Teacher’s Answer Key

Worksheet 1: Keywords and Concepts

(Answers read from top to bottom on the table.)

Time period:

  • Paleo
  • Archaic
  • Woodland
  • Mississippian

Approximate Dates:

  • 10,000 B.C. - 8,000 B.C.
  • 8,000 B.C. - 1,000 B.C.
  • 1,000 B.C. - 800 A.D.
  • 800 A.D. - 1650 A.D.

Characteristics of the Period:

  • Nomadic lifestyle - Clovis point most famous artifact of the period
  • Development of fish-hooks and other stone tools – Climatic changes (warm and dry instead of cold and wet)
  • First pottery – Hunting, Fishing, and Agriculture – Extensive trade
  • Widespread adoption of agriculture – Establishment of permanent villages and architecture.

Native American Forest Use:

  • Hunt big game but use forest to supplement diet – gather plants, fruits, and nuts to eat
  • Continued hunting of big game animals, but also hunting of small game animals – Fishing – Gathering seeds, berries, and nuts from forest to supplement diet
  • Clearing of forests for farming – domestication of plants such as sunflowers and maygrass
  • Extensive clearing of forests for farming through girdling or fire –Use of tree products (bark, wood, branches, and leaves) in architecture

Worksheet 2: Essay Analysis

1. List 3 ways Native Americans used fire as a forest management tool.
(More than 3 ways listed in essay, but 3 possible answers are listed below)

  1. Clearing forests for farmland
  2. Improve visibility and facilitate travel
  3. Encourage growth of desirable plants such as strawberries

2. How did European explorers describe the forests of North America? How did poets and other people of the 19th century describe them? Why was there such a difference between the two descriptions?

Typically, European explorers described American forests as “open” and “park-like.” They marveled at how easy it was to travel through wooded land. Poets and others of the 19th century described forests as “dense” and “dark,” noting that the land remained difficult to traverse. Scholars believe the discrepancies between the two descriptions result from the rapid decline of the Native American population following European contact. Reforestation occurred during the two centuries between the eyewitness accounts; without fires and other forms of land management used by Native Americans, forests grew uninhibited.

3. Why do historians face such a challenge when attempting to answer questions surrounding early Native American life?

Historians have to rely upon artifacts to discover the answers to questions pertaining to prehistoric Native American life. Because the earliest inhabitants of the Americas had no written language, the only remaining evidence of their existence and cultural products are artifacts such as tools, weapons, and pottery.

4. How did Native Americans utilize forest resources in their architecture?

During the Mississippian Period of American prehistory, Native Americans established permanent villages and built sturdy structures. Native Americans used bark, wood, branches, and even leaves when constructing homes and other buildings. Eyewitness accounts provide descriptions of how Native Americans gathered poles of wood to build tepees and wigwams. The style of architecture used by Native Americans differed from region to region because of the various types of trees and vegetation throughout the United States.

5. Explain why a disruption in the social structure and everyday practices of many Native American tribes occurred soon after contact with Europeans.

Decimated by sickness and death resulting from exposure to European diseases and war, Native American tribes struggled to survive. Because of the drastic reduction in their population the customs and everyday practices of Native Americans (forest management, for instance) collapsed.

6. What are two pieces of evidence historians can use to support the claim that prehistoric people living in North America did have a substantial impact on the environment?

  1. Archaeological evidence like charcoal deposits and pollen records
  2. Eyewitness accounts

7. How could the debate about the population density of the Americas before European contact affect the conclusions scholars draw about the impact Native Americans had on the environment? (Answers will vary, but the following is an acceptable response.)

If scholars prove that many millions of Native Americans lived in the Americas (as opposed to only a few million) this would help strengthen the argument that the prehistoric people did have a substantial impact on the environment. In short, the larger the population, the greater the potential influence Native Americans had on the land.

Worksheet 3: The Case of the Mystery Artifacts

Answers will vary but below are examples of some acceptable responses.

Artifact 2

What is it? Mortar and Pestle; What was it used for? To grind seeds, nuts, tree roots, etc.; What role did it play in the culture? Shows that people prepared food before eating, implying that the people were resourceful. The crafting of tools to better prepare food for consumption indicates the important role food played in culture. Relationship between object and environment? The mortar and pestle allowed people to take advantage of the natural food products of the environment such as seeds, nuts, and tree roots.

Artifact 3

What is it? Pottery jar; What was it used for? Since agriculture was becoming widespread during the period, it probably was used to store food; What role did it play in culture? The invention of pottery during this period shows that people had the time to make these objects and also indicates a level of ingenuity to be able to craft such items; Relationship between object and environment? If the object was in fact used to store food this indicates that people of the period were able to utilize their physical surroundings so well that they could set aside food and plan ahead rather than searching for food each day.

Artifact 4

What is it? Hoe or spade; What was it used for? To dig holes in the ground to plants crops; What role did it play in the culture? People of the Mississippian period crafted the hoe or spade to make farming more efficient and productive. The introduction of this tool therefore, suggests that farming played a vital role in their culture. Relationship between object and environment? People crafted hoes or spades so that they could make better use of the environment. Hoes and spades increased productivity, allowing for the planting of extensive fields of crops such as corn, which in turn led to more food for a greater number of people.

Worksheet 4: Debating History

Evidence for Eyewitness 1

In order for the Native Americans to have such vast fields of crops they probably had to clear trees, bushes, and other foliage.

Evidence for Eyewitness 2

This account doesn’t imply the clearing of the forestland like the first account, but instead directly states that the Native Americans purposely altered their surroundings so that they could make room for farming.

Evidence for Eyewitness 3

Since the speaker seems surprised at the lack of undergrowth present in the forest you can conclude that forests, if left to progress naturally, are not normally so open. This suggests, as the speaker implies (“but as if laid out by hand”) that someone (probably the original inhabitants-Native Americans) altered the forest so that it would be easier to navigate.

Evidence for Eyewitness 4

The account describes the “custom” of setting fires to the land. The word custom is important because it indicates that rather than being accidental fires, people (in this case Morton was referring to Native Americans) deliberately used this as a tool to make forests more open and therefore easier to pass.

Evidence for Eyewitness 5

On the surface this account seems to undermine the argument that Native Americans intentionally altered their surroundings. However, the date of this statement (1796) as opposed to all of the other accounts (16th and 17th centuries) suggests something different. This statement could serve as proof that the forests at this time are thick and difficult to pass because Native Americans, decimated by European disease and war, no longer are intentionally setting fires or clearing away trees.
Part II – Summary

Answers will vary but below is an example of an acceptable response.

Eyewitness accounts suggest that the prehistoric people living in North America purposely altered their physical surroundings to better suit their needs. For example, in order to plant crops such as pumpkins, corn, and squash to feed themselves, Native Americans had to clear away trees. Moreover, Native Americans used tools like fire to not only clear space for fields, but to get rid of the underbrush present in forests which made travel so difficult. Finally, the fact that forests looked so different during the early years of European contact (open and clear) as opposed to centuries later (thick and dense) demonstrates that Native American land practices and usage most likely were responsible for the drastic change. In short, the evidence presented in the eyewitness accounts seems to prove the theory that Native Americans intentionally changed the environment in an attempt to better suit their own needs.

Worksheet 5: Understanding a Legend

1. What happened to the Earth and the Cherokee people when the Creator ended the night?

The forests grew so thick that they became difficult to pass and weeds grew in abundance among the crops. The Cherokee people suffered from the intense heat as a result of the lack of night, had difficulty sleeping, and became so ill-tempered that they frequently squabbled.

2. What happened to the Earth and the Cherokee people when the Creator ended the day?

Because there was no sun the crops of the Cherokee died and hunting became very difficult without any light by which to see. People had to spend time cutting trees for firewood because of the cold temperatures and ultimately many people died from either starvation or the cold.

3. How did the Creator express his sorrow and regret about the death of the Cherokee people?

In addition to restoring the balance between the day and night the Creator placed the spirits of the people who recently died in a newly created tree – a-tsi-na tlu-gv, or cedar.

4. What tradition is linked to the cedar tree today?

Many people believe the wood of the cedar tree can ward off evil spirits.

Answers for “Beneath the Surface” may vary but below are examples of some acceptable responses.

5. Why do you think the Cherokee wanted the Creator to change their environment?

Without thinking of the consequences the Cherokee people probably believed that altering the environment would improve the quality of their lives. For example, because the sun helped their crops to grow and kept them warm they most likely assumed that increasing the amount of daylight would make them happier and more prosperous.

6. What is one lesson the legend attempts to teach?

The legend teaches that although changes to the environment might seem wise, in reality it might be better to learn how to cope with the physical features and climate of a particular area.

7. Do you believe the legend more closely resembles the image of Native Americans as forest managers or as “ecologically invisible” inhabitants of the land? Give evidence to support your answer.

This legend closely resembles the image of Native Americans as forest managers. The legend tries to teach the people not to alter the environment. One can only assume that if such a legend was necessary, many Native Americans must have been making changes to their physical surroundings, which therefore supports their image as forest managers.

8. Based on the legend, what conclusions can you draw about how the Cherokee people felt about the environment?

The legend suggests that the Cherokee people had a close relationship with their environment. The legend states that people planted crops, used wood for fires, and hunted, thereby indicating that the Cherokee relied upon their surroundings for survival. Finally, the fact that the Creator chose to place the spirits of those who died during the ordeal within a tree, reveals the significant role both trees and the environment as a whole played in the lives of the Cherokee.

Assessment 1: Test

1. How did Native Americans manage forestland to better suit their needs?

Native Americans managed their surroundings in many ways. They used fire and other tools to clear away trees so that they could plant crops. Native Americans made forests easier to traverse by burning forestland to eliminate weeds and underbrush. The “cleansing” of the forest not only made travel easier, but it encouraged the growth of desirable plants such as strawberries and blackberries and attracted game animals like deer and elk – thereby making hunting more productive.

2. What is the difference between prehistory and history?

Prehistory is the time period where no written records existed and history is the time period that followed where written documentation exists.

3. What are the four periods historians often use to classify prehistoric life in North America? For each of the four periods list one way that Native Americans made use of forests.

Paleo – Hunted animals and used forest to supplement diet; Archaic - Gathered seeds, berries, and nuts from forest; Woodland – Cleared forests for farming; Mississippian – Used products from trees in architecture

4. Explain why eyewitness accounts of American forests during the 15th and 16th centuries differ so dramatically from those recorded during the 18th century.

Most likely the difference resonates from the drastic decrease in Native American population following European contact. Greatly affected by European disease and war, Native American tribes had difficulty sustaining their customs and rituals, such as the periodic burning of forests. As a result, the once open forests of the eastern coast slowly became dense and difficult to traverse. Hence, the land described by people of the 19th century was the result of over two centuries of reforestation.

5. What is the significance of oral tradition when studying prehistoric people? Provide an example of oral tradition you analyzed in class. What did this piece reveal about how the Cherokee people felt about the environment?

Although oral tradition is important for all time periods and people it is especially significant in the study of prehistoric times because of the lack of written documentation. An example of oral tradition from class is the Cherokee “Legend of the Cedar Tree.” This legend highlighted the close relationship between the Cherokee people and their physical surroundings. For example, it explained how the Cherokee made use of their environment to hunt, build fires, and plant crops.

6. Why do historians and other scholars like anthropologists and archaeologists rely so heavily upon artifacts when studying the lives of prehistoric Native Americans? (Make sure to define the word artifact and provide at least one example of how experts use artifacts to answer questions about the past).

Artifacts, objects made or modified by humans, are important in the study of prehistoric people because of the lack of written records. Artifacts and oral tradition both serve as clues for scholars who want to learn more about the everyday lives and customs of the first people who inhabited the Americas. For example, recovered artifacts such as stone points suggest that Native Americans hunted, fished, and fought each other. So, even though no written documents exist to describe the lives of early Native Americans, artifacts help to provide some important information regarding the customs and lifestyles of the period.

7. Describe the effects of European contact upon Native Americans.

Decimated by sickness and death resulting from exposure to European diseases and war, Native American tribes struggled to survive. Because of the drastic reduction in their population, the customs and everyday practices of Native Americans (forest management, for instance) collapsed.