The American Revolutionary War presented a particularly sticky problem for Native Americans east of the Mississippi. While most tribes simply wished to remain neutral in a conflict that they did not understand, American and British agents were both busy trying to get Indian tribes bordering the colonies to take certain actions. The Americans, for the most part, encouraged the large Iroquois Confederation to remain neutral; English agents, for the most part, tried to get their former allies to join them in fighting the colonists. These meetings between tribal leaders and the white negotiators most often took place at tribal council meetings where, in accordance with Indian oral tradition, the interested parties would make speeches outlining their requests and responses.
The ability to make impressive speeches was a very important part of being an Indian leader. Indians could give hours long speeches without any notes, and their best speakers were given high status in the tribe. For white agents, therefore, it was also important to be accomplished public speakers so that the Indians would respect them.
In this activity, students will read and analyze excerpts of some of these speeches, answering questions about each speech as they are analyzed.
*excerpts from five speeches, including questions directing students to analyze their content;
*an answer guide to the questions
Materials are provided as word docs and PDFs in one zip file.
I’ve used this activity with my 8th grade class for years, and it never fails to engage and interest students.
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