What Maps Are Not

Calling your attention to two great blog posts by northierthanthou: “A Map is Not a Territory” and “Map Ain’t Time Either.” Both explore the judgments that are made by mapmakers, and how their decisions can mislead readers.

From the first, which discusses differences between a AAA road map that omits “Indian Country” sites and one that is specifically for “Indian Country”:

The issue doesn’t seem to be resolution. The Arizona and New Mexico map has a higher resolution than the one for Indian country. I somehow doubt that anyone hatched a plot to hide Tsaile from Ken. My guess, is that the criteria for selecting what to put on each map simply differs, and that the difference was enough to make Tsaile disappear (along with quite a few other things, actually).

And from the second, which discusses how various maps visualize Native American culture areas:

This placement on teh map isn’t from time immemorial; it begins at the cusp of the 1400s, give or take a bit, and that enables us to place their entrance into a sequence of events for the region. They were still settling into the total territory on this map when the Spanish began exploring the region, arriving well after their Pueblo neighbors. Knowing that helps to put the map in perspective. Not knowing that invites an a-historical reading of the map.

Questions to discuss with students: What do the maps you use in class omit? What do your mental maps omit?  When you’re designing a data visualization, what are the most important factors to consider?  Do click through to read the entire posts, if only to see the maps in question!

Happy Thanksgiving from WorldView Software

A roundup of interesting bits on the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States:

  • Terrific interview with Ramona Peters, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer about what really happened on the “first” Thanksgiving.
  • Think Thanksgiving is all about pilgrims and turkey? Could have been salt pork and biscuits, as this post from the Smithsonian makes clear!
  • How Thanksgiving went from its regional roots to a national holiday in the nineteenth century.
  • Tired of only using the old Norman Rockwell Freedom from Want (the featured image) to illustrate the holiday? Try out Doris Lee’s painting Thanksgiving, from the Art Institute of Chicago.  It’s a different style and set in a different time period from the Rockwell piece, which makes it good for comparisons.
  • A modern adaptation of a Wampanoag recipe for Autumn Sobaheg. (We haven’t tested this, but it looks both easy and delicious.)

Bonus link: adaptable lesson plan (aimed at middle school level, but there’s no reason older kids won’t enjoy it).

In my house, we have the traditional turkey, but make the sides with a “twist” that reflects our mixed ethnic heritages (for example, cranberry chutney instead of sauce). How do you and your students celebrate the holiday?


BulbgraphOnOffUse our databank of study questions in a polling service such as in Google Classroom to do quick mid-stream assessments.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Finding History through Food

At the intersection of food and history, prepare your students to use the tools of geography, archaeology, and chemistry to find out what people ate long ago.  And because it’s a fun scaffolding exercise: ask them what they think that diet was; it may be different than they assume!

Fans of the caveman-esque will extol the virtues of eating meat, but as this History.com article notes:

But critics claim that the Paleo diet dramatically oversimplifies what prehistoric man ate. While the Paleo diet emphasizes meat and fish, it’s not clear that proteins formed the majority of actual prehistoric diets. As with our modern eating habits, diets in the Paleolithic era would have varied wildly according to location.

For a longer examination of what prehistoric people ate, “Stone Soup,” by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker has much more detail.   In other words, then as now people ate what was readily available in their environment. (Although Kolbert points out that occasionally what was available were other humans.  And no, the paleo diet does not include that.)  And that meant that what people ate mostly were plants.  True, plants before large-scale agriculture.  But pace paleo dieters, agriculture itself has been around long enough to have an evolutionary impact on humans, for which many of us can thank our ability to enjoy dairy products.

Moving forward in time, it is easier to find evidence from ancient societies.  From Harappa, we find the world’s oldest curry — a dish that is still familiar to the millions of people who eat it today.

Archaeologists Arunima Kashyap and Steve Webber of Vancouver’s Washington State University used the method of starch analysis to trace the world’s first-known or “oldest” proto-curry of aubergine, ginger and turmeric from the pot shard of a bulbous handi (pot).

(Note: aubergine = eggplant)  The (easy) recipe is in the article, which is part of a series on Indian food.  The original curry would have looked something like this, right down to the clay bowl:

The world's oldest curry
Eggplant (or aubergine in British English) curry

Imagine eating a dish whose recipe is thousands of years old!  And you can do that with many cultures around the world.  For an example from North America, check out the recipes in the Three Sisters Cookbook from the Oneida Indian Nation.  The “three sisters” in the title refer to corn, squash, and beans:

Modern day agriculturists know it as the genius of the Indians, who interplanted pole beans and squash with corn, using the strength of the sturdy corn stalks to support the twining beans and the shade of the spreading squash vines to trap moisture for the growing crop.

Take your students on a culinary field trip through history!  Start with the Internet Project: Columbian Exchange in WorldView Software’s American History I or World History A, which takes students on a curated tour of the processes put in motion by the contact between “old” and “new” worlds, and ends with making a feast.  Use the links in the project, from this post, or find ones from different areas — Oceania, anyone? — and make something tasty.


BulbgraphOnOffGraphical questions test students’ ability to analyze and interpret data visualizations in maps, graphs, charts, and tables.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Riding on The Trail of Tears

Last Thursday marked the end of the annual “Remember the Removal” bike ride, in which members of the Cherokee nation ride 900 miles from New Echota, Georgia to Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  The ride takes several weeks, and is a real test of endurance in the summer heat.

According to the Cherokee Nation’s website, “the ride originated more than 30 years ago as a leadership program that offered Cherokee students a glimpse of the hardships their ancestors faced while making the same trek on foot.” Most cyclists have personal reasons for wanting to participate:

“I carry a photo of my third great-grandmother, Sallie Mitilla Harlan, who was only 3 years old when she came over on the Trail of Tears,” 2015 Remember the Removal cyclist Charles “Billy” Flint said. “I think about how her earliest memories must be from the trail, and I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like. So I’m carrying her photo because this is the journey she took, and she didn’t have a choice. I had a choice, and I chose to do this ride to honor her and everyone else who was forced on the removal.”

Potential riders must pass through a competitive application process and be fit enough to train for the event for the four months preceding it.   For more information about the bike ride, visit the event’s Facebook page, which includes video diaries from the participants.

To learn about the Trail of Tears, read the American History I: Case Study: The Trail of Tears in Chapter 11: the Age of Jackson.  For more resources about the Trail of Tears, visit the Cherokee Nation’s site on the subject, which includes data, documents, and analysis. Or check out the National Park Service”s Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.  (The featured image above is a Trail of Tears sign on Hwy 71 through Fayetteville, Arkansas, taken by Wikimedia Commons user Yam Nahar.)


BulbgraphOnOffHave a question about what a program element does? Click on the Help icon for detailed information.

Encounters at Points Far

For fans of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the title of today’s post should seem familiar – it’s a play on “Encounter at Far Point,” the first episode of the series, in which the meeting between the Enterprise and a new species was fraught with misunderstandings. Likewise, the encounters between Europeans and Native Americans could be stressful, even on those occasions when neither side intended harm to the other. Exploring these contacts teaches us a lot about the original societies, as well as about the amalgamated culture they formed in convergence.

Start by reviewing the overview and ancillary materials in from American History I: Period of Exploration to Reconstruction Chapters 1 and 2. These chapters provide an account of this time period, told in the tradition of European-style historical narrative. Then experiment with thinking about this history in a different way, by using the Winter Counts of the Lakota people at the National Museum of Natural History’s National Anthropological Archives (part of the Smithsonian Institution).

The Flame Winter Count, 1786-1876
The Flame Winter Count, 1786-1876

These records chronicle years by using a picture that represented the event most important to the community in that year. They were used as visual reminders, part of a more extensive oral history tradition. The community historian was responsible for remembering, recording, and retelling this history.

Next, practice hearing the voices of those involved. The Digital History site from the University of Houston provides a number of Native Voices throughout history, allowing individuals to tell us their story in their own words (as well as voices interpreted and reported by Europeans and Americans of European descent). For example, Black Hawk recounts the loss of his village:

This summer our agent came to live at Rock Island. The trader explained to me the terms of a treaty that had been made, and said we would be obliged to leave the Illinois side of the Mississippi….

During the winter, I received information that three families of whites had arrived at our village, and destroyed some of our lodges, and were making fences and dividing our cornfields for their own use….

What right had these people to our village and our fields, which the Great Spirit had given us to live upon? My reason teaches me that land cannot be sold….

The site also chronicles the views of Europeans, from those like H.H. Brackenridge, who couldn’t even see Native Americans as human beings,

They have the shapes of men and may be of the human species, but certainly in their present state they approach nearer the character of Devils….

and those who tried to defend their rights under the laws of the United States, such as Thomas L. McKenney,

In vain did the Indians implore the government to protect them; in vain did they call the attention of the Executive to the provisions of treaties, and to the pledges of the law.

The encounter between Native Americans and Europeans also changed the world for non-humans (shades of Star Trek again!). For example, visit the “Song for the Horse Nation” exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian. The re-introduction of the horse to the Americas knit together Native American societies in many ways, and continues to inspire artists to this day.

Crow War Pony–1
“Crow War Pony–1” Painting by Kennard Real Bird (Crow), fine art photography by Brady Willette. Collection of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Encounters among cultures in American history have often been collisions. This is a theme you can keep revisiting during the course of the year, as new culture groups are represented in American history.


BulbgraphOnOffClicking on “Questions for Thought” in the overview brings up questions to focus poor readers on the section’s content.