Exercise: Filling Out the Picture

The essay on the previous page spelled out the importance of land in Native American culture and—owing to that importance—described land as a major cause of conflict between Natives and white settlers. In fact, it might be tempting to turn that description into a thesis statement for an essay on relations between Natives and white settlers. But is the following thesis statement really accurate? Does it tell the whole story?

Conflicts between Natives and white settlers in the early 19th century can be attributable to one overarching cause: disputes over land.


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Historians generally agree that land disputes were a major source of friction between Natives and white settlers. But there were many other causes of conflict, as well. If you apply different historical lenses*—cultural, political, military, legal, or religious, among others—you can come up with a fuller picture of the relationship between Natives and settlers and a more complex explanation of why that relationship so often turned to violent conflict. (Take a moment to refresh your memory on the topic of historical lenses).

First, we’d like you to do some reading to gain a fuller picture of the relationship between Natives and settlers:

· And the Strife Never Ends: Indian-White Hostility As Seen By European Travelers in America, 1800 – 1860: A brief article about the way contemporary Europeans viewed the ongoing conflict between Natives and the American government. You can read it at this link. This reading is required. You will have to log into Shapiro Library with your SNHU credentials to access this article.

· Owning Red: A Theory of Indian (Cultural) Appropriation: An article about the long history of “cultural appropriation” of Native land, artifacts, property, and other cultural resources by white society. Section II, “Indian Appropriation” (pages 869 – 891) details the legal history of conflicts between Natives and non-Natives over land and other property. You can read it at this link. Pages 869 – 891 of this reading are required. You will have to log into Shapiro Library with your SNHU credentials to access this article.

Week 7 Short Responses

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Based on these readings, and other academic knowledge of Native American history that you may have, please answer the following questions. The goal of this exercise is to demonstrate your understanding of the complexity of the Native American experience.

Week 7 Short Responses – Question 1 Name three historical lenses that you could apply to gain a fuller picture of the relationship between Natives and white settlers. Be sure to respond to this question in two to three sentences, using proper grammar.

Week 7 Short Responses – Question 2 Revise the thesis statement at the top of this page to reflect a more complex view of the relationship between Natives and white settlers. Your revised thesis statement should be longer than one sentence.

Thanksgiving: A Complex Story

Most Americans are familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving: how a friendly Native named Squanto befriended the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony, taught them how to plant corn, and introduced them to other Natives. After a difficult winter, the Pilgrims brought in a good harvest in 1621 and invited the Natives to join them in a great feast, to thank God for their survival.


An idealized view of the “first Thanksgiving” (Click button for citation) https://cdn-d.mindedgeonline.com/1369/pd.png

That’s the familiar story, anyway. Historians argue with several elements of that description—starting with the idea that this was the first Thanksgiving. The Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado and his men held a thanksgiving celebration in what is now Texas in 1541; settlers in Maine (1607) and Virginia (1610) also held thanksgiving celebrations well before the 1621 feast at Plymouth. (Library of Congress, 2016)

There’s also the fact that the Pilgrims didn’t call their celebration a “thanksgiving”; it was simply a “harvest feast.” The Pilgrims were Puritans, members of a dissenting sect of English Protestants who sought to “purify,” or reform, the Church of England. To them, the term “thanksgiving” had a specific meaning: it was a religious holiday, a day of “prayer and pious humiliation,” proclaimed to mark some particularly auspicious event. The first “thanksgiving” proclaimed by the Pilgrims was in 1623, to mark the end of a severe drought. (Plimoth Plantation, 2016)

The holiday that we call Thanksgiving had its roots in the Civil War. Although the First Continental Congress declared a day of national thanksgiving during the Revolutionary War, and President George Washington did likewise in 1789, the holiday did not become a national fixture until 1863. In that year, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed not one but twodays of Thanksgiving—the first, in August, that celebrated the Union victory at Gettysburg and the second, on the last Thursday in November, that established the current national tradition. (Plimoth Plantation, 2016)

But even if the “harvest feast” at Plymouth wasn’t the first Thanksgiving—or really a Thanksgiving at all, as we now know the term—the history of that event, its causes and consequences, provides a more complex picture of relations between Natives and the early English settlers in New England. This video tells the story:

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Week 7 Short Responses

The history surrounding the perhaps real, perhaps apocryphal “harvest feast” between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag is a complex story in several different ways. The following questions will help you develop your understanding of the concept of historical complexity. Be sure to respond to these questions in one to two sentences, using proper grammar.

Week 7 Short Responses – Question 3 Name three historical lenses that you could use to look at the events described in the video you just saw.

Week 7 Short Responses – Question 4 Massasoit’s decision to approach the Pilgrims about an alliance was contingent on what previous event or events? (Name one or two.)

Week 7 Short Responses – Question 5 Name one short-term consequence and one long-term consequence of the alliance between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims.

Exercises: Historical Complexity

We’ve talked a lot about historical complexity so far in this learning block. Now it’s time to think about how you can apply this concept to the development of your historical event analysis essay.

Week 7 Short Response

Because historical events are complex, they are often misunderstood. Only with research and analysis can we move past those misunderstandings and get at the historical truth.

Take some time to think about the historical event you’ve chosen to analyze in this course and how your understanding of it may have changed over the last seven weeks. As you answer the question below, please be sure to include a brief description of your historical event. Be sure to respond to the question in two to three sentences, using proper grammar.

Week 7 Short Responses – Question 6 How has your understanding of the historical event (Nat Turner’s Rebellion) in your essay changed as a result of your research? Describe one instance of a misconception or a wrong idea you had about your topic that has been corrected after researching and writing about it.

The Tragic Journey West

In 1835, about 400 supporters of the Treaty Party—a small fraction of the 16,000 Cherokee then living east of the Mississippi—met with a federal negotiator in the Cherokee capital of New Echota. On December 29, the group’s negotiating committee approved the Treaty of New Echota*, under which the Cherokee would relocate to Indian Territory in return for $5 million (along with another $500,000 in educational funds), and land equal to the amount they were giving up. To see the text of the treaty, click on this link.

The original treaty also contained a clause that would have allowed individual Cherokee to remain east of the Mississippi and become American citizens if they gave up claims to their land, but President Jackson rejected that provision. (Perdue and Green, 2004)

Optional Enrichment Video

The Cherokee Removal is the subject of a 2009 video, “Trail of Tears,” produced by the National Parks Service in conjunction with the Cherokee Nation:

John Ross promptly denounced the treaty and the Cherokee National Council declared it a fraud, but the U.S. Senate ratified it in 1836 by a single vote. Under terms of the treaty, Cherokee had two years to move west voluntarily, before the U.S. Army would begin a “forced removal.” Relatively few Cherokee, virtually all of them supporters of the Treaty Party, relocated willingly.

In 1838, Jackson’s successor, President Martin Van Buren, ordered General Winfield Scott to begin forcibly removing the Cherokee. But the initial removal operation, involving about 3,000 Natives, resulted in hundreds of deaths and desertions; Scott suspended the operation and placed the remaining Cherokee in 11 internment camps. Eventually, Principal Chief John Ross—bowing to the inevitable, but also hoping to safeguard his position as leader once the Cherokee arrived in Indian Territory—signed a contract with the government to oversee the relocation plan. (Prucha, 1984)

Ross arranged for 12 wagon trains, each with roughly 1,000 Cherokee, to make the thousand-mile trip west. (Ross and other National Party leaders traveled in greater comfort aboard the steamboat Victoria.) Starting out in October and November, the wagon trains endured harsh winter conditions during the three- to four-month journey, and hundreds more perished. This is the phase of the Cherokee Removal commonly known as the Trail of Tears*.

Estimates for the total number of deaths during the Cherokee Removal vary widely, from a low of 2,000 to a high of 6,000. The most commonly cited figure is 4,000; this number takes into account those who died during the initial Army removal operation; in the internment camps; and on the wagon trains. (Prucha, 1984; Anderson, 1991)

John Ridge, a leader of the Treaty Party, was assassinated in 1839. (Click button for citation) 

The move west did nothing to heal the divisions within the Cherokee leadership. Followers of the Treaty Party, many of whom had relocated voluntarily, aligned themselves with the Old Settlers who had arrived before 1830. Ross and his National Party followers arrived in early 1839, and he promptly asserted his position as Principal Chief; the following June, three of the leaders of the Treaty Party—Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot—were assassinated by supporters of the National Party.

The killings set off a wave of intertribal violence that lasted for a decade, and fierce rivalries within the tribal leadership lasted throughout the American Civil War. (Wilkins, 1970) When John Ross died in 1866, the Cherokee Nation was still bitterly divided.

Week 7 Short Responses

The Cherokee Removal, and the tragic westward journey along the Trail of Tears, is one of the most sorrowful events in American history. But it is also one of the most complex. The following questions ask you to think about the Cherokee Removal in the way a historian would. Be sure to respond to each question in two to three sentences, using proper grammar.

Week 7 Short Responses – Question 7 Name four historical lenses through which you could analyze the events of the Cherokee Removal. Specify one aspect of this event for each lens that you cite.

Week 7 Short Responses – Question 8 Agree or disagree with the following thesis statement: “The Treaty of New Echota was invalid, and the National Party was correct to oppose it.” Cite at least three historical facts that support your position.


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