Lesson Plans, Topics of Discussion and Subjects for Essays and Reports

The purpose of education is primarily to compell the student to think for him/herself,
to enable the student to expresses complex ideas in a reasoned and rational manner,
and to encourage the student to form intelligent conclusions based upon the facts.

The following Glossary of Terms is meant to serve as a foundation for student-teacher and student-to-student discussions.

It is hoped that teachers will find these tools offered here a valuable asset in teaching.

Glossary of Terms and Definitions
Adena—a mound-building culture named for the Ohio plantation of the same name where upon which was discovered and excavated a mound that also bears the name ‘Adena’, The Adena culture flourished from approximately 1000BC to 100BC in a region centered on the Ohio River in what is now the state of Ohio and surrounding regions, with influences reaching from the western Appalachians to the Mississippi Valley, and north into Wisconsin and Michigan.

Anasazi—The Fremont, Hohokam and Mogollon Cultures and related groups who lived in cliff dwellings and pueblos in the four-corners region of the southwestern United States, where four states--Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet--are collectively called the ‘Anasazi’, a Navajo word meaning ‘the ancient ones’.

Archaeology—those processes by which the events of the past may be brought to light in a manner that permits accurate and realistic study of these events. Various disciplines of archaeology include site survey, mapping of the site in relation to known landmarks, excavation of and the plotting of artifact-finds within the site itself, photographic and written documentation and alpha-numerical identification, identification of artifacts and establishing their relationships to each other within the context of their past use and deposition upon the site. Chemical and material identification of lithic and organic making up or adhering to each artifact, analysis of the overall function/s of the site when it was in use, and tentative determinations of how/why the site’s use came to an end are also a major part of what archaeology does as a science. Exposing the sequences of site use, determination of age and date of each artifact and each level of occupation, and the analysis of how the site and its use fits into the cultural and traditional practices of its previous occupants is what archaeology seeks to achieve.

Archaic-period—that span of time from the end of the Late paleo-period to the beginning of the Woodland-period—9000BC to 1000BC—is generally referred to as the Archaic-period. This long period is divided into two sub-periods at roughly 5000BC, the Early Archaic and the Late Archaic. The hallmarks of this defining date are changes in economic and subsistence-strategies, the stylistic differences in projectile point manufacture, and the widespread appearance of artifacts used to process foods—primarily grinding bowls and pestles.

Artifact—anything made by the hand of man—a good example of the difference between a tool and an artifact can be expressed thus: A college professor takes a 'rubber' rock and hurls it at a student’s head, theoretically 'denting' their skull. The 'dented' skull becomes an artifact of human modification, while the rock becomes the tool used to modify the skull…

Ceremonial Centers—such locations where seasonal and celestial social activities relating to the unity of spiritual beliefs and practices were held became focal points for ceremonies and rituals that affirmed the unity of beliefs and practices. These centers were most often comprised of mound-structures which functioned as temple-platforms, astronomical observatories and burial mounds. Mound-structure alignments with known celestial events—the rising and setting of the sun, moon and certain stars and planets—are clear evidence of advanced concepts of mathematics and calculations based upon astronomical observations. These observations functioned as predictors of the future, marked cycles of the seasons and formed the basis of mythological events surrounding the existence and fortunes of mankind.

Clan—the clan, one of several socio-political organizations within each tribe, are defined by what animal-spirit totem it belongs to. Most tribes were comprised of 8-12 or more clans, each with its own totemic symbolism. The clan served as a focus for extended family activities, and served among other purposes to define social behaviors such as marriage: Children belong to the clan of the mother, and one could not marry within ones own clan. The establishment of taboos for intermarriage also forged strong familial ties across clan lines, and prevented any child from being abandoned should his/her blood-parents be killed. Each clan had its own rituals and ceremonies surrounding those aspects of the animal-totem it associated itself with.

Effigy Mound—a mound of earth created in the approximate shape of an animal, and which was often the focus of ceremonies and rituals relating to the entire tribe. Burials were sometimes included in such mounds--more often remnants of ceremonial fires and ritualistic-items were buried within them.

Early Man–period—that span of time when the first immigrants arrived in the Americas up to the known presence of the Clovis cultures’ establishment, roughly 40,000BC to 12,000BC. Discoveries in North, Central and South America suggest man’s presence at far earlier dates than have been conclusively proven, hence the great span of time allotted to this period.

First Peoples—this is but one of many terms used to indicate the people who first lived on this continent or this state—the Native American Indians. The term is generally accepted as indicating ALL Indians from the first immigrants who arrived over 17 thousand years ago right up to their modern day descendants.

Hopewell—the mound-building culture that succeeded the Adena, expanding upon the origins, cultural achievements and traditions of the Adena

Late Paleo-period—the span of time roughly from the end of the Ice Age to the end of the large-scale extinctions following the sweeping climactic change resulting from the ending of the Ice Age. Stylistic changes in projectile points and the emergence of new subsistence strategies based upon the seasonal round, new artifact-forms--primarily the adze and the advancement of hafted knives--mark the end of this relatively brief period.

Mississiappian—the Mississippian cultures, which succeeded the Hopewell and which were founded on the Mississippi River Valley and its major tributaries, the Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, Red, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, succeeded the Hopewell and lasted from approx. 800AD to 1500AD. The South Appalachian Mississippian Culture was based upon the Atlantic coast around the Savannah River in Georgia.

Mound—an earthen structure or mound created by the Indians who carried baskets of earth from local sources to create a burial or ceremonial earthen mound.

Mound Complexes—groups of mounds, often arranged in geometric patterns or in alignment with astronomical phenomenon, or forming groups or clusters focused upon river banks and bluffs overlooking rivers, probably served as ceremonial centers for the large populations inhabiting nearby hamlets and villages.

Paleo-period—that period encompassing the Clovis culture’s establishment in the Americas to the end of the Ice Age, roughly 12,000BC to 10,000BC

Palisaded Village—the competition for ever more scarce resources compelled the tribes to fortify their villages with tree trunks set into the ground in a circular enclosure around those structures deemed most important to protect—those which stored corn and foods for over-winter survival, the chief’s dwelling and usually a sufficient number of other dwellings to provide housing for the local population—it was very rare for an entire village’s structures to be surrounded by such enclosures, called palisades. A narrow opening was usually created by overlapping the two ends of the encircling palisade. Ditches and earthworks of a protective nature were sometimes employed as well.

Paramount Chiefdom—the most powerful chief among a group of chiefs is paramount—superior to—the other chiefs. In Wahunsenaca’s position as paramount chief over some 32 tribes, he controlled how the other chiefs directed their people. Tribute from each tribe was paid to Wahunsenaca in the form of a large percentage of everything each tribe caught, killed or produced—meat, fish, hides, corn/beans/squash, pearls, items traded for and products of each tribes’ artisans were given to the paramount chief in return for the peace he offered by uniting all these tribes together. Warriors could be ordered sent from any number of tribes to aid or protect any tribe under a threat of war from outsiders. Additionally, the tribute paid would be divided up between the needy of each tribe or given to those who had rendered important services, as well as serving the needs of trade and commerce with outside tribes or the explorers who had begun frequenting the Atlantic coast for almost 100 years, most notably the English.

Seasonal Round—each season of the year provides its own range of plant and animal resources. From grasses and grains, seeds and fruits, roots and tubers, to fish, eggs, waterfowl and migratory birds, animal furs for winter warmth and more. The Indians moved their camps nearest the most bountiful resources in each season—field and forest, river and marsh, mountain and valley and zones in between—each offered a different range of resources that together provided the Indian with everything he needed to survive and prosper throughout the year.

Shaman (or Medicine Man)—a person or priesthood of such persons who undertook to provide the spiritual, healing and medicinal services to the population at large. Illness and disease were seen as negative or harmful energies loosed upon a person, and were most often dealt with by combining the uses of herbs recognized to combat those evils with appeals to the spirits of helpful animal spirits. These persons of highest status also served as oracles for the tribal leadership by providing insights into the future, the past and the spirit world

Symbols of Power—life-like or stylized likenesses of animals, aspects of their spiritual power or symbolic representations of the forces of nature were added to the Indians belongings and tools, weapons and clothing to bring those forces of the natural world close to themselves as personal protective, guiding or beneficial powers.

Trade Routes—trade in commodities not found locally flourished across wide areas of the continent, and are, by the materials and objects discovered, suggestive of trade with the carribean islands as well as Central America. Water-travel provided the quickest means of reaching distant portions of the continent, as well as providing the most advantageous environments for resource-exploitation. The river systems the mound-builder cultures were centered on allowed access to regions beyond the realms of the Indian nations flourishing along their margins. The canoe or log dug-out, rafts and hide-covered boats provided the Indian with effective means of transportation—for both the traveler and the commodities traded to and from distant peoples and resources. Trade caused such cities as the Indians built to flourish, thrive and become larger, to support growing populations and to provide access to new materials, new foods and new ideas to be more freely exchanged.

Technology—the means and methods used by a given people to produce the tools, goods and foods used by them. This includes the methods of making an arrowhead, a leather shirt or dress, a rawhide container, how their crops were planted, harvested, cooked and stored. Technology also includes the kind of weapons used to hunt with and how they were made, as well as what strategies were used to hunt game.

Totem—totems can be an animal or plant which serves as a symbolic emblem of a person, a family or a clan, often serving as a reminder of ancestry. Also a painted, carved or other symbolic representation serving as a banner unifying family or clan under it, such as a flag also serves modern peoples.

Tribe—a group of peoples living in a cooperative social setting, sharing the same environment and its resources, living accommodations, traditions, religious beliefs and mythologies. A tribe can be larger than the number of people living in any one village—it was customary to find several villages within a shared environmental setting, all belonging to one tribe. The tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy believed they were created by their God where they lived—it was believed this was His design that they should occupy the lands and rivers where they were created by Him.

Woodland-period—the span of time spanning 1000BC to Contact with European colonists ca. 1600AD is called the Woodland-period. Primary hallmarks of this period are widespread organized agriculture and the establishment of sedentary villages, the beginnings of pottery-production and the advancement of unifying socio-religious beliefs and ideas held by a growing population.

Yahaken—a southern Algonquin word meaning lodge or house. Such yahaken were made by lashing arched saplings and strengthening them with longitudinal stringers made from more saplings. Cattail or bulrush mats were woven or sewn together to create a waterproof and insulating covering both inside and out. More prestigious structures such as thre chiefs yahaken were also covered with slabs of tree bark laid on much like roofing shingles are now done. One or more entrances were constructed, with cattail mats used as door coverings to keep out the cold and rain. There were usually—but not always—large vent-like openings in the roof created to allow smoke from hearth-fires inside to escape.



Advanced Topics for Discussion, Essays and Oral Reports

The objective for this set of Essay- and Classroom Discussion-topics is to bring students to more meaningful understandings of the relationships that evolved between the Powhatan Indians and the English.


Given the following information along with that provided by the "Age of Exploration" website, discuss those qustions listed below in effort to evolve deeper understandings of the events of this early formative period in American History:

Indians found game plentiful in each season, and they grew corn for over-winter storage, while colonists were starving and dying. So the initial trading efforts focused on the colonists gaining sufficient food to survive.

Wahunsenaca was ambivalent about these strangers. Like the Spanish who had come more that thirty years earlier, they might present a danger. Yet he recognized the value of their trade goods and thought they might make useful allies against other tribes. In 1608 the English at Jamestown traded away nearly all their tools for food. That same year, Powhatan sent food in exchange for a grindstone, fifty swords, some guns, a cock and hen, copper and beads, and an English-style house. Within a few years, however, the Indians had become more dependent on the English than vice versa. The Powhatans wanted guns and ammunition, metal knives and tools, warm woolen clothes and blankets, and durable metal pots. In the Anglo-Powhatan wars that followed, the English found that a trade embargo was among their most effective weapons. They also used the promise of trade to enlist the Powhatans' Indian enemies as allies. The Powhatans became hostile as soon as they thought that the English had come, in the words of their leader, "not for trade but to invade my people and possess my country." To the Indians, open land was a source of food and materials to be shared by all. The idea of individual ownership of land was foreign to them. To the English, however, the land of Virginia seemingly unoccupied apart from the Indian villages themselveswas there for the taking. Once tobacco proved profitable, increasingly they took it.

The Powhatans had grown a native variety of tobacco. But the strain that became the cash crop of Virginia (Nicotiana tabacum) was introduced from the West Indies by John Rolfe, who is best remembered by history as Mr. Pocahontas. His marriage to Pocahontas and their trip to England in 1616 seemed to hold out the promise of peaceful relations.

Such pretty things as marveled the Powhatan Indians--multi-colored beads, mirrors, scissors, iron knives and axes, copper kettles, nails and more—soon came to replace traditional possessions, and Powhatan cultural practices began to loose their importance in the face of easily-obtained trade-goods. Less time was spent making stone tools to replace damaged ones, less effort went into making pottery as copper kettles and utensils began to replace them through long-term usage.

As long as there were plenty of desired game animals to hunt, the Indians thrived in trading with the colonists. Over a period of several decades of over-hunting, wolves and larger game were all but vanished from the Indians’ continually decreasing hunting grounds, and even tribute quota’s required by the governor of each later tribe were lowered several times to reflect a diminishing game population and a vanishing tribal existence.

Lands granted for Indian relocations, at first more executed from spite and fear than the later trend to protect and preserve the Indians’ ways of life, served to legalize their land-boundaries and ownership rights. It also opened the courts to petitions for taking land from the Indian by unscrupulous land-speculators.

Tribal territories where the piedmont uplifts were defined by implication that this side of the hill is my land, that side of the hill is your land. From ridge-crest to ridge-crest the intervening valley-environments offered a suitable dominion offering something in every season to the Indian’s dietary or material needs—from hunting to farming to seasonal wild-harvests and fishing, too.

A growing English population further continued to push Indians from the tidal-water and riverine environments they once thrived in, and where once stood whole tribal villages the first working farms came to be built along the river —the Indians’ favorite home places were slowly transformed into vast farms and plantations, and in some cases, into cities and towns. The over-hunting of and habitat-dislocation of game animals made it even harder for Indians to live off their own remaining lands. Tribal groups were being pushed away from productive eco-systems, sometimes only to find themselves back-to back at the ridge-line with competing and even unfriendly/war-like groups.

Beyond John Rolfe’s marriage to Powhatan’s favorite daughter Pocahontas, little or no mention is made of the numerous liaisons, interracial marriages and births known or suspected to have taken place between the English and the Indians. Governor Berkley, himself a married man with a wife waiting for him in England, reportedly sought the hand in marriage of Pocahontas’ younger sister, at that time about 12 years old. The frontier was a lonely, desolate seeming wilderness filed with unseen dangers…and sometimes hostile Indians! Between outbreaks of violence and uprising, peaceful relations existed between the two, and for the most part it was business- and love-as-usual, to everyone’s general satisfaction. Friction over greed for land, furs and other resources often drove peaceful relations into varying states of open warfare and violence between the two. Many settlers sought and preferred more advantageous free trade with the Indians outside of colonial laws, and sought their own fortunes in trade and commerce with the Indians in lands beyond the reach of the governor’s control.

The demand for furs spurred Powhatan hunters to spend more time hunting than other demands previously made possible. Iron knives and axes, copper kettles, mirrors, scissors and sewing needles, and an extravagance of beads and ornaments boosted an individual’s prestige and ability to provide—these iron implements bore heavy work and lasted far longer than their stone and bone counterparts, and a copper kettle far outlasted pottery cooking utensils. Other items also brought recognition for showiness, alleged magical powers, rarity or beauty, and the ability to make gifts suitable to earn others’ respect was also a vital part of the politics of trade. By all accounts, copper was the preeminent prestige commodity circulating within the 17th Century Powhatan chiefdom. In fact, little else of a material nature is known to have distinguished rank and privilege within traditional Powhatan society as clearly as copper did.

What did trade goods mean for each receiving party that made them so desirable to each?

What value did the goods they traded have for the giver?

What impact did these trade-items have upon how the Indians spent their time?

How did the Indians’ valuation of English trade-goods vs. the colonists’ valuation of animal hides/furs as a medium of exchange alter the environment of the Indians’ world?

How did trade with the colonists affect Indian politics—would the chiefs of more distant tribes openly question their obedience to Powhatan’s commands or even ignore them, should it be seen as an advantage for them?

How did the Powhatan Indians come to loose control over their lands and the resources they once relied upon?

How did the Indians’ dwindling resources affect their dependency upon the colony for trade-goods and commodities, jobs and English favoritisms?


GIVEN THE FOLLOWING, WHAT DOES OUR FUTURE LOOK LIKE? Among the difficulties faced by the Mississippian Cultures were the complexities of dealing with the environment and resulting shortages of resources caused by their over-use--HOW is our society today like and unlike theirs with regards to the following facts about their culture?:

1) Populations soared to its highest levels of American prehistory

2) 95 percent of the population worked to support the remaining 5 percent

3) Consumption of resources reached a rate beyond which the environment could easily replenish.

4) The environment, already heavily burdened, was sharply impacted by prolonged drought.

5) The Leadership and Priest-class hierarchies, unable to end the drought or reverse environmental, and thus economic trends, collapsed.

6) Resources became so scarce that no one location could support any great number of people for long. The cities, ceremonial centers and hamlets were abandoned and left to the encroaching wilderness.

7) Populations and birth-rates dropped dramatically, the sciences and arts heretofore critical to their now vanishing cultures were largely forgotten...

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