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Making Treaties and Weaving Wampum: Communication Across Cultures

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of relations between Native Americans and the U.S. government between 1776 and 1868 through class discussion, group work, and the creation of a treaty timeline.
  • Exhibit knowledge of the Native American tradition of wampum belt-making and an understanding of the symbolism and ceremonial importance surrounding wampum by drawing or making their own wampum belts and through written journal entries.
  • Examine the different ways in which Native Americans and European Americans expressed cultural ideas, values, and policy by comparing and contrasting the Covenant Wampum Belt and the corresponding Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 between the U.S. government and the Iroquois Nations.

Standards: U.S. History, Visual Arts.

Skills Addressed: Linguistic, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal.

Interdisciplinary Connections: History/Social Studies, U.S. Government, Visual Arts/Art History.

Length: Three to four fifty-minute class periods.

Materials: Internet access, colored chalk or poster board/markers. Optional: felt, beads, needle and thread and/or fabric glue.

Products: Timeline of treaties made between Native Americans and the U.S. government between 1776 and 1868; journal entry; drawing of a personal wampum belt; essay comparing and contrasting a written treaty and ceremonial wampum belt. Optional: personal wampum belt made of felt and beads.

Content Introduction: George Catlin traveled to Native American communities at a time of crucial developments in relations between American Indian tribes and the U.S. government. These developments are visible not only in records of written treaties drawn up by the government, but also in wampum belts crafted by Native American tribes to document these important agreements. Wampum belts were used largely by the Iroquois Nations, which consist of the Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Mohawk tribes and are also known as the Haudenosaunee League. The belts hold significant ceremonial and cultural importance as actual manifestations of the values and sentiments surrounding an agreement or event.

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Lesson Plan Table of Contents

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