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How to
Use the Activities


Inquiry Question

Historical Context




Table of

Putting It All Together

The following activities will help students better understand art as a historical resource and differences between American Indian cultures.

Activity 1: Drawing Conclusions from Art
With a partner, have students examine Paintings 1 and 2, looking closely and reading the paintings as they would a book, from left to right and from top to bottom. Ask them to go over the paintings several times, each time attempting to pick up new details. Some techniques include dividing the paintings into grids, or looking at the background first, then the foreground, next, groups of objects or people, individual items, portions of the human body and so on. Students should then make lists of items such as the number of earthlodges, the number of people performing certain activities, the types of actions depicted, and the types of clothing, weapons, tools, and sports equipment shown and then classify the data in a matrix using as many categories as needed. After comparing matrices with classmates, the students should make additional generalizations about the paintings. Finally, summarize the evidence in the paintings, and discuss the image of the Hidatsa and Mandan Indians as portrayed by Catlin.

Activity 2: Making Comparisons
Ask the students to examine an American history textbook account of the Plains Indians, noting similarities and differences between the Knife River villagers and tribes such as the Sioux and the Cheyenne (all these groups are considered Plains Indians). The Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara tribes obtained horses along with the other Plains groups in the mid 1700s. Why didn't the villagers adopt the typical American Indian horse culture? Most of the other groups had also been farmers at one time, but they gave up their farms to lead a more nomadic existence. What characteristics of the Knife River villagers might account for their continued occupation of the village sites? Divide the students into two groups, with one group representing the migratory Plains Indians and the other representing the villagers. Have each group list why theirs is the best way of life, and then ask a representative from each to present these arguments. Ask the class to vote on which group's presentation was the most effective in content and reasoning.

Activity 3: Researching Local Indians
Have the students compare what they have learned in this lesson with materials in an American history textbook that use sites such as prehistoric cliff dwellings or mound cultures to illustrate early life in the Americas. Ask them to outline differences and similarities. Next, instruct the students to research the Indian groups who lived in their region. Were they more like cliff dwellers than Hidatsa villagers? Were they engaged in early trade? How do their houses, clothing, and other items compare with those of the Knife River villagers? If possible, take the students to visit a local museum that displays prehistoric artifacts from their region. If this can be arranged, have the students construct a matrix of cultural items as they did for the Knife River Indians. Back in class, have the students compare the matrices and then draw conclusions about why the cultures might differ (the environment, available resources, proximity to oceans, and proximity to other tribes, for example).



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