Skip directly to content

Whispering Rivers: Whatever Happened to the Indians of Pennsylvania?

Few Philadelphia educators center lessons on the Indians of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Students most often learn about other Indian groups, especially those out in the Western regions of the United States. However, there are similarities that exist for all when taken in context. I want my students to consider the evidence of a sovereign nation right where they live now, within our state’s borders, who left markers, clues in the names of the streets, rivers, and towns. But we don’t see them. Where are they? What happened to them? Because we never “see” them, we tend to romanticize them -- relegating them to the 19th century, “Cowboys (the “good” guys) and Indians (the “bad” guys). Even during African American History Month, students read about the Buffalo Soldiers. Whose point of view says they should be celebrated? Ask an Indian.

In this unit, students will examine a selection of treaties to determine in whose favor the treaty was struck and what the outcomes were for each group. They will take on the roles of lawyers arguing on behalf of Native People and Settlers, analyzing each group’s perspective, and finally “hand down a decision” according to the law.

Students will use maps to reconstruct where Lenni Lenape were, where they went, and where they may be now. They will read first person accounts, evaluate events from three perspectives: Native, Settler and the historical record. Students will look at how Indians are depicted in media and literature, historically and currently. I write this unit for 7/8th grade students. It will take five weeks to complete if all lessons are employed or teachers may choose to select one or more of the five lessons.

Pat Mitchell-Keita-Doe

Post new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.