful websites:

U.S. Census Bureau Census 2000 Gateway

Native Languages of the Americas (state by state listings of tribes)

University of Texas-Austin Perr Castañeda Library Map Collection (section titled "Early Inhabitants")

The Wampanoag and the Puritans

The class will use the first episode of WE SHALL REMAIN to learn about key differences between the Wampanoag and the Puritans, then extend the comparison to other indigenous cultures worldwide.

Divide the class into two groups. Group One will examine Wampanoag customs, laws, and their relationships to each other and to the land. Group Two will examine these topics in regard to the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Each group should draft a list of main points. Come together as a class to compare and contrast the two groups' findings. Was there any overlap? Discuss as a class: How did Native peoples adjust to the migration of Europeans to their lands? Why did interdependence and economic ties between Native peoples and European settlers begin to deteriorate?

Video Resources:

After the Mayflower chapter 6, The Great Migration

What were the arguments or justifications used to take land from Native peoples? What did Governor Winthrop mean by “city upon a hill?” Former President Ronald Reagan’s farewell address to the nation on January 11, 1989 included the phrase “city on a hill.” As a class, discuss why you think Reagan used this phrase, and compare it to Winthrop’s usage. How is religion used today in America as a political force?

After the Mayflower chapter 7, Dispossession

Discuss as a class how Native peoples exhibited adaptation and flexibility to English culture. What was the effect on their culture as a result of their adaptation? Were the English equally flexible? Would a more flexible and accommodating spirit on the part of the colonists have averted King Philip’s War?

As a class, research why the Puritans believed Native land was vacant and uncultivated. What religious and legal justifications did the English use to occupy these lands? Describe how Native people understood their relationship to the land. How did the Wampanoag language change to reflect changes in the tribe’s connection to the land?

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Funding Provided by:
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Major Funding by:
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Additional Funding
Provided by:
American Experience