8th-Grade Explores Indigenous History

"It is important to talk about indigenous history before diving into U.S. history and events like the American Revolution," said Suzanne Caruso, Falmouth Academy's newest history teacher. Caruso teaches 8th- and 11th-grade history and started the middle-school students off this year with an exploration of regional indigenous people—their culture, language, medicines, and food—as well as their contribution to the shaping of American democracy. By doing so, she said, students approach U.S. history with indigenous history as the base.

Students studied how indigenous nations governed themselves, and how some principles later influenced the U.S. system, such as checks and balances and the process of electing leaders. They learned about the Haudenosaunee, more commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy, which was an alliance among six Native American nations, each with its own culture and language. The Haudenosaunee was shaped by the Great Law of Peace, which guided all aspects of life. The Great Law was an epic story that took several days to tell and emphasized the power of reason over force in assuring its three principles of righteousness, justice, and health. This Law provides instruction on how to maintain a traditional government and democratic society by providing a civic and social code of ethics that guided the way in which Haudenosaunee people lived among themselves and treated people outside of their communities. 

After establishing a base, Caruso had her students work collaboratively to research local indigenous nations and tribes native to Massachusetts, specifically those of the Cape and Islands. The groups made annotative maps and then presented their projects to their peers. 
The class delved into King Philips's War, which took place in southern New England from 1675 to 1676. Sometimes referred to as the First Indian War, it was a brutal armed conflict between indigenous people and colonists over land and sovereignty. "This historical event is often overlooked," said Caruso, "but it established the relationship between the indigenous peoples and Engish authority." Students examined primary sources from different perspectives and then wrote a compare-and-contrast paper.
Most recently, each student chose a current issue that modern-day indigenous peoples are facing, and created a project to raise awareness as well as celebrate a rich culture that is alive today. Today, students shared some of their work at All-School Meeting in celebration of Native American Heritage month and will provide programming throughout the month. Click to view a collection of Indigenous Book Titles compiled by Harley '27. 
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