Early Indigenous History
This learning block represents one week’s work. Aim to watch at least one video and choose at least one activity or project to complete.
There are several videos to choose from about early Indigneous history in the Americas. Our knowledge of how and when humans arrived in the Americas is constantly evolving, and not all scientists agree on what happened! This makes it a really interesting area to learn more about!
The third video is the most in-depth. Feel free to watch one, two, or all three!
High school students or any student who wants to dig deeper, continue your study with one of the advanced learning projects located at the end of this learning block!
Now choose an Activity
Meet an Experimental Archaeologist
Experimental archaeology is a really exciting branch of archaeology! Experimental Archaeologists create accurate replicas of artifacts, and then conduct all kinds of hands-on tests to learn more about how those artifacts would have been used in real life. Watch the video above to see experimental archaeologists in action!
Make a Clovis Point
For years, scientists believed that the Clovis people were the first humans to inhabit North America. Now, more recent archaeological discoveries have suggested that other groups of people may have lived in the Americas at earlier dates. Whatever the case, the Clovis Point (a sharpened stone made by Clovis people for hunting) has been important in helping archaeologists understand human life and migration in ancient history.
In this project, you will get to watch a little experimental archaeology in action, then make your own paper Clovis Point!
First, watch the first video to see a museum exhibit about the Clovis People.
The second video shows a demonstration by primitive tools builder who is trying to better understand why Clovis people designed their points the way they did. Watch it to see how a Clovis Point was made and how they work!
Next, watch the final video for directions to make your own paper Clovis Point.
You will need:
– coloured pencils or markers
– this printout of Clovis Points from Moundville Museum
Have fun! Make sure you document your Clovis Point for your portfolio!
Learn How a Mastodon May Change Everything
This video shows how a discovery of a partial mastodon skeleton eventually led archaeologists to evidence that humans may have been in North America up to 115 000 years earlier than previously thought!
Imagine that you are one of the paleontologists on Dr. Cerutti’s team. You have just discovered an exciting find of mastodon bones. But wait! The bones have strange marks and are broken in unusual ways… And there are rocks throughout the site that you would not normally expect to be there. You slowly realize that you may be looking at a shockingly early site of ancient human activity, which could totally change how archaeologists see the history of the Americas! Wow!
Your job is to write a letter or a journal entry about this incredible experience. Or, if you prefer, you could dress up as a paleontologist and record a video as though you as reporting live from the scene of the discovery!
- Where you are
- What is happening around you
- What is happening to you
- What you are thinking about
- How you feel
- Your plans for what happens next
Upload your journal entry or letter to your portfolio.
Discover Terrifying Ice Age Animals
When early humans arrived in the Americas, they were met by species of megafauna (large animals) that they had never seen before. They had to adapt quickly and learn how to avoid, frighten off or kill these powerful creatures, or else become prey!
Watch the video above to see some examples of Ice Age megafauna.
Then, make a painting or drawing of your favourite prehistoric megafauna! Take your time and try to make it as detailed as you can. Or, draw it cartoon, comic, or anime style!
To see examples of North American megafauna, check out these pages from the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre:
– Jefferson’s Ground Sloth
– Giant Beaver
– American Mastodon
– American Scimitar Cat
– Beringian Lion
– Yukon’s Camel
How do you think early humans would have felt when they encountered your megafauna? Would they see it as prey or predator? How do you think people prepared themselves for encountering these amazing creatures?
Add you artwork to your portfolio.
The Beringia Land Bridge Project
The most accepted theory of human migration to the Americas has been that people travelled over the Beringia land bridge from Asia 15 000 – 20 000 years ago. We now have evidence suggesting that humans may have been arrived much earlier than that! Nevertheless, Beringia is an important migration route to know about.
Watch the videos above to learn more about Beringia and to see the migration routes that humans are believed to have taken.
Next, choose ONE of the following activities, or try BOTH!
1. Print out this blank world map from Free World Maps. Using the videos above to guide you, sketch the Bering Land Bridge on to your paper map. Then use coloured pencils to draw in human migration routes starting in Africa and spreading throughout the world. Don’t forget to write a title for your map (“Early Human Migration” is a good one, but you can decide which words to use). Also label the Bering Land Bridge.
2. Print out these worksheets from Grand Island Schools to learn more about the Bering Land Bridge theory and answer some questions about it!
Add your work to your portfolio!
Books About Early Indigenous History
Click on a book to buy it from Amazon. Or, you can ask for them at your local library.
Archaeologists Dig for Clues Read Aloud
Choose at least one!
Go Deep into the Origins of Humans in the Americas
?T wTo complete this project, you will watch the first episode, Origins, of the TV series 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus. (If you are interested in learning more, the rest of the episodes are available to stream online for a low cost.) After watching the episode, choose ONE of the following to complete, or do both:
1. Use PowerPoint or Google Slides to create a presentation demonstrating what you learned from the episode. Think through the 5W’s when deciding what information to include. Make sure that there is at least one slide addressing each of:
Who (Which people groups are discussed?)
What (What did they do? Think about things like transportation, tool-making, hunting and gathering food, and other cultural behaviours)
When (Timeline of events: Think about the context of things like major climate shifts, changes in the animal populations, and how that affected people)
Where (Where did this happen? What part of the world?)
Why (Why did people migrate the way they did? Why did it matter then? Why does it matter now? Does this information have special meaning to Indigenous and settler people today? Does it change the way we understand ourselves or our history?)
Include your presentation in your portfolio. Write a description and then provide a link.
2. Bring a moment to life based on what you learned about early humans in the Americas. Write a short play, or monologue about a migrating family arriving on a new continent thousands of years ago. Include all of the important details. Your goal is to transport your reader, or watcher to that moment and help them get a window into what life was like for these travelers as they settled land no human had ever seen.
- Why this moment matters
- What you want your reader/watcher to remember
- How to capture the magic
- How to convey the power of the message
Write your script, and then cast and perform (or video record) your play or monologue.
Upload the script, or the video to your portfolio.
IMPORTANT: The suggestions in this project require using materials that could cause injury. Wear eye protection and gloves! Always check in with an adult before using hand tools.
If you’ve been inspired by experimental archaeology, you may be interested in trying flintknapping to make your own points (for things like arrowheads and spearheads). The video above is a great free course for beginning flintknappers. You can watch it to see the process and learn about the tools involved.
If you would like to try it yourself, you’ll need to order a beginning flintknapping kit to get started. Don’t give up! Flintknapping takes a lot of practice to perfect, but can be very rewarding!
If you aren’t able to try flintknapping, you can still challenge yourself to fashion a point and turn it into an arrow or spear using materials you are able to find more easily! Or try to make a hammer or cutting tool using natural materials. The videos below will give you some ideas.
Once you’ve created some handmade tools, document them for your portfolio.