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Main Curriculum Tie:
Background For Teachers:
Moreover, textbooks that do explore the consequences of contact generally focus on New England
and/or Plains Indians, effectively erasing the histories of Great Basin tribes. By telling the story of
Columbus in a way that includes the people he first contacted and comparing it to the experiences
of Great Basin Indians, students can form a new understanding of American history that recognizes
the impact of colonization on non-European cultures. They will also understand that the tribes of
Utah experienced the consequences of contact and exchange well before whites began to settle the
area in the mid-nineteenth century.
Explain that first contact was an exchange of cultures and ideas; you might want to briefly mention some of the foods and animals that would have been exchanged between the Indians and the Europeans (e.g. Indians: corn, potatoes, tomatoes; Europeans: wheat, horses, cattle). Note that contact changed the cultures of both the Europeans and the Indians. Explain that, for native people, this process often led to very difficult changes, as Europeans brought diseases that the Indians had never encountered and, thus, for which they had no immunities. In addition, European settlers often treated the Indians very badly. Point out that while first contact was an enormously challenging process for all Indian communities, native people survived.
Next, ask the students to think about what “first contact” might have been like for the Indians living in what is now Utah. Show them the Map of the Ancestral Lands of Utah’s Indians. Give them the blank map of Utah, and have them draw in the ancestral territory of the each tribe and fill in each of those territories with a different color. Using information in the At a Glance, the brief histories of each tribe, and material from the films, explain what life was life for each of Utah’s tribes.
Next, show the students the Map of European Expansion into of the Great Basin. Have them draw in
and label the routes that explorers and settlers from Spain and the United States took through Utah.
Have them look at the ancestral Indian lands that these routes went through and think about the
Indians these explorers and emigrants would have met. Using material from the At a Glance and the
films, explain what these encounters were like. This may be a difficult topic for some students, but you
can emphasize that Utah’s Indians adapted and survived and that their descendents are alive and an
important part of Utah’s culture today.
Calloway, Colin G. First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History. Boston: Bedford St. Martins, 2004.
Conetah, Fred A. A History of the Northern Ute People. Ed. Kathryn L. MacKay and Floyd A. O’Neil. Fort Duchesne, Utah: Uintah-Ouray Tribe, 1982.
Cuch, Forrest S., ed. A History of Utah’s American Indians. Salt Lake City: Utah Division of Indian Affairs and the Utah Division of State History, 2000.
Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me. New York: New Press, 2007.
Martin, Cheryl E., and Mark Wasserman. Latin America and Its People. 2d ed. New York: Pearsons Education, 2008.
The University of Utah's American West Center (AWC) produced the curriculum materials in consultation with the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, Utah State Office of Education, KUED 7, and the Goshute, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone, Southern Paiute, and Ute nations.
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