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Native American Influences in U.S. History and Culture | Teaching Tolerance

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Measure your awareness of Native American influences in U.S. history and culture.

“These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past; wisdom is of the future,” say Vernon Cooper, spiritual elder of the Lumbee or Croatoan tribe of North Carolina. The following activity is designed to help you measure your awareness of Native American influences in U.S. history and culture and, in so doing, expand your vision of a people whose wisdom marks generations of Americans from age to age. Be sure to share this information with others.

1. Before the European Conquest, approximately how many tribes inhabited what is now the United States?
a) 50, with a population of about 500,000
b) 500, with a population of about 22 million
c) 70, with a population of about 2 million
d) 225, with a population of about 900,000

2. The present population of Native Americans in the United States is:
a) about 6 million
b) about 800,000
c) about 2 million
d) about 300,000

3. In most Native American societies, women have traditionally played a central role in:
a) the care of home and children
b) community decision-making
c) governmental and ceremonial functions of the group
d) all of the above

4. Approximately how many words were contributed to the English language by Native American cultures?
a) about 50
b) about 600
c) about 2,200
d) about 4,000

5. When they began colonizing and exploring North America, Europeans encountered many animals, plants, weather phenomena and land masses that were unfamiliar to them. Frequently the newcomers adopted and adapted Native American words to describe the environment, and many of these terms entered the English language. Below are just a few. See how many you can unscramble and discover.

  • Animals
    uksnk
    ampu
    osoem
    gauraj
    pihckunm
    oocnarc
    sumosop
    ggrehci
    cudaarrab
    uoriba
  • Trees and Plants
    necap
    yhonamga
    ckihory
    ucacy
    semetuiq
    ccotbao
    minyoh
    hsuaqs
    zeima
    ovcdaao
    apitoac
    apyaap
    mtotao
    ottpao
  • Weather Phenomena & Land Masses
    caurhiaen
    koohcin
    youba
    vnnasan

6. Match the following Native American place names with their meanings. (Note: Four place names have the same meaning)

Nebraska
Massachusetts
Michigan
Ohio
Minnesota
Oregon
Kentucky
Iowa
Alabama
Mississippi
North Dakota
South Dakota
Texas
Oklahoma

a) “good river”
b) “friend”
c) “dark and bloody ground”
d) “beautiful land”
e) “beautiful water”
f) “waters that reflect the sky”
g) “flat” or “broad river”
h) “water flowing along”
i) “I make a clearing”
j) “big river”
k) “long river”
l) “green mountain”
m) “great water”
n) “rocky hills”

7. The concept of a unified, representative government for the people was recommended to the founders of the United States by:
a) Canassatego, leader of the Iroquois tribe of the Northeast
b) Sitting Bull, chief of the Sioux nation
c) Powhatan, leader of the Leni Lanapi (Delaware) Nation and the father of Pocahontas
d) Tisquantum (Squanto), the English-speaking member of the Wampanoag tribe who assisted the Pilgrims in their settlement in Plymouth, Mass.

8. The founders of the United States assumed the national symbol of the bald eagle from:
a) The Apache Nation
b) The Cherokee Nation
c) The Iroquois Nation
d) The Ojibwa (Chippewa) Nation

9. The victory of the Allies over the Axis Powers in World War II was due, in part, to the use of a Native American language as a secret code. Which language served as that code?
a) Cherokee
b) Potawatomi
c) Sioux
d) Navajo

10. The U.S. Marine Corps Memorial Statue in Washington, D.C., honors a once-famous World War II hero of Native American descent. What is his name?
a) Sequoia
b) Chief Seattle
c) Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
d) Ira Hayes

11. True or False
a) Pocahontas is the only Native American whose portrait is painted in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building.
True or False

b) Many European colonists objected to the Native’s use of water for bathing and drinking.
True or False

c) A sachem is a woman who represents her people as a leader in governmental or ceremonial affairs.
True or False

d) By 1993, Native Americans convinced President George Bush to sign an executive order declaring Native American tribes to be considered by the U.S. Government as sovereign “Domestic Governments” with the ability, among other state functions, to issue passports.
True or False

ANSWERS

1. B Some 500 tribes inhabited what is now the United States, totaling about 22 million people.

2. C Census Bureau figures report that the Native American population in the United States is slightly above 2 million, or 1 percent of the total U.S. population.

3. D Native American societies are matrilineal, with family descent traced through the female line. Native women have traditionally performed central roles in both domestic and public decision making.

4. B Approximately 2,200 words from Native languages are contained in the English language.

5.

  • Animals
    skunk
    puma
    moose
    jaguar
    chipmunk
    raccoon
    opossum
    chigger
    barracuda
    caribou
  • Trees and Plants
    pecan
    mahogany
    hickory
    yucca
    mesquite
    tobacco
    hominy
    squash
    maize
    avocado
    tapioca
    papaya
    tomato
    potato
  • Weather Phenomena & Land Masses
    hurricane
    chinook
    bayou
    savanna

6. G, N, M, A, F, E, C, D, I, J, B, B, B, B

7. A Exasperated by trading with the various separate colonies, Canassatego, the leader of the Iroquois Confederacy, urged Benjamin Franklin to encourage the other colonial leaders to form a unified, representative government, modeled after the government of the Iroquois Nation.

While the European founders had historical knowledge of the ancient Greek and Roman models of representative government, they were not familiar with this system in practice, as the countries of Europe were primarily monarchies. At Franklin’s urging, the Continental Congress approved “a more perfect union” fashioned after the Iroquois model which was said to have been in existence for thousands of years.

8. C The founders of the United States adopted the Iroquois Nation’s symbol, the bald eagle, instead of the turkey, as Franklin had proposed.

9. D The Navajo language proved to be an unbreakable code against the Japanese in World War II.

10. D Ira Hayes, a member of the Pima tribe, fought on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World War II. Despite heavy enemy fire, Hayes and five other marines raised the U.S. flag atop the summit of the island. An Associated Press reporter captured this moment on film. The film became perhaps the most memorable of World War II.

11. a) True

b) True. According to European religious beliefs prior to the time of the Crusades, bathing with water was considered an act of temptation causing sexual arousal. As a result, bathing was outlawed in many areas of Europe. When European colonists arrived in America and saw the Native Americans openly bathing with water, they objected to the practice and pronounced the Native Americans “heathens.” The importance of bathing for hygienic purposes was foreign to Europeans until crusading soldiers, returning from the Middle East, adopted the idea of the public bath. However, use of public baths was not widespread; to the contrary, it was reserved for the elite, who were few in number.

c) True

d) False. President Clinton signed this executive order.

 

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