Columbus and the Native Americans.

In table groups, discuss the following questions:

  • What do you know about Christopher Columbus? What is your opinion of him?
  • What do you know about Native Americans, also called Indians
  • How did you learn about those things?
  • How do we know that the History we have learned is true?
  • Do Historians have an opinion about the topics they cover? Can they be biased?

Part 1:

Reading 1: Kennedy et al:

As you read, consider the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of this text? Why was it written?
  • What is the author’s perspective in the text? What is the main message?
  • Highlight words or passage who seem to demonstrate a bias, or that could lead the reader to gain a certain opinion on the subject.

Now that we’ve read about the Indians and Columbus.

Use a quote to support all answers

  • What is your opinion about them (the Indians and Columbus)  based on your reading?
  • What themes did the readings focus on?
  • If there is a bias, where does it come from and how is it manifested?
  • What kind of information was not included in the text? Why do you think they historians chose to omit it?

Further discussion:

  • How is our perception of History shaped by historians?
  • Are certain types of sources less biased?
  • Is there value in biased historical texts?

Reading 2: Howard Zinn (You will do this on your own while I am away)

  1. Make a copy of this document and put your name in the title
  2. Share the document with me AND hyperlink it here
  3. You have both periods to read the handout and answer all questions
  4. Due at the end of class

Part 2: Videos

Columbus on trial

What is the role of a historian?

  • If you were to retell a historical event, what would be the important questions you would want to answer?
  • How would you try to report accurate information?
  • What methods could you use do do this?

Here are a few methods used by historians:

  • Develop then test hypotheses (verify/falsify) (scientific method?)
  • Reconstruct the physical events
  • Develop a chronology
  • Reconstruct the ‘links’ between events and between the artefacts
  • Look for specific evidence to find the answer to a specific question
  • Test the consistency between the facts
  • Determine what is the relevant evidence
  • ‘Rethink’ the character’s actions
  • Determine what is ‘plausible’

Historians must consider ideas such as:

  • the degree to which the evidence is explained,
  • the quality of the connections between various facts,
  • the degree to which wild and unjustified claims are limited,
  • engagement with alternative interpretations and replies to those interpretations,
  • simplicity of explanation
  • Engagement of the narrative

This all connects to the methodology of History → how historians do History!

Part 3: Groupwork

In groups of 2, you will write a one paragraph description of Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas and Native Americans, with a clear bias for or against him.

  • Use words that will emphasize your opinion
  • Include/omit the information that will best serve your purpose
  • Do not make up facts!
  • You will present your paragraph to the class.

Discussion: 

  • How can you read history and be aware of biases?
  • If you were to write about Columbus, what themes would you focus on, knowing that you cannot write everything about everything?
  • What themes would you not include?

Useful sources

Practice OPVL #1  with ATL component