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  • Before the White Man

    Cherokee John Standingdeer describes how his family was named and why knowing it mattered to him. He explains how Native Americans were self sufficient and lived off the land prior to the arrival of Europeans and how a growing dependency on the white man’s steel tools and weapons led to Indians adopting the white man’s ways, eroding their culture further.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. What does John Standingdeer mean when he says the introduction of new materials from Europe made life easy for the Creeks, but it also made them weak?

    2. Why was the deer the most important animal for Creek survival?

    3. In what ways did Europeans impact Native Americans?

    Expansion

    1. Oral history is an important source of information and not just within families. This video segment shows how a culture was almost destroyed. Discuss the ways cultural memory is retained in today’s world.

    2. Debate:
    Your class will be divided into two sections. Students will either draw out of a basket a piece of paper with A or B on it, or will be assigned the two sides after they are divided. Each section should select a leader and gather information that would support their side of the issue. Come up with 3-4 supporting statements along with rebuttals of the statements that will be given on the other side of the issue. The teacher will decide who had the better support for their side of the issue.
    A) The Native Americans have a better way of life now since they have adopted the white man’s ways.
    B) The Native American would have a better way of life if they had not adopted the white man’s ways.

    Vocabulary

    culture: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
    self-sufficient: needing no outside help in satisfying one's basic needs, especially with regard to the production of food
    sacred: connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving great respect
    medicine man: a traditional healer and spiritual leader who serves a community of Indigenous (native) people

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. What does John Standingdeer mean when he says the introduction of new materials from Europe made life easy for the Creeks, but it also made them weak?
    Materials and supplies introduced by the white man like iron which made stronger tools and guns which were more deadly than bow and arrows made life easier for the Creeks. As time passed, however, these new materials made Creeks more dependent on the European settlers and less self-sufficient. 

    2. Why was the deer the most important animal for Creek survival?
    The Creeks did not waste any material that came from deer. They ate the deer's meat, used its skin to make clothing and containers, and used the bones to make knives and sewing needles.

    3. In what ways did Europeans impact Native Americans?
    Europeans introduced new materials and supplies, such as iron, colorful clothing and beads, and guns, that Native Americans wanted. In order to obtain these items, Indians traded deer skin. Deer, which were previously only killed when people needed food, were now viewed as a commodity and, as a result, almost went extinct. Europeans also introduced disease, which killed nearly 80% of the Native American population because they had no resistance to the illnesses.

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