Suggested Learning Activities
A map is a visual representation of spatial relationships encoded its own language and provides a knowledgeable reader with a wealth of information. It can not only tell a person how far he or she is from a destination and provide information about how to get from point A to point B, but it can communicate the location of social and political boundaries as well as natural resources and the built environment. Importantly, maps often convey all this information at one time in ways that can greatly influence how we perceive the world around us. But, like any text, it is important to question the information a map presents to us. This exercise is designed to get students to begin to critically question the assumptions maps project onto relationships between people and the ownership of land.
For Native Americans and white
settlers, lines drawn on maps designated where they could live and often the
size and shape of their parcels. In the
Have your students examine some of the maps included in this packet (and perhaps bring in other, more contemporary maps) and have them answer questions like:
· Why was the map created?
· Who created it?
· What did the mapmakers choose to include? To exclude?
· How have the lines on the maps changed over time? Why?
Turning to the maps that show the Oregon Country (Figure 1) and the Olympic Peninsula (Figures 2-8) ask your students to:
· Identify political boundaries. What nations (including Indian nations) are represented? What nations and tribes are missing? Are the maps accurate? Are there any surprises?
· Compare the maps, particularly those showing the reservations. Where are the Makah? The Quileute? The Hoh? The Americans? Do the series of maps indicate potential conflicts? What do the empty spaces on maps indicate? (If students suggest that these are “unexplored” lands, gently remind them that all these lands were inhabited by Indians and ask them to consider what “explored” means. Similarly, if they suggest these areas were “unsettled” or “unclaimed,” ask them to consider such ideas from an Indian point of view.)
· Think about ownership. What do the maps say about the ownership of land? Who owns the land on the Olympic Peninsula in each map? How might the maps be different if Indians were drafting them rather than Euroamericans?
· Consider the power of mapmaking. Who gets to put the names on maps? Why? What does that say about power relationships? What happens if people who live in the same space describe it in different ways?
You can also ask students to draft their own maps of the history they are studying. What would they include? What would they leave out? Why?
Some of the largest criticisms of the treaty negotiations were that there were insurmountable communications barriers that made it impossible for the Indians and whites to understand each other. Although there were many avenues for misunderstanding, two of the most obvious were, first, the inability of the treaty negotiators to speak a common language, and, second, the inclusion of references and ideas that would have had no meaning for the Native Ameri cans in Washington Territory.
Clause by clause
One of the big issues with the way Stevens conducted the treaty negotiations was that the intricate and complex discussions were carried out almost exclusively in Chinook Jargon, a trade-based, composite language with a total vocabulary around 500 words. Many scholars and modern observers recognize, as Daniel Boxberger wrote in 1979, that the Chinook Jargon “was inadequate to express precisely the legal effects of the treaties, although the general meaning of the treaty language could be explained.” Further, he notes that “Many of those present, however, did not understand Chinook jargon.” Further complicating the picture is that oftentimes (the Makah being a notable exception) the negotiations involved several tribes of Indians, each of which spoke a different language. The end result is that it is not clear how well the two sides understood each other. This exercise helps students explore the difficulties this presented.
In the records from the Makah treaty negotiations, it was noted that, “The treaty was then read and interpreted and explained, clause by clause.” After explaining the background to the students, place them into small groups and tell them that they are going to join the treaty commission as translators, supplying them with copies of the Treaty with the Makah, 1855 and the Chinook Dictionary. Assign each group a short passage from the treaty to translate into Chinook Jargon (you may find that a single, well-chosen sentence will get the point across effectively). Explain that they may find words that don’t translate exactly. Ask them to be creative and find words that make logical substitutes. For example, they will not find the word “law” in the dictionary, but they may want to consider using “truth,” “writing,” or “to order.” Give them five or 10 minutes and then check in. Ask them to read aloud a verbatim transcription of their Chinook translation rendered in English then ask other students to explain what they think was the intent of the original passage. Ask the group to read out the original passage. Did the translation convey the correct ideas? Would the Makah have really understood what they were agreeing to? What does this say about the treaty-making process?
Note: A member of the treaty commission who was also an ethnologist compiled The Chinook Dictionary. He included several terms—such as “breasts” and “testicles” that might be inappropriate for the classroom. For that reason a slightly abridged copy of the dictionary is included as well as an editable version in Microsoft Word (.doc) format. (See Chinook Dictionary Abridged.pdf and Chinook Dictionary Abridged.doc.)
Suggested passages for translation:
· Article 3
· Article 8
· Article 11 (first sentence)
· Article 12
· Article 13
· Article 14
The meeting of the American treaty commissioners and the Indian leaders was often the meeting of two worlds that not only spoke different languages but ordered their lives and communities in different ways and had developed technologies and social institutions that fit their particular needs and circumstances. For example, in non-literate Indian societies, the concept of a written contract (like a treaty) may have made no sense. Likewise, the notion of the Indians’ “leaderless” communities challenged American ideas of political sovereignty and integrity. A careful look at the treaties reveals many ideas and concepts that Native Americans might have had trouble understanding—not because they were not capable of understanding them but because the American treaty commissioners imposed alien concepts on the Native Americans. This exercise highlights some problems of that trans-cultural communication.
After explaining the background of the Quinaielt Treaty (it was made with the Quinault, Quileute, Hoh, and Queets Indians), pass out copies of the treaty and ask students to read them carefully, noting words, terms, or phrases that might indicate concepts that would have been alien to the Indians on the Olympic Peninsula (tell them to assume for this exercise that there were no translation problems). (See Treaty with the Quinaielt, 1855.) For example, in the first sentence of Article 1, would the Natives Americans have understood “tribes and bands” in the same way Americans would have? Likewise, while American Indian policy consistently aimed to extinguish Indian “title” to land, what would that mean in a society where people were often entitled to use the same piece of land for different purposes at different times of the year?
Other passages that might be useful for discussion include:
Article 6. This passage deals with the right of the federal government to force the Indians to move to a new reservation or, at some point in the future, have their reservation allotted to individual Indians. You may want to call attention to the part that says the Quileute, Hoh, Quinault, and Queets would be subject to the same terms as “provided in the sixth article of the treaty with the Omahas.” You may want to refer students to that treaty and ask if they understand Article 6 (it deals with the size of the allotments and the legal requirements the Indians would have to meet to acquire legal title to their own land). (See Treaty with the Omaha, 1854.) You may then want to note that there is no evidence that any of the Indians whom Stevens negotiated with ever received a copy of the Treaty with the Omahas.
Article 10. This passage deals with the establishment of agricultural and industrial schools. This could lead into discussion about the different ways children are educated in a society. What skills and knowledge did the Americans see as important for Indians to learn and how did that indicate what the Indians’ proper role was in American society? Also, from an Indian point of view, what lessons would likely be missing from this education? You may also want to note that attendance in these Indian training schools often meant leaving the Indian community and being placed under the supervision and authority of a white teacher. How might that have affected Indians’ desire to attend?
Article 12. This is a short passage but an intriguing one. How might Natives have understood the word “dominions” or the phrase “foreign Indians”—particularly since their kinship ties had traditionally crisscrossed the arbitrary national boundaries established by the Americans and the English?
The terms of the treaties Americans
made with Indians changed over time, reflecting evolving power relationships.
Generally speaking, Americans got more demanding and less accommodating as
the nation grew in power and expanded its national boundaries. For example,
In this exercise, ask students
to compare the 1778 treaty with the Delaware to one of the treaties negotiated
on the Olympic Peninsula in 1855 (either the Treaty with the Makah, 1855,
or the Treaty with the
Quinaielt, 1855). What does the treaty with the Delaware