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How to
Use the Activities


Inquiry Question

Historical Context




Table of

Putting It All Together

The four missions located within the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park had many things in common: they brought within their control nearby Indians who, in return for accepting religious instruction, were taught modern technological skills and the ways of life necessary for meeting the ruling Spaniards on their own terms. They were also protected from other, more aggressive tribes in the region. The routine established at the several missions was similar. All Indians were expected to work at a variety of tasks such as farming, ranching, and carpentry. Each mission traded or sold goods to the nearby villa and presidio, sometimes making great profits on foodstuffs and cattle (some 3,000 in a typical herd), which were raised mainly for their hides. The following activities explore the impact of Spanish colonization in more depth.

Activity 1: Comparing Spanish and English Colonial Policy
The history of the Spanish colonization of America is fundamentally different from that of the original English colonies. Have the students use a U.S. history textbook to compare Spanish and English approaches to (1) the treatment and education of native peoples, (2) ways of making a living, and (3) enforcement of religious practice. Ask them to present their findings in a chart. Then hold a classroom discussion in which the students debate the pros and cons of each country's policies.

Activity 2: Researching the Columbian Exchange
Smallpox was only one of the diseases that took the lives of thousands of American Indians. In 1739 at Mission San José, only 49 of its 300 Indian inhabitants survived a smallpox epidemic. Europeans also contracted the disease, but because it had long been a part of their ecosystem, many were immune or suffered only mild cases. Considerable literature is now available on the "Columbian Exchange" and the "Seeds of Change." Have students choose a disease or food product that was exchanged and make a short presentation to the class that explains why the product or disease was "exchanged" and how it impacted both the native population and the Spanish settlers. A useful bibliography appears in Alfred Crosby's The Columbian Voyages, The Columbian Exchange, and Their Historians (Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association). See also the middle-school and high-school versions of Sharryl Davis Hawke's and James E. Davis's, Seeds of Change (Palo Alto, CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.).

Activity 3: Researching the Community
Each community has a religious history of its own. Have the students conduct research on their own community to discover which religious groups were among the first settlers, how powerful they were, how long that religion dominated the area, which religious groups followed, which remain predominant, and which can no longer be found in the community. The students should then compare their community's experience with that of San Antonio. Finally, ask students to compare the architectural styles of the local Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant churches; synagogues and temples; Islamic mosques, etc., with each other and with the photographs in the lesson plan. Hold a classroom discussion based on the results of the student's research.




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